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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Counseling director steps down

By Megan Sokol

Western is searching for a new counseling director after former director Shari Robinson stepped down at the end of academic year 2017-18.

Members of the Western community value Robinson for her involvement in student activities and her passion for the mental health profession.

Robinson accepted a similar position at the University of New Hampshire, where her son is attending this fall. Robinson has worked at Western for over a year but has been working in the counseling profession for over 20 years.

“This is my career, and I love it,” Robinson said. “I don’t want to do private practice; it doesn’t appeal to me.  I have no interest.”

Since 2016, Robinson has made it her mission to make the counseling center more efficient, extend outreach and seek mental health resources for all students.

“With group counseling, we were able to engage with student organizations and the residence halls,” Robinson said. “That’s a really good way to destigmatize mental health and see another side of counseling.”

Robinson has also made an effort to reach out to students of color who may feel marginalized at Western. She said she tried to diversify the counseling center and work with increased students of color because Western’s demographic is predominantly white.

According to Western’s 2017 diversity study, 80.5 percent of students of color said that they have never visited the counseling center.

“I was the faculty advisor for both the Black Student Union and the African Caribbean club and building those relationships gave you a lot of credibility,” Robinson said. “I know that last year some of those students would utilize the counseling center, but that wasn’t a coincidence.”

Robinson’s friend and fellow African Caribbean Club advisor Karen Dade attests to Robinson’s diligence to provide equity for students of color.

“I think there was outstanding rapport with the students,” Dade said. “As two professional black women, we were not in the majority.”

Robinson said, “Look at our clinical data and look at the students who are not utilizing our services, which are usually minority men. Maybe that is where we need to do some more targeted outreach.”

The counseling center is looking for someone who can fill the position Robinson left behind. Anne Marie Theiler, assistant director of Counseling Operations and interim counseling director, said they are “looking for somebody who can provide leadership and vision in terms of where [they] need to go within the counseling center.”

Robinson said she hopes the next director continues to encourage community involvement and builds on her work.

Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Melynda Huskey and other faculty members in the counseling center will reach a decision by Fall 2018.

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