[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Crossroads:
graduate studies

Counseling program targets students' needs

NOTE: EMU's MA in Counseling program no longer offers the school counseling track.

“School counselors are concerned with reducing the student achievement gap between specific groups of students and their peers,” said Thomas Dodson, associate professor of counselor education. “It is about implementing a school-wide comprehensive program leading to positive social change and advocacy within the schools on behalf of all students.”

Tom Dodson
“My vision has always been that school counselors would make a clear connection to their other work as a way to relate to conflict transformation and peacemaker training.”

The school counseling track of EMU’s master of arts in counseling program has changed dramatically in the last year. Last year was the first time new students in the program could take the specialty area classes in the school counselor track at EMU. Previously, those classes were outsourced across town to James Madison University, but with the addition of Dodson to the faculty, the track is now completely in-house and flourishing.

“We are building the school counseling track to be of the highest quality, based on the American School Counselor Association’s National Model for school counselor training” said Dodson. “We believe we are doing so all for the glory of God. We are also in the midst of obtaining national recognition by the major accreditation body for school counselor training programs.”

To help students learn leadership skills necessary for school counselors, Dodson creates “real world” practical class exercises. “One major project students complete is a program proposal that assesses a school’s particular need and then creates a program to meet that need,” said Dodson, “Then we create a mock school board meeting, in which the student will persuade the board to give them permission to carry out the program.” Students must use research, evaluate their approach and provide a convincing account of their program to fellow students in approximately the same amount of time they would have in a school board meeting, 20 minutes.

There are 11 students in the program this year, six second-year students and four first-year. The program is 51 credit hours, and students spend 700 hours in schools during that time. They also have opportunities to graduate studies Counseling program targets students’ needs “My vision has always been that school counselors would make a clear connection to their other work as a way to relate to conflict transformation and peacemaker training.” enhance their training by taking electives in EMU’s education department as well as with the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

“One of the strengths of EMU’s program is its close proximity to the internationally-known Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, and to EMU’s education department which is second to none,” said Dodson. “My vision has always been that school counselors trained at EMU would be encouraged to make a clear connection to, for example, their classroom guidance and their other work as a way to relate to conflict transformation and peacemaker training to the benefit of kids at even a very young age.” Dodson in Colombia

Crossroads Table of Contents
Back to the table of contents
Dodson’s own passion for peace and justice issues shines through in his passion for school counseling. He recently spent time in Bogotá, Colombia meeting with a private foundation with hopes of one day implementing school counseling services there. “I believe that school counselors could be agents of positive change in Colombia,” he said.
Whether in Colombia or here in the U.S., Dodson believes the school counselors can make a huge difference, and the counseling program’s track is certainly on target to help them do that. “Christians need to serve in these essential roles within schools. Kids need them to lead.”

—Laura Amstutz, current seminary student