Puget Sound searches for a new CHWS Director, again

Photo credit to Alec J. Dionne

In spring 2018, a Search Advisory Committee comprised of Puget Sound staff and students began the search for a new director of Counseling, Health and Wellness Services (CHWS).

Following the retirement of previous director Don Marshall in August 2018, this committee evaluated applications and brought three candidates to campus for interviews and open campus sessions. The candidates were Dr. Kuldhir S. Bhati PhD., a psychologist and the former director for the student counseling center and health services at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi; Dr. Eric C. Wood Ph.D., a counselor and former associate director of counseling and mental health; and Dr. Andrew L. Adelman, a psychologist and former coordinator of diversity and inclusion at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Jack Aldisert ’19 worked closely with CHWS throughout the hiring process, both as an Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS) senator and as a student.

Regarding the candidates from last fall, Aldisert stated, “They were all three very very experienced in working administratively, all were very experienced working with mental health in general and in academic settings. … It seemed like they had learned a lot of ideas and strategies around promoting mental health and managing mental health staff.”

Months later, however, none of these candidates were hired. According to Nurse Practitioner Libby Baldwin, the CHWS Medical Coordinator and current co-Interim CHWS Director, two of these candidates had already chosen different jobs; Dr. Bhati decided to stay in an interim position at Pacific Lutheran University and Dr. Eric Woods took an offer at another university. The third candidate, Dr. Andrew Adleman, “decided UPS wasn’t the right fit due to the size of the school.”

The search for a new director has begun again this semester, with new candidates and open sessions. The three finalists, Dr. John Hancock, Dr. Lori Katz and Dr. Kelly Brown, visited campus and met with the search committee, the Student Affairs and Academic Leadership Teams and the Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services team, in addition to participating in open sessions.

During open sessions, which took place throughout March, each candidate presented their vision for CHWS, and then answered questions from audience members.

Campus community members who attended the open sessions were encouraged to fill out a survey afterward to evaluate the finalists’ strengths. The Finalist Evaluation Form asks the participant to rate the finalist from one to 10 for qualities such as “applicability of education, background and previous experiences to the requirements and expectations for the Director of Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services position” and “knowledge to address and provide policies, programs and services for a diverse student population.”

Dr. John Hancock is currently overseeing the health and wellness department at Lewis and Clark College. Baldwin explained that Hancock has experience working with student health insurance, supervising, leading and communicating with the campus about services.

“If brought on as director he hopes to support suicide prevention efforts and pay attention to historically marginalized voices on campus. He is also passionate about student health insurance,” Baldwin said.

Dr. Lori S. Katz, Ph. D. is currently a clinical psychologist at the Veterans Administration in Tacoma. She has studied at University of California, Berkeley, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the VA Long Beach Healthcare System. Dr. Katz focuses on military sexual trauma, PTSD and women’s health issues. Some of the strategies she proposed were to expand the CHWS website to include more health education resources, increase CHWS outreach and strengthen collaborations between CHWS and other campus organizations, such as ASUPS.

Dr. Kelly Brown is currently an associate director at the equivalent CHWS department at Evergreen State College. According to Baldwin, Brown “brings a vision to create a culture of health on the Puget Sound campus. She supports early intervention, developing a community of kindness, and clear communication about the available services in CHWS.”

As for the ideal qualities in a candidate, Aldisert stressed several key points: “I would like to see someone who, obviously the first thing is that they take the work of mental health seriously. … I would like to see candidates who seem to have a very precise and defined plan of action, in terms of what they do when they get here. The areas that I would like to see that plan address are gaining and acting for additional funding and space for CHWS in general, plans that outline how they’re going to involve themselves more in the community … and candidates who have a defined plan around general equity in counseling.”

Aldisert also discussed the importance of candidates having plans to provide greater institutional and counseling support for students of color.

Baldwin discussed many similar qualities she would like to see: “CHWS really wants a director who can think outside the box of how to allocate resources. Of course a challenge is always increasing our staff, increasing our physical space and location to be able to meet the needs of students, but also to be creative as to alternative ways instead of just one-on-one therapy as to how we can build resilience and meet the needs of our student body.”

The Search Advisory Committee is planning to make an offer to one of these candidates in the next week.