University brings three speciality counseling hires to campus

The University Counseling Center announced three specialty hires Wednesday, including the first permanent Mount Vernon Campus counselor.

GW has looked to fill the positions over the last year, and they bring the total number of counselors at the center to 14.

The University announced that it would establish permanent counseling on the Mount Vernon Campus last spring after three student deaths on the campus. The other two hires specialize in minority campus populations, specifically international and multicultural students and veterans.

Last year, the UCC began to expand and added new counselors who specialized in working with veterans and international students after it received a $150,000 budget increase from the previous year. This past spring, Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said GW would likely have to increase funding to accommodate for an increase in demand, particularly for walk-in services.

The center’s K Street location will also close its doors and open in the Marvin Center basement, after a year-long lobbying campaign to move the UCC closer to campus. The center will make the switch over winter break and open for the spring 2015 semester.

Marietta Phillips, Staff clinician and Mount Vernon Campus services coordinator

As the Vern adjusts to its permanent counseling space in the Academic Building, Phillips will lead the newly added walk-in hours. Walk-in hours started at the beginning of the semester, and run Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m.

Phillips has 20 years of counseling experience and specializes in life transitions, constructive living, crisis intervention, grief and bereavement and disaster mental health.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from Boston College, she earned a master’s in social work from the University of Southern California. Aside from the District, she is also licensed in Massachusetts and Alaska, where she worked in Anchorage for an employee assistance program and psychiatric emergency services.

“College students in this age group have varying needs and in such a transient city, they can be at risk for transition and mental health issues,” Phillips said in a release.

Maria Berbery, Staff clinician and diversity services coordinator

Berbery joined the UCC last spring as a post-doctoral fellow, and was brought on as a full-time staffer in August. Her background is in Latino studies, with experience working with Spanish-speaking clients and researching Latino mental health and transracial adoption.

She works closely with the Multicultural Student Services Center, and started a program called “Let’s Talk/Hablemos” that meets every Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. in the MSSC as a drop-in group for multicultural students to talk about issues they face. She’ll also oversee walk-in hours that are available Thursdays for LGBT students from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and students of color from 1 to 4 p.m. at the K Street office.

Sarah Skelton, Staff clinician and veteran student services coordinator

A member of the Army National Guard, Skeleton is joining the UCC staff with nine years of experience in behavioral health within military communities.

“Just after 9/11, I joined the military because I realized there was such a need for quality mental health,” Skelton said in the release. “I’ve continued to work in the field since then.”

In addition to Thursday veteran walk-in hours, Skelton will work with the recently introduced Veterans Accelerate Learning Opportunities and Rewards program, or VALOR, which pairs veterans with more flexible learning programs, such as online classes, and matches their military service with college credits.

“When I’ve worked with veterans who are transitioning to becoming students, they often tell me that the thing they miss the most about serving is a sense of community,” Skelton said. “I want the military and veteran community at GW to know there is someone on staff they can talk to who understands the military experience.”

Adding a veteran-specific counselor is one of the steps the University has taken to improve veteran services. GW has added a top administrative position to focus on veterans and service members, and now boasts a military community of about 1,300 students. This week, the University was named one of the most military friendly institutions in the nation.

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