NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Members of the Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents approved a Master of Arts in professional counseling program during its quarterly meeting Tuesday.

Dr. Judy Abbott, dean of the James I. Perkins College of Education, explained that this approval will meet new accreditation standards and consolidate SFA's existing counseling programs into a required 60-hour licensure program. Three concentrations will be offered: Clinical mental health counseling, school counseling and clinical rehabilitation counseling. The program will be available this fall pending approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

"As accreditation progresses, we seek to evolve our programs to reflect the expectations of the professional organization, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs," Abbott said. "Maintaining our program accreditation supports graduate students in completing a rigorous, current program that reflects the standards and expectations of professionals in the field of counseling."

Additionally, regents heard an update on SFA's Ed and Gwen Cole STEM Building by Kirksey Architects, the Houston-based firm designing the facility. With the design and development phase now complete, the university is moving forward with a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for Nov. 6 and completion in June 2018. The four-story building will feature a 50-foot dome for a new planetarium, glass atrium, labs, third-floor terrace and more.

Regents approved a $6 million capital plan budget for scheduled maintenance and renovation projects, including enhancements to the Baker Pattillo Student Center Grand Ballroom and fire safety improvements to classrooms and buildings across campus. Classrooms also will receive technology upgrades in the form of projection units, TVs and additional equipment to enhance instruction and activities.

"There are 117 classrooms on campus, and our goal is to significantly upgrade 40 percent of these rooms," said Dr. Steve Bullard, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "We are transitioning these classrooms into active-learning spaces to further engage students in the learning experience, which is an overarching goal of our strategic plan."

In other business, the board received a report from the SFA auditor and approved the annual audit plan. Board members also heard updates on the university's marketing campaign and new SFA website, which is scheduled to launch in September.

During its three-day meeting, the board approved the following:

  • a list of firms to provide legal consulting services on an as-needed basis
  • grant awards totaling $611,037
  • building and grounds, financial affairs, and academic and student affairs policy revisions
  • revisions to the intercollegiate athletic policies and procedures manual
  • fiscal year 2016-17 institutional operating budget of more than $250 million
  • submission of the 2018-19 legislative appropriation request
  • information technology services capital fund
  • network infrastructure upgrades and replacements to wired and wireless networks
  • the refinancing of bonds if a 3-percent savings would result and
  • the university's holiday schedule.

Additionally, the board approved the minutes of the April and June meetings and heard reports from SFA President Dr. Baker Pattillo, the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association.