NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s Counseling Services is evolving to meet the unique needs of today’s college students by expanding its staff, leveraging on- and off-campus partnerships and offering tailored care for specific groups, including student-athletes and students with disabilities.
The changes are part of a broader initiative by the Division of Student Affairs to prioritize students’ overall health and well-being while strengthening and rebranding SFA’s network of support personnel and resources. Within the past year, the Dean of Students Office has launched the Lumberjack Wellness Network – a comprehensive web of SFA services encompassing the seven dimensions of wellness – and created the new Health and Wellness Hub where medical, counseling, outreach, support and other wellness services are centralized under one roof.
“A lot of work has been put into reorganizing Counseling Services’ staffing model to better serve our students, which aligns with our overall goal of integrated wellness and a more individualized care approach,” said Clare Fite, director of Counseling Services. “All the changes have received tremendous support from our dean and from the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs, as well as our partners across campus, and that has really allowed us to reimagine how we can best serve our students and help them succeed.”
Along with Fite, whose background is in community health, recent counseling staff additions include Holly Randall, who splits her time with SFA Athletics and works primarily with student-athletes. SFA alumna Jenny Baker, who earned her bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language-English interpreting and deaf studies, joined the counseling staff in February and offers specialized care for students who are deaf or hard of hearing or have other physical or mental challenges.
“I am a very person-centered counselor, and that fits very well with SFA’s overall counseling philosophy,” said Baker, who also is a certified rehabilitation counselor. “Working at a university is always something I strived to do, and SFA was my top choice. Getting to join this amazing team of professionals that has been so supportive of me and committed to our students has been a really wonderful experience.”
Rounding out the team are longtime SFA counselors Prici Ceja, a generalist who recently completed counselor-supervisor training and certification, and Ron Smith, who has established a niche serving neurodiverse students. The support staff includes Jesse Urbina Ambriz, a graduate assistant at The Hub, and Nicole Adams, a graduate counseling intern.
“Jesse’s primary function is delivering and organizing outreach for counseling and other departments operating within The Hub, and he also handles all of our social media,” Fite said. “Having Nicole with us has strengthened our longstanding relationship with the academic department and allowed us to collaborate on a lot of big initiatives, including campus-wide crisis response.”
The addition of these two student positions aligns with best practices and has many benefits, according to Fite. Not only is the department helping prepare future professionals with invaluable real-world experience but having them also frees up the professional staff members to spend more time engaging with students in the clinical setting.
“Part of our professional ethics is preparing future generations of counselors, and seeing our department becoming more intentional and active in that role is very exciting,” Fite said.
SFA’s Counseling Services offers free and confidential therapy for students struggling with difficult life circumstances and concerns, as well as severe mental illness. The department offers individual, couples, roommate and group counseling, as well as online peer mental health support, resources for students and families, and QPR suicide prevention training. For more information, visit sfasu.edu/counseling/services.