Director of counseling search continues

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The waiting room of Emmons Wellness Center. A search is underway for a new Emmons director of counseling. Photo courtesy of Marc Campos.

Two candidates for the director of counseling role at Emmons Wellness Center came to campus for interviews, one April 1 and the other April 2. According to Sara Semal, senior director of student wellness and co-chair of the search committee for the director of counseling, the candidates spent the day on campus and met with the search committee, students, faculty, administrators and Emmons staff.

Students, faculty and staff were invited to a Q&A session with the first candidate April 1 in the Johnson Student Center (JSC) Studenmund Room, according to an email sent to the campus community March 28 by Semal and Vivian Garay Santiago, assistant dean of students, director of student success and co-chair of the search committee. A Q&A session was hosted with the second candidate April 2.

According to Semal, the search committee hopes to hire a new director at the beginning of the summer but does not want to rush the search process. Matt Calkins, the current director of counseling, will be leaving at the end of the academic year.

“Our hope was to have the new Director begin in June, however, we are more invested in getting the right candidate than rushing to get someone here by a certain date,” Semal said via email.

The search committee originally invited three candidates to campus for interviews, according to Semal.

“We invited three candidates but one person withdrew their application and so only two came for the in-person interview,” Semal said via email.

According to Santiago, the process for the two on-campus interviews followed the normal procedure.

“As is standard for most campus interviews, the candidate meets with the search committee and then various groups and individuals,” Santiago said via email. “Specifically, the Director of Counseling candidates met with the Search Committee, the Emmons staff, they had lunch with students, and then participated in an open forum in which the entire campus community was invited. Finally, the candidates had individual meetings with Dean Flot, Dean O’Neal Howard, and Senior Director of Emmons, Sara Semal.”

Semal said the entire Occidental community was invited to participate in the interviews and give feedback on the candidates. A total of 10–15 faculty, staff and students attended the Q&A sessions, according to Semal. She said each community member present was asked to complete a comprehensive evaluation form, which will be reviewed and weighed heavily in the search committee’s deliberation.

Santiago said the search committee wrote a set of questions for the formal candidate interviews. The Q&A sessions were unstructured so individuals could ask the candidates any questions they wanted, according to Santiago. She also said the search committee tried to ensure that the candidates had a chance to ask questions of the various groups they met with.

“I think the interview process and the interview day itself went very smoothly and I think both candidates had pleasant experiences and expressed that they were very impressed with the students,” Santiago said via email. “I, personally, was appreciative of all of the individuals who took time out of their day to participate and I was particularly impressed by those students who were committed enough to attend sessions on both days.”

According to Santiago, feedback forms were distributed to everyone at the Q&A sessions. She said the feedback will be compiled, summarized and then shared with Rob Flot, vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

“What seems clear from the feedback is that students are looking for a person who is multiculturally competent and who authentically understands the needs of underrepresented students and is willing to advocate for their needs,” Santiago said via email. “Feedback from other members of the community is that the Director of Counseling be committed, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about working with a student population and that they have excellent clinical skills and background.”

Ann Martella, the lead physician assistant at Emmons Wellness Center, said the feedback from the Q&A sessions was useful.

“We were able to get useful and meaningful feedback from the Occidental community about the candidates,” Martella said via email. “I am looking for a well rounded candidate with regards to clinical work and outreach/advocacy, but 3 things that stand out to me as qualities I am looking for are: someone who is innovative in their ideas and approach to counseling services at Occidental, someone who is going to connect with students in a sincere and genuine way, and someone who will center the needs of marginalized students on campus.”