Category Archives: Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology

CSPP hosts networking event for students, alumni, supervisors

On May 9th, CSPP held a networking event for students, alumni, and supervisors at Shamrocks in St. Paul. Over 70 people joined to meet one another and build relationships with fellow members of the CSPP program. Alumni from across the metro area, with careers in the counseling field as mental health therapists, school counselors, and higher education counselors, were in attendance. It presented students with the opportunity to make meaningful connections with supervisors and alumni. Dr. Marguerite Ohrtman hosted the event.

CSPP hosts annual picnic at Minnehaha Falls

On May 10th, CSPP held their annual end of the year picnic for students, graduates, families, and friends. Over 125 people were in attendance this year at Minneahaha Falls Park in Minneapolis. Families from Florida, Washington, and across the country gathered to show their support.

CSPP student named MSCA Potential School Counselor of the Year

Abigail (Abby) Buuck, M.A. student in the Department of Educational Psychology counseling and personnel psychology program was selected as the Minnesota School Counselor Association  (MSCA) Potential School Counselor of the Year Award.

Buuck was selected from graduate students across the state for having the most potential as a school counselor. For three years in a row, students from the CSPP program have been selected for this award.

Marguerite Ohrtman, director of school counseling, presented the award to Buuck at the MSCA Conference this May.

Winners of the Potential School Counselor of the Year Award receive a $500 scholarship. Applicants are required to submit their resume, transcripts, statement of professional goals, and a letter of recommendation, in addition to the application form.

CSPP alum, Julie Koch, receives CEHD Rising Star award

Julie Koch, Ph.D. ’08

Julie Koch, 2008 alumna of the Department of Educational Psychology’s counseling and student personnel psychology (CSPP) Ph.D. program, is one of this year’s recipients of the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) Rising Star Award.

Since graduation, Julie has been a faculty member at Oklahoma State University. Today, she is an associate professor and interim head of the School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology, a newly formed department that includes counseling, counseling psychology, health education, and public health. Her research interests include: microaffirmation, faculty multicultural competence, counselor development and training, issues related to diverse populations, and prevention in school settings.

The Rising Alumni award goes to CEHD alumni who have achieved early distinction in their career (15 years or less since graduation), demonstrated outstanding leadership, or shown exceptional volunteer services in their community.

“Julie is definitely a Rising Star,” says Thomas Skovohlt, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s CSPP program. “She is unusually gifted at management and administration, and it is easy to see her as a university president in the years ahead.”

McComas named CEHD President’s Community Engaged Scholar

Jennifer McComas with award
Jennifer McComas with the award presented to her on March 30

Jennifer McComas, associate chair and special education professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, is the CEHD nominee for this year’s President’s Community Engaged Scholar award. This award recognizes  faculty involvement in public service and encourages and emphasizes civic engagement as a permanent priority of the College of Education and Human Development.

McComas was recognized on March 30 in a University-wide ceremony hosted by the Office for Public Engagement and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

“Jennifer is highly deserving of the award,” says Department of Educational Psychology chair, Geoffrey Maruyama. “She has worked over the past decade in Minneapolis Public Schools, first in North Minneapolis, then with Anishinabe Academy, and recently, she added tele-health research to connect with rural communities,” says Maruyama. “These and other projects reflect her deep commitment to engaged research and to doing work that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Please join us in congratulating Professor McComas on this tremendous accomplishment!

CSPP students meet with legislators at MSCA’s Day on the Hill

School counseling students participate in MSCA Day on the Hill 2017

On March 16, counseling & student personnel psychology  (CSPP) students participated in the Minnesota School Counselors Association’s Day on the Hill. Each student met with legislators to discuss the importance of funding more student support services personnel including: school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, school nurses, and chemical dependency counselors.

Faculty and student participants from CSPP included: Carolyn Berger, Megan Anderson, Melissa Derby, Jeanette Vyhanek, Tony Minaglia, Melissa Kellen, Maibao Lor, Emily Kurmis, Brandon Forcier, Noah Dahle, Elisha Yuan, Rikki Hemstad, Melinda Vogel, Jing Xu, Zachary Nauschutz, and Jacob Blum.

CSPP students successfully promote, participate in Polar Plunge

Michael Rask, first year M.A. student in the counseling and student personnel psychology (CSPP) program was stopped on the street in Dinkytown on Valentine’s Day by Steve Patterson, an anchor from Twin Cities Live (TCL) on Channel 5, and challenged to go on a date with a fellow University of Minnesota student (also walking in Dinkytown), Kristina. The two went out for coffee, and Michael sent an email to TCL with a photo of him and Kristina on their date. He challenged TCL back to donate to support him in a Polar Plunge he was participating in with fellow CSPP classmates and faculty. Participants in the Polar Plunge jump into freezing water to raise money for Special Olympics events in Minnesota.

Watch a clip from TCL on Michael’s challenge. (4:18)

Thanks to Michael’s promotion of the event on TCL, he was able to successfully surpass his goal of raising $1,500, bringing in $1,788 in total according to his Polar Plunge page.

Other faculty and student participants from CSPP included Marguerite Ohrtman, Addison Novak, Brandon Forcier, Melissa Derby, Megan Anderson, Drew Wanschneider, Emily Cranberg, and Rikki Hemstad. The team raised the most of any of the University of Minnesota teams. The Polar Plunge event raised $860,441 for Special Olympics Minnesota.

Congratulations and great work to all of our CSPP Polar Plunge participants!

Ed Psych, special education receive top rankings

Education Sciences Building
Education Sciences Building

The Department of Educational Psychology and our special education program were ranked in the top 10 of the 2018 U.S. News & World Report rankings of graduate schools. We maintained a #8 ranking in special education and moved up to #9 in educational psychology. The department is part of the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) which ranked 12th among public professional schools of education, 21st among all schools, in the rankings.

CEHD is a world leader in developing innovative programs to address opportunity gaps in child development, teaching, and learning. Consider its outstanding partnership programs with school districts in Minnesota that apply evidence-based teaching methodologies to strengthen schools. Note also the impact of recent groundbreaking research on autism—which Jason Wolff, assistant professor in special education was a part of—has uncovered new patterns of brain development in infants. CEHD’s productivity last year included $44.3 million of externally funded research.

CEHD’s developmental psychology program (Institute of Child Development) was also ranked by U.S. News &  World Report and is #1 in the country.

“Our college continues to reach new heights of excellence in graduate teaching, research, and outreach,” said Dean Jean K. Quam. “We are focused on improving the lives of students across Minnesota, the nation, and the world.”

Learn more about Educational Psychology’s top rated masters and doctorate programs.

Rankings methodology: U.S. News surveyed 379 schools granting education doctoral degrees. It calculates rankings based on quality assessments from peer institutions and school superintendents nationwide, student selectivity, and faculty research and resources, which includes student/faculty ratio and faculty awards as well as support for research.

Instructor profile: Kelli Howard

Dr. Kelli Howard

Kelli Howard took an interest in psychology at an early age. “I was always fascinated by people and relationships—why we do what we do or how we become what we become. I figured I’d go into psychology of some kind.”

Howard was a tennis player in college, and it was her coach, a professor of physical education, who first inspired her to think about pursuing her doctorate. “Getting a Ph.D. was not a path many women in my life had taken. I loved her enthusiasm and passion for working with the group she had chosen to help. I began to consider how my undergraduate degree in psychology might provide opportunities for me to find my place helping others as well.”

Initially interested in studying forensic psychology, Howard went to work for a jury consulting firm after completing her undergraduate degree. “The more work I did in forensics,” she says, “the more I realized I didn’t want to focus my work on such a tiny percentage of the population. I became more excited about helping people with their every day concerns—grief, trauma, loss and things that are more common.”

Howard began to carve out a path for herself, working in a number of different “helper” jobs, including: career counselor and coach, crisis counselor, and counselor for survivors of human trafficking. At the same time, she completed her M.E.d in postsecondary administration and student affairs and, later, began pursuing her Ph.D. in counseling psychology and conducting research on topics related to schools and mental health.

“At the time it all felt hodgepodge,” she says, “but it was all kind of leading me here—just in a circuitous route.”

Howard recently graduated with her Ph.D. in counseling psychology through the College of Liberal Arts. She did her dissertation on designing and evaluating online counseling programs for college students without access to such tools.

“Anxiety and depression are common ailments for college students. However, they often don’t get the counseling they need for a number of reasons: the perceived time it takes, lack of convenient options, and increasingly long wait times to see someone,” she explains. “We delivered an intervention in the classroom and tested how it impacted students’ emotions and academic performance.”

Last fall, Howard began teaching master’s students in our counseling and student personnel psychology program, starting with the Introductory Skills and Theories and Practicum Supervision courses. This spring, she’s once again teaching the Practicum Supervision course as well as Clients in Crisis and Assessment and Counseling Clients with Psychological Disorders.

When asked what she likes most about her new role. Howard says, “I love it all. I’m helping students pursue something that’s meaningful for them and does a service for the world.” She continues, “Helping students find their place and developing their careers is such a privilege.”

CSPP alumnus, Blaine Fowers, receives Joseph B. Gittler Award

Dr. Blaine Fowers

Dr. Blaine Fowers, a 1983 alumnus of the Department of Educational Psychology’s Counseling & Student Personnel Psychology (CSPP) M.A. program was recently awarded the Joseph B. Gittler Award, a premier award from the American Psychological Foundation. The annual award, which includes a $7,500 honorarium, honors theoretical psychologists who question the basic assumptions most psychologists take for granted.

“The Gittler award is an honor to receive because it is the premier award given to recognize work on the philosophical foundations of psychology in North America,” said Fowers. “The importance of the award was indicated by its first two awardees, Jerome Bruner and Daniel Kahneman (who also won a Nobel Prize), two giants in psychology.”

Fowers’ work helps to illuminate fundamental assumptions underlying psychological thinking. Currently, he teaches as a tenured professor at the University of Miami. Learn more.

McConnell, LENA Start recognized by Mayor Hodges

Scott McConnell headshot
Scott McConnell

The University of Minnesota and College of Education and Human Development, with leadership from Scott McConnell, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, were recognized recently by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Kara Dukakis from Too Small to Fail for contributions to the launch and evaluation of LENA Start, a promising intervention to promote parent-child interaction and early language development—and, as a result, reduce disparities—for families of young children. Part of this work will help support Mayor Hodges’s Talking is Teaching campaign.

CSPP students, faculty present at APA National Conference

Left to right: Thomas Skovholt, Caroline Burke, Drew Benson, Opal Cook, Sarah Cronin, Meredith Martyr, and Thomas Allen

Counseling and student personnel psychology (CSPP) students, Sarah Cronin, Thomas Allen, Opal Cook, Drew Benson, and Meredith Martyr, presented alongside professor Thomas Skovholt, and instructor Caroline Burke at the American Psychological Association (APA) National Conference in August.

The conference focused on therapists’ self-care, and the presenters shared their research on what therapists do every day to manage their personal and professional boundaries. Topics included: therapist self-care development and the intentional decisions therapists make to avoid clients.

CSPP student, alumna present at MEA

Pictured left: Sarah Cronin, Right: Emily Colton

Sarah Cronin, counseling and student personnel psychology doctoral student presented with counseling and student personnel psychology alumnus, Emily Colton, at the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) Conference this October. In their presentation titled, “My students need more than I can give: Supporting student socio-emotional health,” Cronin and Colton shared practical ideas for Minnesota teachers to use in their classrooms. They also provided information on how teachers can advocate for school counseling in Minnesota by describing how school counselors can benefit the school community.

IGDILab receives over $4 million in grants to research early language and literacy

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has awarded the Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDILab) three $1.4 million, four-year grants to expand research in assessment of early language and literacy development of children ages three to five. Three researchers from the Department of Educational PsychologyAlisha Wackerle-Hollman (school psychology), Scott McConnell (special education), and Michael Rodriguez (quantitative methods in education) will lead the IGDILab grants. Colleagues (and College of Education and Human Development alumni) from the Universities of Oregon, Washington, and Nebraska and Lehigh University will help conduct the research.

In a joint statement on the three grants Dr. McConnell and Dr. Wackerle-Hollman wrote, “We are excited to expand our work on IGDIs, and to continue the long line of research and application of General Outcome Measures— a line of work that Stan Deno and colleagues initiated almost 40 years ago. While the methods are slightly different, the overall aim remains the same: Produce psychometrically rigorous measures that are easy to use, so that teachers and others can have a better sense of their students’ current development and possible need for additional supports.”

Progress Monitoring Individual Growth and Development Indicators (PM-IGDIs) will develop a set of tools to assess young children’s language and literacy skills at frequent intervals and depict performance trajectories over time to aid in identifying children in need of intervention. Specifically, PM-IGDIs will examine four-and five-year-olds’ phonological awareness, oral language, alphabet knowledge and comprehension. Read the abstract.

Progress Monitoring – Spanish – Individual Growth and Development Indicators (PM – S – IGDIs) will use procedures and analyses similar to PM-IGDIs to develop a set of tools to frequently measure Spanish early language and literacy performance of  young Spanish-English Dual Language Learners. PM-S-IGDIs will examine four and five-year-olds’ Spanish phonological awareness, oral language and alphabet knowledge. Read the abstract.

“Nearly one in four children in the United States is Latino and more than one in five comes from a home where a language other than English is spoken,” says Dr. Wackerle-Hollman. “But within that group, research tells us up to 85% are not proficient readers by fourth grade. It is clear that we must improve how we support our SE-DLL students, and we’re excited to contribute to that work with new, empirically sound and conceptually strong measurement tools.”

An extension of the existing Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs) measurement system, IGDIs – PK3 will assess the language and literacy development of three-year-olds. These measures will lead to improvements in school readiness for preschool children by providing an age appropriate assessment from age three to kindergarten entry. Read the abstract.

“As early childhood services continue to expand in Minnesota and throughout the nation, we’ll need better ways to assess and support age-appropriate progress for younger and younger children,” says Dr. McConnell. “This project extends our reach, exploring new ways to extend General Outcome Measurement to even younger children.”


The IGDILab researches, develops, validates, and applies IGDIs to support data-based decision making by teachers, early childhood professionals, parents, and others to help improve early childhood outcomes. To date, the lab’s work includes the assessment of English and Spanish language and early literacy development for children three, four, and five years of age. In the future, research, data, and learned methods from the IGDILab plan to be applied to other languages, domains of development, and new settings, including communities.

McConnell quoted in MinnPost on new technology to lessen ‘word gap’

Scott McConnell
Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s special education program, was recently quoted in the MinnPost article, “Boosting early language learning, one recording session at a time.”

The article defines the “word gap” as the “30 million word-exposure gulf that exists between children born into low-income families and their more affluent peers by the age of three.” It goes on to explain how one new early childhood education class at Northstar Mona Moede Early Childhood Center in North Minneapolis is attempting to lessen this gap, using a recording device and course materials that are part of a program called LENA StartTM. Parents participating in the program record a day’s worth of their child’s speech patterns, and a coach analyzes the results and offers advice.

Dr. McConnell, who is working to help implement and evaluate the LENA Start program in the Twin Cities, told MinnPost, “It’s really common for families to say, ‘I had no idea I was a teacher.’ Our experience with LENA so far is that parents are overwhelmed, in a positive way, by seeing their own data.”

 Read the full article.

CSPP doctoral candidate, Durkin, featured in Synthesist for her work studying disordered eating and emotion regulation

Nora Durkin headshot
Nora Durkin

Nora Durkin, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Psychology’s counseling and student personnel psychology program, was recently featured in the University of Minnesota’s Graduate School newsletter, Synthesist, for her work to improve understanding about the causes and consequences of eating disorders and to inform better treatment programs for the broad range of people who suffer from them.

“There is compelling evidence that eating disorder behaviors are used to help regulate strong negative emotions,” Durkin told the Synthesist. “For example, if an individual is feeling ashamed or sad, binge eating might help to reduce such feelings temporarily. This helps to explain why someone might continue to binge eat over time despite many consequences, including weight gain.”

Durkin is this year’s recipient of the Emily Program Fellowship which is given to Ph.D. students in the College of Education and Human Development with a preference for studying eating disorders.

Read full article on Nora’s research in Synthesist.