Graduate Counseling Students Given Award

A team of students from the master of arts in counseling program received third place award in the annual national Graduate Student Ethics Competition sponsored by the American Counseling Association (ACA), Alexandria, Va.

MA in Counseling students win award
(Seated): Nate Koser, Genhi Whiter and (standing) Linda Leitch-Alford and Zachary Taylor review the counseling students’ award-winning essay. Photo by Jim Bishop

Nate Koser, Harrisonburg; Genhi Whitmer, Staunton; and Zachary Taylor, Harrisonburg were among 29 teams nationwide who submitted essays in the masters level competition. Each essay was reviewed by three separate reviewers from the ACA’s ethics committee and graded on a 100 point scale for a maximum score of 300 points.

The EMU students case study, which received a score of 288 points, related to a workplace issue based on the concept of dual relationships.

The case scenario involved an ethical situation that professional counselors commonly face. It involved a conflict – with implications for sound clinical practice – between a virtuous therapist, her supervisor and institutional policy.

The team prepared a 19-page paper identifying what they believed the dilemma to be, what they felt the most ethical actions should be, the justification for their proposed actions and a description of the decision-making model used in reaching that decision.

Linda Leitch-Alford, associate professor of counseling, teaches a course on professional applied ethics, which the students drew from in preparing their essay.

“I provided encouragement, otherwise the students were on their own,” Dr. Leitch-Alford said. “They did a stellar job. I’m proud of them.”

Teams from Youngstown (Ohio) State and College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va., took second and first place, respectively, in the competition. Only five points separated the top three teams.

The winners will receive letters of recognition and a mounted certificate and will be recognized at the ACA annual conference to be held in March in Charlotte, N.C. Winning essays will be published on the ACA web site at

EMU has 30 students currently enrolled in its MA in counseling program, which is accredited by The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The program offers a 60-semester hour, CACREP-approved track that prepares students for clinical practice as a licensed professional counselor and a dual degree that enables a student to earn both a master of divinity and an MA in counseling degree in less time than if both were pursued separately.