MA in Counseling Students Receive Top Honor

MA in counseling ethics award
MA in counseling ethics award recipients (l. to r.): Zachary Taylor, Erin Constable, Thomas Smith and Tara Kreider. Photo by Amy Schmid

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

Zachary Taylor, West Columbia, S.C.,; Erin Constable, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; Tara Kreider, Harrisonburg; and Thomas Smith, Hillsboro, Kan., were among teams nationwide who submitted essays in the masters level competition. Each essay was reviewed by members of the ACA ethics committee.

A case study

The case study involved a counseling intern in a college counseling center. The scenario related to the counselors identity as a white suburban male working with a Latina student discussing her experience with childhood abuse. She reported having taken a covert action that seemed to have contributed to her abuser’s early death. The study contained multicultural, boundaries of competence and mandated reporter issues.

The team prepared a 15-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.

Applying ethics to professional situations

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

“To have received first place in this national contest is a statement of the quality of students in our program,” Dr. Leitch-Alford said. “The award is also a significant affirmation of their abilities to apply academic learning to professional situations with excellence. It gives us confidence that they will serve their future clients well,” she added.

Each first place team member will receive a $75 gift certificate to the ACA Bookstore, an ACA Ethics Competition winner’s certificate and a letter of recognition from ACA President Lynn Linde. These will be presented to the EMU team – as well as the two other winning master’s level teams and the top three doctoral level winning teams – at the ACA Annual Conference & Exposition in Pittsburgh, Pa., during the ACA National Awards Ceremony Mar. 21.

Student names, institutions and winning responses of the winning master’s and doctoral teams will also be published in the (month) edition of “Counseling Today” magazine and posted on the ACA website at

About the MA in Counseling program

EMU has 37 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.