Eastern Mennonite University’s new director of counseling services knows the university and its students well. Allison Collazo, a Pennsylvania native, graduated from EMU with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in counseling. She also volunteered part-time in the EMU counseling for several months while working full-time as a counselor in the community..
It was the experience of working with college students at EMU that shaped her next career steps. Collazo was formerly director of counseling services at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., where she worked for three years.
The move to EMU feels like a good fit, she said. “I really loved being part of this community. This is my alma mater, and I’ve always felt very familiar and integrated with EMU, and it’s where I truly started to grow and discover who I might be in the world.” At the same time, though, she knows the challenges of transitioning to EMU as both an undergraduate and graduate student.
“Allison’s balance of skill, compassion and professionalism are exciting additions to the student life team,”said Shannon Dycus, dean of students. “Because mental wellbeing is foundational to student success, the strength of counseling services is vital. As she leads us in mental health support to the EMU community, we continue forward to helping all students live into success.”
Expanded services continue
Collazo will supervise the center’s staff and programming, which includes individual and group counseling, depression and anxiety screenings, and university outreach on topics such as anxiety, suicide prevention or sexual assault awareness. She’ll also support a new team of collaborators who work to provide proactive and coordinated support for students in distress. The CARE Team, which stands for Concern, Assessment, Response and Evaluation, responds to concerns about student behavior, academic progress and personal issues, including mental health concerns.
Collazo will also continue the expanded services offered by a collaborative program between counseling services and the master’s in counseling program that started in 2017 under previous director Tempest Anderson.
Selected MAC students who have met stringent requirements provide some of the center’s counseling services. The students, each of whom have completed 30 hours of graduate counseling coursework and a 100-hour clinical practicum, and have been approved for internship by MAC faculty, are supervised by counseling faculty.
The program is “genius,” Collazo said. “I appreciate as mental health needs and services are increasing everywhere in colleges and universities, there is a need for more resources and people to respond to that need. It makes a lot of sense to team up with the MAC program, especially because those students need those hours and can provide clinical services. I’m excited to be a part of that and see how I can help facilitate that process, and even look for other ways to potentially provide more clinical services to our students.”
In the EMU community
Collazo’s immediate goals are to introduce herself to the EMU community through outreach at general campus events and special events focused on mental health awareness, such as Walk for Hope on March 28. She also plans to add a few new group counseling sessions to the center’s offerings.
In the fall, she’ll be a part of orientation and first-year seminars as well. “I want to have a presence on campus,” Collazo said. “It’s easy for counseling services to be seen as intimidating, so I want to chip away at that stigma by making my presence known. Students may feel more comfortable visiting these services if they view counselors as people in their campus community.”
A high school psychology class – and “a great capacity to listen” to people and their stories – drew Collazo towards the field, but it was Jeanne Horst, her work-study supervisor at EMU, who honed in on her potential for counseling and mentored her towards that career. “She had a vision and she fostered that in me. We had a few conversations about that and by the time I was a junior, I realized that was what I wanted to do.”
During her studies at EMU, Collazo participated in Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resiliency (STAR) training, completed a suicide intervention skills training, presented research at the Virginia Pyschological Association Conference, and was president and co-founder of the university’s Psychology Club. She also wrote a successful grant proposal to design and organize a three-part seminar for students on “internal peace and wellbeing.”
Now back at EMU, her work continues with similar goals, and much more experience and wisdom to guide her.