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April is Counseling Awareness Month

Associate Professor Vivian Lee teaches counseling techniques to help international refugees

By Jim Campbell

As the world’s population becomes increasingly interconnected through advances in technology, travel and communications, the role of the counselor is evolving to keep pace with these changes. Today’s counselors need the knowledge, sensitivity and skills to address challenges in mental health and well-being with a universal view that crosses national boundaries.

For Vivian Lee, who joined the faculty in July as an associate professor, the “transcultural counselor” should serve diverse populations and be free of any cultural biases.

“A transcultural counselor must be able to broaden his or her identity to think as a global citizen and be globally literate,” Lee said. “It’s important that counselors carefully examine their biases and engage in their own transformational process when working in another country, and realize that while there are different approaches it doesn’t mean one is better. It’s just different.”

Lee spent the previous two years teaching in the master’s program in transcultural counseling at the University of Malta. What began as a joint degree offering with the University of Maryland, and is now a collaborative degree with the University of New Orleans, the goal of the program is to prepare counselors with an international perspective.Dr. Vivian Lee

Lee, who developed and taught a class in peace and conflict transformation, would like to see the profession have a broader perspective on issues affecting individuals and families worldwide, such as more training in human rights. 

She was in Malta with her husband, Courtland Lee, a professor of counselor education at the D.C. campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and co-developer of the transcultural counseling program.  During her time there, the program attracted students from Finland, Germany, China, Japan, Ireland, India, Canada and the United States, as well as Maltese students.

While in Malta, Lee experienced first-hand the impact of the international refugee crisis. She went to Malta to assist the Department of Counseling in building their counseling program, but she quickly became involved in welcoming new arrivals from Somalia, Libya and Syria. Malta’s population grew by 17,000 in 2014, equal to 5% of its total population. (An equivalent number in the United States would be 17 million.) 

“The training of counselors to work in the detention centers and open centers for refugees became a significant part of the focus of our work in the transcultural counseling program,” she said. “The transcultural preparation, with its emphasis on a global perspective, became important as we wanted our students to understand what these individuals, families and unaccompanied minors were experiencing. We wanted them to realize these refugees are struggling with the most basic needs of human existence—how to survive in a camp, how to communicate, what does it mean to be in a foreign land. Only then when you understand the depths of their anguish can you help them. “

As part of the School of Education’s counseling and human development area of emphasis, she will be teaching group counseling, a practicum and an internship focused on school counseling. Lee and her husband are planning to return to Malta next year as part of a visit by the International Association for Counseling.  

Counseling and Human Development 2016 Summer Seminar Series

The Counseling and Human Development will offer courses this summer as part of its annual seminar series for clinical mental health counselors, school counselors and other helping professionals and graduate students. You will be able to advance your knowledge and skills, explore a new area of counseling, earn graduate credit and study with leaders in their respective fields. The Johns Hopkins School of Education is CACREP-accredited. Register today: education.jhu/summerseminars.

Steiner Urges Maryland House of Delegates to Implement a Tougher Curriculum

By Jim Campbell

Dr. David Steiner, executive director and founder of the Institute for Education Policy at the School of Education, briefed members of the House Ways and Means Committee on the institute’s mission and offered his views on improving K-12 education.

Steiner told the committee that in recent years the goalposts have moved for educators. “Today the emphasis is on preparing students to be college- and career-ready, whereas a decade ago we wanted students to be able to graduate from high school,” he said. “The two are not the same. In New York for example, 75 percent of the students graduate from high school while only half that number are ready for college. Unfortunately, the number of disadvantaged students who are ready for college is even lower.”

His message was clear: If we are to improve educational opportunities for all students, we need to focus more attention on what we teach and how effectively students are learning.

Dr. David SteinerAccording to Steiner, research shows that with the exception of the contrast between a superbly effective and ineffective teacher, no single factor makes more of a difference in student learning than the curriculum. A strong curriculum can accelerate student learning as much as seven months over a weak one. Since there is no national consensus, curriculums now can vary by teachers within a school, among schools and among districts.

He said we “massively” under-educate our children and expect too little of them. “However, when we teach them really interesting and demanding material and challenge them to think about it, they do much better.”

As proof, he cites the example of the International Baccalaureate program, a top-rated curriculum, introduced to Chicago public schools. The program is serving 22,000 regular high school students, 70 percent of whom are minorities. Students completing the program are showing 40 percent greater rates of entry into higher education than their peers.

Steiner said student learning is directly related to the quality of the teaching they receive. He was critical of the lack of accountability of the nation’s 1,200 schools of education. He told the committee we have no idea what kind of training that teacher candidates are getting, nor do we know how effective they are in the classroom. “The problem of teacher quality is as deep a problem as the curricula problem,” he said.

He encouraged the legislative committee to take a leadership role in both areas. “You should know what curriculum is being taught in schools and whether it is research-based,” he told legislators. “You should also know if a school of education is producing effective teachers for the classrooms of Maryland.” The recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act allows states more flexibility in using federal dollars to address these concerns.

Steiner offered legislators the services of the Institute by providing access to unbiased education research and also to answer questions important to them and their constituents. To see his complete presentation, click here. His presentation starts at 1:05.

Congratulations to Class of 2016! The School of Education is preparing for two exciting ceremonies in Baltimore and Las Vegas to celebrate students' accomplishments. Alumni are welcome to join us or check back in the Summer 2016 Alumni & Friends Newsletter for a recap. 


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