by Aaron Schantz, MA, LLP, CAPS Staff Counselor

Attending professional conferences is one way that CAPS counselors connect with colleagues and stay up-to-date on the practices and research available in the profession of college counseling.

This year, Hope College CAPS was helping keep other centers up-to-date.

Presenting at ACCA 2023

Two paper name tags--one for Bonnie VanderWal and one for Aaron Schantz--are side-by-side.  Each one is in a gray name tag holder that goes around a person's neck and each has a white ribbon attached to the bottom that says "Presenter" in gold.
Hope CAPS name tags from the conference.

Dr. Bonnie VanderWal and Aaron Schantz presented Changing Course without Losing Direction: One center’s flexible, efficient, and sustainable response to meeting rising student mental health needs at the American College Counseling Association‘s annual conference in Savannah, Georgia.

The presentation outlined changes Hope College CAPS made in January 2020 to offer same-day access, variable session lengths, and follow up options in order to reduce the wait time for services. Whereas in the past, students might have to wait several days or even weeks to schedule a first appointment, they can now do so the same day they call the office.

Nationally, college counseling centers have seen a nearly universal increase in demand for services. Colleges have responded by implementing wait lists, session limits, fees per session, extensive referring out to community providers, etc. that Hope CAPS staff have known would not fit with Hope’s commitment to care for students. In late 2019, staff met and discussed what other approaches would work, with January 2020 being the start date for some shifts that maximize student access and choice.

Bonnie and Aaron’s 90-minute presentation was attended by counseling center staff from colleges across the country, including one very special guest.

In their presentation, Bonnie and Aaron cited service-delivery models proposed by Dr. Will Meek and Dr. Oren Shefet as models from which Hope drew inspiration. Dr. Shefet, Director of Counseling & Psychological Wellness Services at SUNY Old Westbury attended their presentation and is pictured here with his quotation that Bonnie and Aaron used in their PowerPoint.

Dr. Oren Shefet (SUNY Old Westbury) Aaron Schantz, and Dr. Bonnie VanderWal stand to the right of a projector screen in a ballroom.  The screen says, "As we summarize...Different models can and should be created in different campuses, according to their own culture and the cultures of their students, and these models will evolve organically over time."  This text is a quote from Dr. Shefet.
Dr. Oren Shefet (Director at SUNY Old Westbury), Aaron Schantz (Hope College CAPS) and Dr. Bonnie VanderWal (Hope College CAPS) at the end of Hope CAPS presentation with a quote from Dr. Shefet that Bonnie and Aaron featured in the presentation.

Professional Development

Bonnie and Aaron did not only present at the conference, they took in other seminars as well including the following topics:

What Can Intersectionality Teach Us About Healing in Collegiate Environments

UAB Athletic Mental Health Team: An interdisciplinary approach to providing effective mental health programs and services for student-athletes

The Toxic Demands of Positivity and Resilience

The Harm in Healing

What is Stereotype Threat? Understanding how negative images hurt academic performance of racially marginalized students.

New Horizons: Setting sail for increased community interventions

Where Do We Go from Here? Understanding the landscape of counseling center work in the 2020’s

A Nation within a Nation: The quiet presence of the Gullah Geechee community and how historical roots are currently impacting college counseling

A Comprehensive Approach to Supporting the Mental Health of BIPOC Students

A Phenomenological Study of Transgender and Gender Diverse Collegiate Athletes

Recent Trends, the Impact of COVID-19, Counseling Center Usage and Academic Outcomes, and the Story of College Student Mental Health Over the Past Decade

It Takes a Village: Reshaping counseling center and faculty partnerships to strengthen student mental health

Managing the Various Roles and Responsibilities of Today’s Counselors

Attending professional conferences–and even presenting at them–allows our CAPS staff to provide the highest level of care possible for Hope students and bring back information to share with our colleagues, too!

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