Tammy Austin steps into function as new director of counseling amid pupil requires expanded psychological well being assets

Tammy Austin steps into function as new director of counseling amid pupil requires expanded psychological well being assets

Tammy Austin started her function as the brand new director of counseling at Middlebury School on Monday, Nov. 28, filling the place left vacant by former director Alberto Soto, who resigned in August.

A licensed marriage and household therapist with greater than 19 years of expertise within the discipline of group psychological well being, Austin got here to the faculty after serving because the director of kid and household companies on the Clara Martin Heart in Randolph, Vt., working with newborns to 26-year-olds who battle with psychological well being and substance abuse points. At the moment, she serves because the chair of the Vermont Board of Allied Psychological Well being.

“I’ve been enthusiastic about counseling on the school degree since I actually was in undergraduate faculty as a Peer Mentor, supporting classmates in accessing the companies,” Austin wrote in an electronic mail to The Campus. “Younger maturity is a pivotal time in a person’s life. To have the ability to present the companies and help crucial to assist them achieve success is extraordinarily essential.”

In her function, Austin will oversee the counseling division, one of many 5 places of work throughout the Heart for Well being and Wellness, the place she’s going to work to strengthen communication between counseling and the opposite places of work within the heart and the coed physique. 

“It will likely be my duty to make sure that entry to companies is accessible, seek the advice of with campus companions on psychological well being conditions, and take part as a member of the Heart for Well being and Wellness management group,” Austin wrote.

Austin arrives at a campus the place many college students report scuffling with psychological well being. In response to The Campus’ 2022 Zeitgeist survey, one pupil wrote, “Middlebury destroyed my psychological well being.” One other wrote they’d “by no means skilled psychological well being points till Midd.” 

Some have even described the fast-paced and evaluative nature of the faculty as antithetical to wellness.

In an op-ed revealed in 2019, Arthur Martins ’22.5 wrote, “Whereas struggles like mine can seem particular person and inconsequential, they’re deeply rooted in our collective concepts of what constitutes a traditional school expertise.”

Just lately, further op-eds revealed in The Campus have directed criticism towards the faculty’s psychological well being programing, particularly noting the shortage of counselors of coloration and repeatedly calling for elevated illustration.

“As a girl of coloration, I perceive the frustration, discomfort and suspicion that will come up resulting from not with the ability to discover a counselor that doesn’t maintain a shared id,” stated Selena Valladares Ortiz ’23, a psychological well being peer educator.

All through his tenure as Director of Counseling, which spanned lower than a yr, Soto appeared to grasp this frustration as nicely, emphasizing the compounding results of systemic oppression on the psychological well being of people compelled to bear its burdens. 

“The physique and thoughts can’t be healed solely by self-care and specializing in surviving. Sooner or later we should deal with and determine the supply of all our psychic struggling, which is whiteness, heteronormativity, patriarchal programs, and many others.,” stated Soto in an interview with The Campus in September 2021. In response to those feedback, Soto confronted backlash from a number of right-wing information sources and web sites.

“I feel given Covid-19, given the dialog round race and police brutality, given the dialog round class, our college students immediately within the twenty first century are coping with amazingly painful points. There’s a number of trauma that our college students are experiencing,” stated Vice President of Scholar Affairs Smita Ruzicka, who helps and oversees the Heart for Well being and Wellness and labored as a psychological well being counselor earlier than her profession at Middlebury. 

In response to information from the 2022 Zeitgeist survey, college students of coloration throughout all races answered “no” to the query “Are you cheerful?” extra usually than their white friends. Further information confirmed {that a} greater proportion of scholars of each race apart from white had used counseling companies sooner or later throughout their time on the school. Nonetheless, regardless of the extra boundaries to psychological well being and well-being that may come up whereas navigating a predominantly white establishment (PWI) as a pupil of coloration, the one out there counseling help for college kids of coloration comes from an almost all-white on-campus counseling employees. 

“As a counselor of coloration, there’s not many people,” Ruzicka stated. “After which I feel we proceed to have a problem of recruiting of us of coloration, particularly to a state like Vermont. We now have been occupied with what compensation and advantages seem like, [and if there] are methods we are able to form of make that extra enticing.”

Ruzicka famous that efforts to recruit counselors of coloration are ongoing. 

“We now have been very strategic about sending job listings to particular list-serves like Black Psychologists, Asian-American Psychologists, [and] The Black Social Work Affiliation,” Ruzicka stated.

“Moreover, one of many causes we acquired TimelyCare is not only the supply of Telehealth for college kids,” Ruzicka stated. “We knew that we might get quite a lot of of us who could be consultant of our college students’ range.” 

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TimelyCare offers 24/7 entry to healthcare and counseling at no further price to college students.

In response to questions surrounding pupil requires a extra numerous counseling employees, Austin wrote, “As with all and all considerations on campus, my hope is to study extra in regards to the challenges and discover alternatives that come up with these challenges with an goal to finest help the faculty group. I would like college students to know that their voice is being heard, and we actually are dedicated to hiring the proper candidates for our group who convey their identities, experiences and medical experience.”

In response to Barbara McCall, affiliate vp for pupil well being and well-being, the Well being and Wellness Division has been working to reply to pupil considerations, partnering with pupil organizations such because the Scholar Authorities Affiliation (SGA) Psychological Well being Committee, MiddSafe, Intercourse Optimistic Training for School College students (SPECS) and the Psychological Well being Peer Educators (MHPE).

This fall, the Heart for Well being and Wellness additionally started providing Let’s Speak, a useful resource via which college students can entry casual and confidential 25-minute consultations with a counselor on a first-come first-serve foundation. As well as, the middle launched the brand new Built-in Care Workplace in April 2022, which gives medical care for college kids experiencing complicated well being and wellness wants, coordinating security oversight, logistics and communication with different events concerned in college students’ care to be able to improve counselors’ capability to supply direct service hours to college students.

“Tammy and I are dedicated to responding to pupil suggestions, re-building relationships with the campus group after being distant in the course of the pandemic and re-invigorating counseling’s outreach programming,” McCall wrote in an electronic mail to The Campus.

As the brand new director of counseling, Austin seeks to assist proceed to bridge the hole between college students and the assets that intend to help them. 

“With my place approaching board, we have now elevated our out there appointments by over 10% in comparison with final yr,” Austin wrote. “With yet one more employees counselor place to be employed, we’re in an ideal place for extra capability.” 

“I’ve seen that the counseling division has made it its objective to change into extra seen to the coed inhabitants,” Valladares Ortiz stated. “At Middlebury it is very important spotlight psychological well being care as a result of its setting is conducive to heightening elements that negatively affect psychological well being.”

“We’ve actually tried to consider pupil psychological well being not in a vacuum, however as a part of a holistic objective of pupil well being and well-being,” Ruzicka stated. 

At a second when many college students are in want of complete help, this effort makes an attempt to make wellness extra accessible.

“I’m extraordinarily excited to be part of the Middlebury School group and stay up for assembly as many college students, college and employees as doable,” Austin wrote. “In case you see me out and about, please don’t hesitate to say good day.”

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Tammy Austin started her function as Director of Counseling at Middlebury on Nov. 28, 2022.

In case you’d prefer to get in contact with Tammy Austin, you’ll be able to cease by her workplace at Centeno Home or name Counseling Providers to schedule a meet and greet appointment. For non-clinical wants, college students can attain her at [email protected]


Olivia Pintair ‘22.5 is a web-based editor for The Campus. 

Pintair research Environmental Faith and Training at Middlebury and is a contributing author at Tricycle Journal.