Faculty Advisor of the Year

Faculty Advisor Of The Year Goes ‘Above And Beyond’ For Students

For Mercedes Tichenor, PhD, good advising starts with “building relationships.”

“That’s what I try to do with my students, whether I’m advising them for courses or advising them about career plans or even personal matters and issues,” said Tichenor, associate chair and professor of Education. “I think building that trust in that relationship is the first thing.”

Tichenor’s approach earned her the honor of being named Faculty Advisor of the Year for 2020-21, which was announced during Convocation at the start of the Fall 2021 semester. Now in its eighth year, the honor is presented by the Advising Office in Academic Success.

Joanne Morales Bembinster, associate director of Academic Advising, shared some of the comments from students’ nominations of Tichenor.

“Dr. Tichenor has gone above and beyond through her role as an advisor to many students in the Education Department,” said student Gretchen Nerber. “She not only is knowledgeable about courses and scheduling, she genuinely cares about the students and their futures. She is willing to have conversations that are critical in a student’s academic career that will guide them in the future years, all while giving support and kindness when needed.”

“My faculty advisor is always there when I need her,” said student Kelly Chapman. “She believes in me and shows her support often. Starting college was difficult, but she made me feel right at home.”

Supporting Students At Stetson

Chris Colwell, PhD, talks about the faculty advisor of the year
Chris Colwell, PhD

Chris Colwell, PhD, chair of the Education Department, praised Tichenor for her unwavering commitment to support students.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that she knows each and every one of her students and supports them in every aspect of their educational journey here at Stetson,” he said.

Tichenor also serves as director of Student Teaching in Stetson’s Education Department. She works in area schools with Stetson seniors who are interning in classrooms.

“One of the first things we tell them is get to know your kids. Stand by the door and greet them when they come in. Talk to them about things that interest them. It’s easier to manage groups of students when you have respect for each other,” she said.

“Can you teach advising? I think we as teacher educators can certainly model it for our students,” Tichenor continued. “We are training our students to not just teach academics but to teach the whole child. This includes social and emotional learning. So advising aside, I think as teacher educators we need to model all of that.”

Faculty Advisor Of The Year Announcement

Tichenor recalled watching Convocation at home on her computer in mid-August. She listened as Provost Noel Painter, PhD, began announcing the recipient of the Faculty Advisor of the Year award.

Provost Noel Painter speaks about the faculty advisor of the year
Noel Painter, PhD

“This year’s Faculty Advisor of the Year has consistently and thoughtfully realized the Stetson commitment to creating caring and individualized relationships, and providing thoughtful guidance, offering time, resources, mentorship and career advice to students in her program,” Painter said. “Words taken from the nominations describe her as compassionate, genuine, respectful, supportive and kind.”

At home, Tichenor thought, “Oh, wow, those are some really nice things people are saying.’ ” And then, Painter announced her name as this year’s recipient.

John Tichenor, PhD

“It really was a surprise,” she recalled. “I was happy and excited, of course, that my name came up.”

Tichenor received another surprise, too. Her husband John Tichenor, PhD, chair and associate professor of management, had been named the 2018-19 advisor of the year. After his wife’s name was announced, he presented the three-dimensional glass award to her in their own home. Stacy Collins, interim executive director of Career and Academic Success, had conspired with John Tichenor to get the award in his hands for the big moment.

“It’s a very nice honor and I’m delighted to have been chosen,” Tichenor said.

— Rick de Yampert

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Faculty Accomplishments

Seeding Justice: Stetson Receives $359,000 Mellon Foundation Grant For College-In-Prison Program

Stetson University’s Community Education Project (CEP), a multidisciplinary college-in-prison program, is expanding its humanities course offerings at the Tomoka Correctional Institution (TCI) in Daytona Beach, thanks to a $359,000, two-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The grant, Seeding Justice: Collaborative Learning Landscapes in Carceral Spaces, was made possible by the foundation’s The Future of Higher Learning in Prison initiative. CEP is the first recipient at Stetson to receive a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In 2015, a Journal of Critical Scholarship on Higher Education and Student Affairs research article titled “Higher Education in an Era of Mass Incarceration: Possibility Under Constraint” by Erin L. Castro, PhD, et al, showed that among the more than 2.2 million individuals behind bars in the United States, only 6% have access to formal postsecondary educational opportunities. 

Since its inception in 2015, CEP has been committed to offering high-quality liberal-arts education to incarcerated students, and for the past three years has been teaching incarcerated students credit-bearing courses and providing them with additional learning, research and teaching opportunities.

Pamela Cappas-Toro, PhD

“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant will benefit incarcerated students by providing them with an opportunity to be more fully engaged in food studies, learn about planting and harvesting produce in an outdoor classroom,” said Pamela Cappas-Toro, PhD, who is one of CEP’s co-directors and associate professor of world languages and cultures at Stetson.

Besides Cappas-Toro, CEP is led by co-directors Andy Eisen, PhD, visiting assistant professor of history; Melinda Hall, PhD, associate professor of philosophy; and Jelena Petrovic, PhD, associate professor of communication and media studies. 

The grant will allow CEP to offer five new courses, including two food studies classes on sustainable food production that explore race, class and gender in the food system, two humanities courses that are aimed toward food studies, and a special topics class on race, food and nation in the Americas.

The grant also will provide CEP with an opportunity to create the garden, an outdoor classroom, and employ a garden manager and postdoctoral fellow in the humanities.

Both positions will have an integral part in the outdoor classroom component, which will include collaboration with CEP faculty and students and a community garden learning landscape with heirloom or historically significant crops such as Seminole pumpkins, Everglades tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cowpeas, Alabama red okra, African runner peanut and Florida broadleaf mustard greens. 

Sarah Cramer, PhD

“A food studies education is wonderful because it allows the Community Education Project students at the Tomoka Correctional Institution to develop the skills and access the resources to analyze and critique something as fundamental in our lives as food,” explained Sarah Cramer, PhD, visiting assistant professor in sustainable food systems at Stetson, who is teaching two of the grant-funded food studies courses.

The grant monies also will be used for a second edition of CEP’s literary journal More Than Our Blues, which is edited by Denise Yezbick, PhD, who taught two courses at TCI before CEP’s program became accredited, and data analysis and assessment conducted by Steven Smallpage, PhD, assistant professor of political science at Stetson.

Steven Smallpage, PhD

“My job is running the data analysis and assessment to translate all of the excellent, hard work that the Community Education Project’s faculty, staff and students have contributed to the program into a language that helps everyone better visualize its return on investment,” said Smallpage. “By doing that, we will understand which interventions and initiatives work and which ones need to be tweaked along with the process for making those adjustments.”

CEP will be collecting a steady stream of student survey responses and reports from its faculty and staff on activities, perceptions and overall satisfaction. CEP students also will be continuously updated on the program’s progress.

-Sandra Carr

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Faculty Accomplishments

Counselor Education Faculty Receive Two Grants Totaling $2.8 Million

A therapist talks to a couple in therapy
One of the grants seeks to increase the number of professional counselors from underrepresented populations.

The Counselor Education Department will be providing students at Stetson University and other universities with specialized mental-health counseling training, thanks to two research grants totaling $2,764,570. The grant awards are the largest combined sum received by a department at Stetson.

Spiritual And Religious Competencies Project (SRCP)

The John Templeton Foundation has awarded a grant of $5,188,796 to the University of South Alabama and subawards to Stetson University, Baylor University, Bowling Green State University and the University of Maryland for its Spiritual and Religious Competencies Project (SRCP).


SRCP is designed to equip mental-health professionals with the competencies for addressing the religious and spiritual dimensions in people’s lives.

The SRCP grant goals are:

  • Generate methods and tools for defining, studying and assessing religious and spiritual competencies.
  • Establish methods for training mental-health professionals in religious and spiritual competencies.
  • Synergize diverse stakeholders with a commitment to promoting religious and spiritual competencies.
  • Fuel the momentum for systemic and cultural changes in ways that religious and spiritual competencies are addressed in mental-health care.

Stetson’s three-year subaward is $1,724,985, which is the largest private foundation grant in the university’s history to support a single-investigator faculty research project.

The “Research in Religious and Spiritual Competencies in Clinical Training” research project will be funded by Stetson’s subaward.

Jesse Fox, PhD

“The project was born out of a vision to bring the four major mental health disciplines, which are psychology, counseling, social work and marriage and family therapy, together and create religious and spiritual competence models for training and research,” said Jesse Fox, PhD, principal investigator for the Stetson research project.

Religious and spiritual competence is a holistic framework for training mental health professionals to recognize and be responsive to pious dimensions of their clients’ lives.

Fox and his colleagues Joseph Currier, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of South Alabama, who is the principal investigator for the entire research project, and Cassandra Vieten, PhD, executive director of the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation, will develop and implement funded studies on religious and spiritual competence during the next three years. Stetson also will host two summits with Currier, Vieten and other top-research clinicians in the mental-health field to catalyze a new research and clinical training culture.

“Religion and spirituality offer people strong resources for living healthy lives,” added Fox, who is an associate professor of counselor education at Stetson. “Religion and spirituality help people cope more effectively with challenges and crises and provide pathways toward the ultimate meaning in the human experience.

“The goal is to bring an openness to training mental-health counselors to be more responsive to their clients and provide them with the knowledge to create environments that are characterized by deep compassion, acceptance and wisdom in navigating the many challenges people face from cradle to the grave,” said Fox.

Hatters Behavioral Health Coalition (HBHC) Program

The Hatters Behavioral Health Coalition (HBHC) Program is made possible by a $1,039,585 grant from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)/Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program for Professionals.

Page Thanasiu, PhD

The four-year program will provide counselor-education graduate students with an opportunity to counsel underserved populations by melding behavioral and medical health in an interdisciplinary approach to client care during a 12-month internship. The interns also will receive a $10,000 federal stipend for their living expenses.

“This grant will significantly benefit our students now and in the future,” said Page Thanasiu, PhD, HBHC Program director. “The interns will receive specialized training and experience in interdisciplinary behavioral health-care approaches. They also will develop an area of expertise that provides considerable advantage when seeking employment after graduation.”

Jacqueline Williams, PhD

The HBHC Program Internship Coordinator Jacqueline Williams, PhD, assistant professor of practice in counselor education at Stetson, will be providing the grant-funded interns with assistance throughout the program.

The HRSA/BHWET grant goals are:

  • Train counselors to competently work with medically underserved populations.
  • Increase the number of professional counselors from underrepresented populations.
  • Increase the number of organizations utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to patient care that includes both behavioral and primary health care.
A therapist talks to a patient in therapy

“It’s important that counselors and medical practitioners understand the ways in which a person’s culture impacts how they navigate and resolve an illness, stress and other challenges,” added Thanasiu, who is the Counselor Education Department chair. “Clients will have the best chance of obtaining success when mental-health counselors suggest treatments and coping strategies that align with clients’ values and beliefs.”

Another grant component is training programs that teach students to counsel adolescents, children and transitional-aged youth who are at risk for behavioral-health disorders. The Counselor Education Department met the criterion with its play therapy and childhood trauma courses.

The HBHC Program also will be teaming up with Stetson’s Health Sciences and Psychology departments. The collaboration will prepare students for medical and health-focused professions.

“The collaborative efforts by the Counselor Education, Health Sciences and Psychology departments will provide three separate student populations with a chance to learn about the importance of team-based care and how they can be active participants in this approach within their own career fields,” said Thanasiu.

The HBHC Program will have an interdisciplinary, advisory council, comprised of representatives from diverse health-care fields that will guide program development and monitor effectiveness. Partnerships with AdventHealth and other experiential training sites also will provide patients with integrated, behavioral and primary health care.

-Sandra Carr

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Stetson Showcase Undergraduate Research

Celebrate Stetson Showcase, April 13 2021

The Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium Showcase — an annual celebration of academic achievement at Stetson — is set for Tuesday, April 13. 

More than 160 students from the School of Music, School of Business Administration and the College of Arts and Sciences will present research by juniors, seniors and Honors students between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

Showcase will be a hybrid presentation. Some events, such as the senior recital and Hand exhibits, will be available both live and online. Two other sessions will be face-to-face but viewable online. Many others will be entirely online. 

Students, faculty and staff, along with family outside the Stetson community, must register to attend events virtually. Registration began April 7 and continues through April 13. For those attending live sessions, there are capacity limits, which will be observed. Once the registration form is received, registrants will receive links to the sessions. The Registration link can be found here

Day classes across campus are being canceled, providing all students with the opportunity to see and hear the work of fellow students. Cultural credit will be awarded by 15-minute participation blocks on Zoom or in person. For every 15 minutes logged into or attending a session, one-third of a cultural credit will be awarded. A maximum of five cultural credits can be earned for the symposium event. At each venue, student ID numbers will have to be used for cultural credit.

View the planned Showcase program here.

Showcase, with its debut in 1999, has grown to be one of the oldest and most distinctive comprehensive Undergraduate Research Days nationwide. Former names include Undergraduate Scholarship and Performance Day and Undergraduate Scholarship Day. 

Kimberly Reiter, PhD

COVID-19 halted the celebration in 2020, but not this year. 

“COVID may have put us down last year, because we just had no time to put this together, but this year … we are alive and kicking,” asserted Kimberly Reiter, PhD, associate professor of history and chair of the Stetson Undergraduate Research Committee and Stetson Showcase. 

The theme this year is New Worlds, acknowledging the challenges that undergraduate research has faced in the past year, and the new understandings that have resulted in conducting that research. The theme also celebrates the opportunities students have created for both learning and research in a world of virtual academe, Reiter said. 

The Showcase will be competitive, too. Project judging, encompassing input from selected faculty, staff and industry leaders, will culminate in an awards ceremony. In general, students are asked to discuss their projects at a level that anyone not knowing the area can understand, with the belief that part of an effective presentation is effective communication. 

The winners of each of the locations or poster sessions will receive a Maris Prize of $200 and a certificate of excellence.

-Michael Candelaria

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