Texas A&M University-Commerce doctoral students representing the Department of Counseling recently attended the Texas Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (TACES) Mid-Winter Conference.
The conference was held February 27-28, 2020 with the theme of Counselor Educators and Supervisors Helping Communities Heal. In order to better serve its membership, the annual event, traditionally located in Austin, was held in San Antonio this year.
TACES awards multiple advocacy and research grants to members each year, as well as scholarships. Furthermore, the association awards the Mid-Winter Traveling Trophy to the university with the most students in attendance at the conference. The 2019 Traveling Trophy was awarded to Texas A&M University-Commerce.
“We were represented well. With 15 doctoral students at this conference I was hoping that we would win again this year, and we only missed it by one person. Our doctoral students were highly involved and presented on their expertise. It was a good week to be a Lion,” said Dr. Erika Schmit, who serves as the doctoral coordinator for A&M-Commerce's Department of Counseling.
Overall, Texas A&M University-Commerce was noticed as a leader in the field of Counselor Education and Supervision. Doctoral students Danielle McGarrh, Sarah Silveus and Sarah Colliflower received a $500 advocacy grant to begin a peer-led advocacy group focused on leading efforts to improve social justice and multicultural competencies. Additionally, Dr. Edith Gonzalez received a $500 research grant to fund her study regarding school counselors' competency and advocacy for undocumented students.
Of particular note, McGarrh was awarded this year's TACES Outstanding Advocacy Award, which honors individuals for promoting the well-being of clients, students and the counseling profession through advocacy efforts.
Schmit, who also serves as the TACES secretary, proudly introduced McGarrh at the award presentation, stating, “This year's recipient demonstrates a record of advocacy for clients that began with her work as a counselor providing affirmative therapy to the LGBTQ+ community. She is actively engaged in scholarship that specifically promotes advocacy and social justice.”
McGarrh provides pro bono training sessions to school districts regarding LGBTQ+ issues with an emphasis on youth of color and oppressive practices within Texas' K-12 education system. She recently attended a Licensed Professional Counselors board meeting in Austin, advocating for a non-discrimination statement in the LPC Code of Ethics to be inclusive of marginalized communities. Also serving on the board for the Texas Counselors for Social Justice, McGarrh's personal advocacy is focused on combating the current anti-transgender murder epidemic by changing hate crime statutes in Texas to protect gender identity, requiring hate crime training and reporting for police, and enacting a ban on the trans panic defense.