Section: News

Counseling Center hires associate director, reaches full staff

A new associate director of counseling, Holly Baker, will begin work at the College on Jan. 6. With Baker’s hiring earlier this week, the Cox Health and Counseling Center fulfills its two-person leadership model—she will serve alongside Director of Health and Counseling Chris Smith to lead the team on the top floor of the Cox Center. This hire also brings the Counseling Center back to full staff for the first time since March of this year.

Baker, a licensed professional clinical counselor, currently works at Providers for Healthy Living, a private practice in Mansfield. According to their website, she has a master’s degree in counseling from Cincinnati Christian University. She has also practiced at Marion Area Counseling Center.

Baker specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and her clinical interests include mental health education, suicide prevention and teaching.

Baker will fill the position previously held by Mike Durham, whose role was recently redefined to better align with his training as a substance abuse counselor. Durham, who is not independently licensed for mental health, now serves as the associate director for substance abuse and case management.

According to an Aug. 29 Collegian article, Baker’s independent licensure and supervision credential will allow current counselors on staff to advance their own licenses. It will also enable the Counseling Center to hire graduate interns, who will be able to hold appointments with students.

The hiring procedure for a new associate director was necessarily long, according to Smith. “Searches take time,” Smith said. “We just [have to] patiently work through that process.”

This particular process had six steps, beginning when candidates submitted their applications to online job postings. Whereas traditional hiring models have a window for submitting applications, many of Kenyon’s application windows do not close until a hire is made.

“That allows you to make sure you get the best candidate. It does also create some challenges,” Smith said, such as a longer timeline for making a hire.

As the applications rolled in, a search committee reviewed each one, and some candidates moved on to phone interviews. They were then asked to complete a “prioritization exercise.”

“It’s something that Kenyon does, and I think it’s quite brilliant,” Smith said. “They did it during my interview, and I’ve seen it done [for] a few other leadership positions.”

During the exercise, the candidate is presented with several hypothetical scenarios, all happening concurrently. The candidate must prioritize these scenarios and give a justification for their proposed order. The point of the activity is “not that there’s a wrong or right answer, but it helps you see how that person thinks,” Smith said.

The exercise also gave Smith and the search committee an opportunity to pinpoint a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. “As we think about onboarding someone, we have to be able to play to their strengths, and equally build up some of their things [that] they’re lacking,” Smith said.

If the committee found that the candidate’s strengths matched the Counseling Center’s needs, they extended an invitation for an on-campus interview. While on campus, a candidate would run an eight-hour gauntlet of meetings, interviews and activities. Student Affairs leaders, student groups, counseling staff, campus partners, Durham, Smith and the search committee were all on the schedule. Everyone who met with a candidate was asked to fill out a Google form with feedback.

In particular, Smith wanted to ensure that the candidate they chose could handle every aspect of the job. “Being a counselor and being [an] administrator are two very different skill sets, so being able to understand how that person balances those roles is quite important,” he said.

In the end, that candidate was Baker, who will be settled into her new role by the time students return from winter break.


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