Lehman Professor Joins White House Effort to Bolster School Counseling and College Advising

Professor Stuart Chen-Hayes

Professor Stuart Chen-Hayes

It’s not everyday that you get an invitation from the White House identifying you as an important “thought leader” in your profession-—and inviting you to attend a landmark conference at Harvard University.

But that’s exactly what happened earlier this year to Lehman Professor Stuart Chen-Hayes—and that was just part of what turned out to be a busy and productive 2014 for the Program Coordinator and Associate Professor of Counselor Education/School Counseling in the Counseling, Leadership, Literacy, and Special Education (CLLSE) program.

Professor Chen-Hayes was part of President and Mrs. Obama’s College Opportunity Agenda a plan for education leaders to determine how “improvements in school counseling and college advising can bring about greater postsecondary opportunities for Americans. The first lady started The Reach Higher Initiative earlier this year to inspire every high school student to attend college.

Last July, in a speech delivered at the American School Counselor Association’s (ASCA) annual conference, Mrs. Obama gave what many school counselors viewed as a watershed address; acknowledging the significance of a profession that has often been overlooked.

“School counseling should not be an extra or a luxury just for school systems that can afford it,” Mrs. Obama said. “School counseling is a necessity to ensure that all our young people get the education they need to succeed in today’s economy.”

Prof. Chen-Hayes attended the July 28 College Opportunity Summit at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the follow-up event held at San Diego State University in November. The long-term goal of both these conferences is to begin a dialogue to establish new state and national school counseling policies.

“School Counselors should not be doing bus duty, hall duty, crisis-of-the-moment or paperwork,” said Prof. Chen-Hayes. “They really need to be doing comprehensive school counseling programs of which college and careers needs to be a huge component.”

A recent New York Times story examined the severe shortage of school counselors throughout the country’s public school system and the potentially disastrous impact on students applying to college. The National Association for College Admission Counseling reports that the national student to counselor ratio is 478 to 1.

Prof. Chen-Hayes said that the two summits and attention from the White House have already begun having a potentially positive effect on CUNY and Lehman’s school counseling programs. Ashleigh Thompson, the University Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at City University of New York, who also attended the summit in San Diego, helped facilitate a RFP (Request for Proposal) for the creation of a new standalone graduate class at Lehman, Brooklyn, Queens and Hunter Colleges that will focus on quality college advising. Prof Chen-Hayes said the course would be called College Access Readiness and Admission Counseling and is tentatively scheduled to launch in Fall 2015.

The summit at San Diego State also fueled the formation of the Comprehensive Career and College Counseling Consortium of New York and New Jersey; a bi-state organization created to continue the work in establishing uniform training for school counselors with the goal of increasing college access for all students. Dr. Chen-Hayes and Judith Lorimer, the deputy director of Goddard Riverside Options Institute in New York, are serving as co-chairs.

Prof. Chen-Hayes is a co-author of 101 Solutions for School Counselors and Leaders in Challenging Times, published in 2013 and covers topics ranging from data-driven counseling to bullying, collaboration, and equity.