By: Lucielle Wones
April LaGue and Arien Muzacz both have long histories in education. April grew up seeing her sister in education and wanted to do something similar. She decided, though, that she preferred the non-teacher aspects of working with students, prompting her to go into counseling. She has been a counselor for 13 schools under grant and student assisting programs. April’s research background focuses on math anxiety and social well-being. Arien’s career in counseling started back in middle school, where she was a peer counselor for her classmates. This sparked a lifelong interest in the field, though her path was less linear. She was the first in her immediate family to complete college and worked in legal and non-profit settings before she returned to her first love of counseling by pursuing a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Arien’s research agenda emphasizes diversity and social justice, including health disparities in the areas of substance use and sexual health along with topics in aging, sexuality, addiction, and counselor education and supervision. In addition, Arien and April are both outspoken supporters and members of the LGBTQ community and commit to creating an environment that is safe, healthy, and allows underrepresented voices to have a say. They want the clinical and school sides of counseling to work together and embrace professional unity while increasing equity of opportunity for all their students.
April and Arien are currently focusing on the teaching and learning aspects of pedagogy in online and hybrid counselor education programs. They are co-investigators on a study funded by the Ecampus Research Fellows program to examine the impacts of providing a hybrid orientation to Master’s students in Counseling on students’ self-efficacy and perceptions of wellness. Ecampus’ M.Coun program is part-time and offered in a hybrid (in-person and online) format, which appeals to non-traditional students who may have significant responsibilities within their own communities. Last year, faculty built and piloted orientation models to give students the opportunity to learn about program requirements and Ecampus and OSU resources and to form a bridge between educational backgrounds and classroom expectations. This “virtual mentorship” gives a way to connect with the students more directly before they meet in person in a space that is safe, secure, accessible, and equitable. Their research collects data from students before and after the orientation to evaluate changes in students’ self-efficacy and wellness in response to their active engagement with the online learning modules.
Once April and Arien publish their findings, they hope that they can use them to help improve the quality of online teaching and advising in counselor education and to consult with other institutions in developing their programs. They believe all grad programs should have an orientation with advisors to connect with. The hybrid model that the Ecampus uses has a lot of potential, and their work aims to prove and popularize the many ways that online orientations can provide students with the tools they need to succeed. Currently, they don’t have access to the big grants that the hard sciences do, though they’re very grateful for the awards they have received for their work. They’re very appreciative of the opportunities given to them by the Ecampus to further their work.