By Edwin B. Smith
University of Mississippi
As the new director of the University of Mississippi Counseling Center, Juawice McCormick plans to pursue progressive goals while remaining student-centered and student-focused.
“I want the counseling center to be able and ready to meet the mental health needs of the larger incoming freshman class, rising upperclassmen, graduate students and transfer students,” said McCormick, who started July 1. “When we promote mental health care as a part of overall wellness, we promote retention and increase graduation rates.
“We have top-down support in our work and a great work environment, thanks to the leadership we have at UM.”
McCormick said her short-term goals for the center include strengthening existing resources, reducing risk factors and building protective factors.
“The early identification of problems has enabled us to eliminate our wait list,” she said. “We are working to recruit and retain more diverse staff to join our current group of highly qualified, licensed clinicians who are serving our students.”
Under McCormick’s leadership as interim director, the center has expanded its face-to-face and telehealth service options. Licensed clinicians are available 24 hours a day, and emergency walk-ins are always accepted.
“We are so fortunate to have a team of very gifted counselors who do amazing work with our students,” she said. “We work hard to provide quality outreach services to our campus so that we educate, normalize and invite students to engage in counseling as we support them in their efforts to create life-changing differences and opportunities for themselves.”
Other goals include hiring a psychiatric nurse practitioner, offering mental health first aid training to campus, investing in additional training, expanding campus partnerships and offering equitable services. All this will help the center achieve accreditation as a university counseling center, McCormick said.
“Last year, we provided about 300 hours of outreach services to and for our students via tabling speaking, special events, social media and other platforms for communicating what we are all about and our desire to help and serve students,” McCormick said.
“When meeting mental health needs becomes part of the conversation, rather than an exception, then we are moving in a positive direction to be even more responsive to our students.”
Natasha Jeter, assistant vice chancellor for wellness and student success, said she looks forward to moving all counseling and psychological services under the University Counseling Center umbrella.
“We feel that this model will help streamline services and allow us to be more effective and efficient in serving students,” Jeter said.
Charlotte Pegues, vice chancellor for student affairs, acknowledged McCormick’s success at the center.
“I am excited to have Dr. McCormick lead the University Counseling Center,” Pegues said. “While serving as interim director, she successfully managed the increased demand for mental health services while maintaining no waitlist. I am confident she will continue to provide excellent service and support to students, faculty and staff.”