Jessica Ulrich said she wasn’t interested in a leadership position when she started in the department in 2008, but has moved into it as time progressed.
Now Ulrich has been named director of Counseling Services after serving as interim director.
“I was associate director for the past three years and so I really like having that more administrative part to the job,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich said one of her goals is to focus on prevention and education, which she said the department hasn’t been able to focus on due to staff shortages.
“Even if it’s pushing out more social media platform messaging, that’s something that we don’t have a presence in, so definitely
advancing in that respect,” Ulrich said. “But I definitely think trying to focus more on prevention and education, so that way we can build on overall campus wellness and hopefully [prevent] the number of people that are escalating to a point of needing therapy and Counseling Services.”
Ulrich, a licensed clinical social worker, said her background suits her for the role because she has experience providing administrative clinical supervision of the staff. Ulrich has previously served as interim director, associate director, behavioral incident counselor, care coordinator and staff counselor.
“I’ve worked on the budgetary things,” Ulrich said. “I do have campus partner relationships to be able to collaboratively work with different campus entities and I do have the academic and the licensure credentials to be able to provide all of the supervision for all the staff that we have.”
Jeffrey Waple, vice chancellor for student affairs, said the search committee sought someone familiar with educational outreach and prevention, and familiar with mental health challenges that are unique to college students.
“Because we are a training ground for counselors, so we have interns from SIUE and WashU and SLU, we needed somebody that was licensed in both Illinois and Missouri so we could continue to provide that clinical supervision for future clinicians in mental health,” Waple said.
Waple said Ulrich was a finalist in the search that landed Courtney Boddie.
“She was second. We hired Dr. Boddie, but had Dr. Boddie not accepted that role, we would’ve offered it to Jessica back then,” Waple said.
Waple said Ulrich stood out because she’s proven herself as a good clinician and grew up in the department.
“She’s held … every role that she could possibly have in that department,” Waple said. “And she has a master’s degree in social work, which I think really helps us when we’re thinking about all those social service needs that students sometimes present when they’re in a counseling appointment and the other things they need to help them be successful here.”
Taylor Rogers, staff counselor, served on the search committee and said Ulrich was a good candidate because she wanted to keep some continuity of what the previous director already set in place, as it’s been working.
“Her wanting to keep the focus on what we’re doing … wanting to further our mission but not introducing a ton of huge changes coming out of the pandemic and trying to return life to normal, that stability was pretty enticing,” Rogers said.
Rogers said Ulrich is her associate director and clinical supervisor, so she consults with her for clinical duties. Rogers said Ulrich is easy to approach, a good listener and open to feedback.
“I think directors should have a nice balance of being the captain of the ship but also concerned with what the crew is seeing and the vision that the crew has for the department,” Rogers said. “So, I think she has a nice balance of listening to our feedback and what we’re noticing but also having her own vision and trying to collaborate, incorporate the two.”
Lisa Thompson-Gibson, staff counselor and coordinator for outreach and prevention initiatives, said she and Ulrich have worked together on a grant, projects and Ulrich has supervised her clinical work.
“She’s really invested in the development and success of undergraduate students, graduate level students particularly, in our office because we have internships in our office, as well as new counselors,” Thompson-Gibson said.
To learn more about Counseling Services or schedule an appointment, visit their website.