The Plymouth State University Counseling Center is a foundation of Plymouth State’s caring and compassionate culture, and its history and continuing importance were spotlighted in a recent dedication event.
Professor Emeritus Michael Fischler founded the Counseling Center in 1974, and he joined with University leaders past and present to witness the unveiling of a commemorative plaque near the Center’s current location by Hyde Hall. Plans call for the Center to move in 2022 to Highland Hall, across from Russell House and the Lamson Library, where it will join the PSU Health Center and Frost House in a comprehensive wellness center. The plaque is a permanent marker of the Center’s longstanding home.
Fischler has made numerous contributions to PSU, PSU students, and the PSU community over the course of his long and distinguished career. He has served on PSU’s Homophobia Task Force, on the President’s Commission on Diversity, and as an advisor to the Black Student Union and Tau Omega sorority. His research interests include cultural diversity, intercultural communication, social behavior, psychological counseling, multicultural education, and prejudice reduction.
The plaque credits Fischler for the Center’s founding and for the inspirational lessons he taught during his 50-year teaching career.
President Donald Birx hosted the event. “Mike Fischler saw how important the Counseling Center would be to Plymouth State,” said Birx. “It’s really fitting that this plaque is here, next to the University’s Peace Garden. It says so much about not only Mike’s life, but what PSU embodies.”
Fischler described how Plymouth State has prioritized students and their welfare, in particular, the University’s diverse minority student populations. He described the “unconditional love, passion, and commitment” that he and his Center staff extended to their clients—the students—and which was shared across the campus.
Using the analogy of a marathon runner, Fischler generously credited University colleagues, family members, and “all who have carried me to the finish line.”
Michael Fischler’s son, Professor Mark Fischler, and former Vice President of Student Affairs Dick Hage also shared their thoughts with a supportive crowd of colleagues and friends, as did Fischler’s successors, Bob Hlasny and Rob Orf.
Orf noted that the Center remains a special place with a unique culture that continues to reflect its founder. “Mike’s own focus has been student-centered and aimed at reducing suffering,” said Orf. “As director, he would always say, ‘What would be in the best interest of the students?’ It is a privilege and honor to celebrate Mike and his great legacy that is the PSU Counseling Center.”
Hlasny offered that it was a privilege and an inspiration to work closely with Fischler for many years, and it was a most meaningful and fulfilling challenge to lead the Center in its mission after his departure.
The Center supports students in their goals for education, personal growth, and career development, and promotes the wellbeing of the Plymouth State University community overall. The demand for college mental health services has increased steadily across the nation in recent years, and the Center has responded with new programs and efficiencies that extend its services to meet the new reality.
Students take advantage of a range of services that include individual counseling and group counseling. Consultation services are also provided to students and to staff, faculty, and parents/families.
Outreach offerings have included orientation presentations to students and residential life staff, as well as meditation sessions and targeted presentations for students and families. The compassionate and well-credentialed staff has expertise in yoga and other disciplines that promote interactions and collaborations.
New this year for students is the interactive self-help therapy WellTrack app. WellTrack provides various tools, including courses/videos on mental health, a Zen room, thought diary, information on cognitive distortions, fun achievements, activity scheduler, mood check, and wellness assessment. The free app also provides referral information to various PSU and community resources for various challenges students might face (e.g. academic, financial, sexual violence, addiction, health and wellness, safety and security, community involvement/making connections, and career support).