Counseling Today, Features

When much is given, much is expected

Lynne Shallcross July 2, 2010

At the tender age of 9, Marcheta Evans was already a budding counselor.

Evans, whose family was living in Washington, D.C., at the time, would occasionally accompany her mother, a psychiatric nurse, to her job at a local hospital. During those visits, she played cards and made friends with some of her mother’s patients. Sitting across from those patients, Evans had a habit of wondering what they might be thinking and what life path they had traveled to arrive at that hospital.

“The human mind always intrigued me,” says Evans, who begins her term as president of the American Counseling Association July 1. “I remember sitting there as a kid and wondering what was going on in that person’s head. Even as a little kid, I was always inquisitive.”

That sense of intrigue and curiosity never waned as Evans grew up. In fact, she followed it all the way to the University of Alabama, where she earned her doctorate in counselor education and supervision. Now associate dean for the College of Education and Human Development at the downtown campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Evans says her entry into the counseling profession stemmed from her upbringing — the same upbringing that motivated her to eventually run for ACA president. “It was almost an expectation for me to (run) given how I was raised,” Evans says. “When much is given, much is expected.”

Another motivating factor behind Evans’ journey to the ACA presidency was a desire to bring about change and accomplish goals at the national level. “I chose to run for the presidency mainly to serve the profession and to be instrumental in continuing the movement of the association toward its strategic initiatives,” says Evans, who previously served as president of the Association for Creativity in Counseling, a division of ACA. “Additionally, I wanted to serve as an example of the association’s willingness to appreciate diversity in leadership positions. You can come from all types of backgrounds and be a national leader.”

One of the initiatives on Evans’ to-do list focuses on New Orleans, the location of the 2011 ACA Annual Conference & Exposition. “I don’t want it to be a conference that does drive-by community service, but rather one that leaves an impact when we are gone,” she says, adding that she plans to work with ACA’s divisions and regions on this effort. One idea, she says, is centered on the education front and could include helping to explore best practices to address truancy and behavioral issues in the classroom.

Technology is another area Evans hopes to focus on as ACA president. She’s putting together a task force to investigate how the association can promote better use of technology in counseling, which could include everything from using improved technology on the ACA Governing Council to helping individual counselors make technological advances in their work with clients, Evans says.

Global collaboration and development warrant a closer look during her term in office, as does ACA’s strategic plan, says Evans, adding that she plans to ensure that all efforts made this year tie back into the strategic plan. Another initiative on her list is making sure that ACA has a crisis intervention protocol in place so the association can move forward and provide help quickly if and when disasters occur.

Evans also wants to put a spotlight on wellness and self-care for counselors while she is in office. She will use her presidential columns in Counseling Today to emphasize these and other important topics with ACA members. “People come to counselors with problems, rarely because they are happy,” Evans says. “So how can the profession promote better wellness skills and share ideas that work?”

A source of support

Evans assumed her position as associate dean in September 2009 after having served for more than five years as the chair of UTSA’s Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Adult and Higher Education. Her professional path, which began with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alabama and two subsequent master’s degrees, has included stops at which she has filled a variety of university and community roles. Among the lines on her résumé: working as a rehabilitation counselor for Goodwill Industries and the state of Alabama, teaching at Auburn University at Montgomery and serving as director and founder of UTSA’s Women’s Resource Center. Additionally, Evans has been a licensed professional counselor since 1993 and has consulted for organizations such as the United Way, the Intercultural Development Research Association and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Evans’ long-term dedication to ACA is apparent and includes serving in a variety of leadership positions at the state, regional and national levels. ACA is an incredibly worthy cause, Evans says, because the association provides so much to its members. “ACA is a place where members are able to come together as professionals and network,” she says. “One of the main benefits that ACA offers is member resources that aid them in becoming more effective counselors. The benefits are too many to highlight.”

ACA ably addresses its diverse membership, from students to faculty members to clinicians, through the variety of programming it offers, while also advocating for the profession and giving counselors a voice, Evans says. But she believes the camaraderie is one of the true highlights of belonging to ACA. “By being a member, you realize that you have a support system in place. You have others like yourself who are dealing with similar situations, and you can explore the universality of counselor experiences by attending the annual conferences and by being an active participant.”

Likewise, Evans says she is proud of the counseling profession for a number of reasons. “To name a few, our emphasis on wellness, the positive impact we can have on people’s lives and our commitment to serving others who may be struggling with life’s problems.” At the same time, Evans admits she would like to change the profession’s level of recognition. “What I want to [do is] amplify the visibility of our profession and clarify what counselors do on a day-to-day basis. We need to ensure that the public perceives our work as critical to mental health wellness efforts throughout the United States and beyond.”

As Evans takes the helm at ACA, she anticipates at least one major hurdle. “A year goes by very quickly,” she says, “Time is the biggest challenge.” ACA is an organization built largely on the efforts of volunteers, she points out, and these members have other jobs and other parts of their lives that require time and attention. “Making sure it’s as convenient for people to give of themselves as possible will be a priority,” she says, adding that she hopes her goal of improving technology might help on that front.

Thelma Duffey, professor and chair of UTSA’s Department of Counseling, says she is reminded of the Tom Petty song “Won’t Back Down” when she thinks of Evans. “She is determined,” says Duffey, an ACA fellow as well as the founder and inaugural president of ACC. “This trait can be especially helpful when she is invested in something she values. Marcheta is tenacious. She has a sharp wit and a keen sense of humor. She can inspire hard work in others, while at the same time generating a lot of fun. She doesn’t have much patience for behaviors she considers ’wishy-washy,’ to use her words. If someone comes to her with a problem, she wants them to come with potential solutions.”

Duffey believes that Evans will make her mark as president of ACA. “I can see Marcheta inspiring fiscal efficiency. I can also see her increasing international collaboration and development within the profession. Given her interest in technology, I suspect she will use it to increase ACA’s productivity and effectiveness. Marcheta is so smart, and she is passionate in her efforts to develop emerging leader programs. Given that, I feel sure she will invite leaders across divisions and regions to participate in innovative programs and invest in students and new professionals who are also interested in assuming leadership roles.”

Jamie Satcher, professor of counselor education at the University of Alabama, was Evans’ major professor and dissertation chair. “I have known Marcheta for almost 20 years. As a person, Marcheta is wonderful. She is one of the few former students with whom I have maintained close ties after graduation. She is a warm, caring person who is a dedicated counselor and counselor educator. As a leader, I believe that Marcheta has the people skills to motivate and inspire, as well as to build collaborative partnerships among counselors.”

Dennis Haynes, interim dean of the College of Public Policy at UTSA, believes Evans’ commitment to collaboration will be a strong point of her presidency. Haynes had the opportunity to work with Evans when he was chair of the university’s Department of Social Work and she was chair of the Department of Counseling. “Although the social work and counseling professions have at times engaged in a competitive relationship, Marcheta has been consistently collaborative and supportive in her relationship with social work,” Haynes says. “She chaired the UTSA Graduate Council Committee that recommended the establishment of a social work program and has continued to advocate on our behalf as we sought social work accreditation.”

“For me, the epitome of Marcheta’s collaboration with the UTSA community was our joint effort in providing mental health support to Katrina evacuees in San Antonio,” Haynes continues. “Marcheta invited social work, along with other professional entities across UTSA, to come together to support the city of San Antonio’s Katrina evacuee response when the first evacuees arrived. Many more evacuees arrived in San Antonio than expected, and the city government sought UTSA assistance. Marcheta coordinated this universitywide effort in collaboration with the broader city and professional community.”

“I value Marcheta’s personal and professional commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration across university departments and colleges,” he says. “She is a fierce advocate and leader of diversity initiatives within our university. She is innovative and creative in promoting relevant university-community engagement. I applaud ACA’s selection of [Evans] as your incoming president.”

A family focus

As dedicated as she is to the counseling profession, Evans makes sure to set aside time to focus on her own wellness, and much of that centers on her family. Evans and her husband, Ed, who live in San Antonio, have six children and nine grandchildren. Five of the children have graduated college, and one is a junior biomedical engineering major at the University of Texas at Austin. Evans laughingly describes it as “chaos” when everyone is together, but it’s the good kind of chaos that comes with love, she says. “We have tons and tons of fun when everyone is together. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful time.”

Another place you’ll find Evans is on the tennis court, although not as much as she’d like given her more demanding position as associate dean. “I would love to play a minimum of once a week,” she says. “I used to play at least three times a week. Hopefully, this summer, I will get to play with my daughter while she is home from college.”

A self-identified “outdoors person,” Evans says one of her family’s favorite pastimes is camping. “We love to visit the state parks and just enjoy the beauty of nature. My most favorite time is when I have all the children together at a campsite late in the evening and we are all sitting around the fire pit. The laughter and the stories are awesome!”

Family is important not only in Evans’ daily life but also to the path she traveled to arrive at the ACA presidency. When asked who inspired her to become the counselor and person that she is today, Evans says her grandmother immediately comes to mind. “I grew up in the late fifties and early sixties,” says Evans, who spent much of her childhood living in Washington and San Antonio but also spent time with her grandparents in Mobile, Ala. “She taught me how to be confident and proud of who I was as an African American female. And we needed that during the times in which we were living, to know that I was not ’less than.’ In some cases in her mind, I was ’better than’ and ’more than.’ She was definitely at the crux of that inspiration.”

An aunt provided inspiration for the go-getter attitude that eventually brought Evans all the way to the ACA presidency. “My aunt did anything and everything,” Evans says, mentioning her aunt’s degrees in music and pharmacy, as well as the asbestos inspection and house moving companies she started. “She was always open to trying anything. She inspired me to do any and everything. She just enjoyed life to its fullest and taught me, ’Don’t be afraid to fail.’”

It is a lesson Evans took to heart and a lesson that has helped pave her pathway to success.

Lynne Shallcross is a senior writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at lshallcross@counseling.org.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org.