Commonwealth University named Outstanding Counselor Education Program


The Commonwealth University's program in clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) was the recipient of the Outstanding Education Program award during the Pennsylvania Counseling Association's 55th annual conference in Harrisburg.

The theme for the conference was "Advocacy in Counseling: Elevating our Clients and Advancing the Profession" and included three days of educational and roundtable sessions, presentations on suicide prevention and awareness and ethics, as well as an awards luncheon, where Dr. Kristin Vincenzes, CMHC faculty member, accepted the Outstanding Counselor Education Program award for Commonwealth University. Other faculty in attendance at the event were Drs. Stephen Gitonga, Kellie Pytel, Lis Tomlin and Steve Kuniak.

Two CU-Lock Haven faculty members were also honored with awards at the conference. Gitonga was awarded the Outstanding Supervisor Award and Kuniak received the Outstanding Educator Award.

The nomination for the Outstanding Counselor Education Program Award was led by Rivka Dattlo, CMHC student, with support from other fellow students, alumni and site supervisors. In her nomination, Dattlo described her experience in the program as " an amalgamation of gifts, which when combined, allow for a holistic, culturally enriching, academically rigorous and educationally meaningful experience." Further explaining the "gifts," Dattlo praised the program's focus on strength-based feedback, cultural humility, advocacy competencies, ethics, military/veteran family appreciation, counselor identity, self-care and experience.

Included in Dattlo's nomination were a dozen student testimonials praising the CMHC program and its its faculty and staff, a letter of support from a site supervisor for program interns and a nomination letter from an alumna of the program.

Vincenzes led the program as director from 2013-23. When she began, the program was at the forefront of online learning for accredited counseling programs. "We needed to continuously advocate for our program to be seen as providing a high-quality education, even though we were fully online with no residencies," she said. "It even became the first program at the university that had remote faculty."

"I dreamed of a program that was flexible to meet the student's needs and allowed them to pursue their education while still being able to work, be a parent, or have a life outside of school," Vincenzes said in her award acceptance speech. "I dreamed of a program that emphasized quality over quantity. I aspired to build a program that met the rigor of CACREP standards yet was innovative, inviting and truly cared about its students' personal and professional well-being. I feel that my vision has transcended into reality."

"Stepping into the director position following Dr. Vincenzes' tenure has been a breath of fresh air as she has created a strong, effective program," said Leandrea Romero-Lucero, CMHC program director. "It is my goal to continue building on her dream by continuing to make the CMHC program a highly sought-after program, with top tier students and faculty."