College hires Health and Counseling director

Geneseo has hired Erin Halligan-Avery as the Administrative Director of Student Health and Counseling. Halligan-Avery previously worked at SUNY Brockport and is currently the Associate Director of Student Support at the University of Rochester.

“[Halligan-Avery] came to us highly recommended by her supervisor at the University of Rochester,” Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio said. “Her supervisor is a Geneseo grad, so he knows our college.”

According to Bonfiglio, the search to fill the position—vacated by Melinda DuBois after the spring 2014 semester—began in the fall 2014 semester. Five candidates were brought in for interviews. Four students were involved in the search committee. Something that stood out to Bonfiglio was Halligan-Avery’s experience as a “scholar practitioner.”

“She has published her work, she presents at conferences, so she brings a good theoretical basis to the work and that’s important to us—that whatever we’re doing is grounded in sound student development theory and human development theory,” he said.

Halligan-Avery earned her Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision in March—defending her dissertation three weeks after giving birth to her son—and will graduate in May.

One of Halligan-Avery’s most notable accomplishments is the implementation of the CARE Network at the University of Rochester. According to its website, CARE “is a small, confidential group of campus officials who meet weekly to discuss students of concern.”

“The University of Rochester lost a student to homicide in January 2011—a tragic loss toour community in many ways,” Halligan-Avery said in an email interview. “My current position was created with intention to create a system that would identify and provide resources to students in need. Over the last four years I have created and expanded the CARE Network.”

Since its creation, the CARE Network has received 1,027 submissions regarding concern for students, with over 89 percent of students saying they were pleased with the CARE process.

“[The CARE Network] falls under the general umbrella of what we call ‘behavioral intervention teams,’” Bonfiglio said. “Behavioral intervention teams are something that came into much more regular practice after the shooting at Virginia Tech that took place several years ago.”

Citing Halligan-Avery’s previous experience as a resident director at Brockport and helping students with disabilities access classroom accommodations as a disability support coordinator at the U of R, sophomore Jes Heppler—who was on the search committee in charge of hiring Halligan-Avery—expressed her excitement about the hire.

“The fact that she was able to coordinate so well with other departments within the University [of Rochester] was really great,” she said. “She spoke at length about how she worked with the police department, with local hospitals, with faculty, with residence life and the fact that she was able to coordinate with all those different systems is probably really great for student health in the long run.”

Although her position at Geneseo is different than her current position at the U of R, Halligan-Avery is excited for the new opportunity.

“The Administrative Director of Student Health and Counseling position at Geneseo allows me to combine two of my passions into one position—student health and student affairs,” she said. “This position also allows me to work closely with other campus departments, positing wellness within the broader student context, and to work closely with a staff that has a wealth of experience and understanding of student health challenges.”

Halligan-Avery explained that her main goals include “hoping to infuse the important work done by the health and counseling staff into other aspects of campus life and to create a culture of wellness, safe exploration, and knowledge within the college” and to “reduce the stigma historically associated with mental health challenges.”