UF professor elected president of nation's largest counseling organization
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Cirecie West-Olatunji, an associate professor of counselor education at the University of Florida’s College of Education, has been elected president of the American Counseling Association, the nation’s largest counseling professional organization.
She will serve one year as president-elect beginning July 1 and will start a one-year term as the group’s 62nd president on the same date next year.
West-Olatunji has held leadership positions at the branch, division and national levels of the ACA, which has more than 43,000 members. She now serves on the association’s executive committee and on the governing council as a representative of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development. She is a past president of the latter group.
She joins an impressive lineup of national leaders from UF’s counselor education program, spanning several decades. The program is ranked second nationally in its specialty area in the U.S. News & World Report’s survey of America’s Best Graduate Schools, and has consistently held a Top 5 national ranking since the mid-1990s.
“Dr. West-Olatunji continues the long-held tradition of UF counselor education faculty serving as national and international leaders of the profession,” said UF College of Education Dean Glenn Good, who also has a counseling background.
West-Olatunji’s research specialty is in multicultural counseling and the role of cultural identity in the psychological, emotional and educational development of socially marginalized students. She has worked with local school communities to improve supportive parenting practices among students in low-income African-American families.
With an unusually high number of natural disasters occurring worldwide in recent years, she has been promoting the need to train more practitioners who can provide counseling for victims of disasters and their surviving family members and friends. She has taken graduate counseling students to New Orleans to assist in post-Katrina disaster recovery efforts. She earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in counselor education from the University of New Orleans.
She also has organized national teams of counseling students, faculty and practitioners to travel to South Africa and Botswana for community-based counseling of HIV and AIDS patients.
After visiting post-earthquake Haiti and other recent disaster sites, West-Olatunji has designed a new online certificate program in disaster counseling at UF for licensed mental health professionals and state-certified school counselors drawn to the field. She is developing a training model that can be used in places like New Orleans, Port Au Prince, Haiti, and Japan, and is planning a trip to Latin America for another outreach trip next year.
She has received numerous awards for research and service to the profession from groups such as the AMCD, Florida Counseling Association, Counselors for Social Justice, and the Association for Black Psychologists.