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students petting horse

A Dynamic Approach to Learning
An immersive course is capturing the attention of students passionate about youth advocacy and community engagement at TCU. The Issues in Education: Global and Societal Contexts (YAES 30133) course, offered through the Youth Advocacy and Educational Studies program in the College of Education, transcends academic boundaries by propelling students into the core of societal issues and community-driven solutions.

Throughout the course, students examine of contemporary and educational issues, realized through immersive field visits and insights from guest speakers. These experiences allow them to explore the intricate challenges facing communities in Fort Worth, Texas and beyond, while also evaluating the collaborative efforts across policies, agencies and disciplines dedicated to youth advocacy.

Cynthia Savage, Ph.D., professor of professional practice, expressed "I want students to see, first hand, what is happening in the community as well as meet the people who are doing that work. I want to encourage them to ponder where and/or how they may envision themselves serving in those communities."

Community site visits are a signature component of the course, enabling direct interaction with community-based organizations striving to address social issues.

student petting horse

Horses & Healing
The spring 2024 class concluded with a focus on mental health and well-being, culminating with an equine therapy session led by licensed professional counselor Courtney Utter 18.

Equine therapy is an alternative form of talk therapy that utilizes the horse as a partner to meet therapeutic goals.

Horses have a unique capability to reflect everything you need to know about yourself. Horses are honest and respond to the emotions of those around them. This creates for a powerful experience that allows for many areas of growth.

-Courtney Utter ‘18

Utter's passion for supporting children in the foster care system led her to earn her M.Ed. in clinical mental health counseling at TCU. She later became a licensed professional counselor, PATH certified equine specialist in mental health and learning and founded Native Hooves Equine Therapy in 2016.

Native Hooves now offers a spectrum of equine-related services including Clinical Equine Counseling, Equine Assisted Learning and Equine Enrichment Workshops.

With more than 25 years of experience working with horses, Utter has been strapped to the saddle for decades and welcomes the opportunity to share her passion for horses and holistic healing with students.

students petting horse

Through guided interactive activities, students experienced the therapeutic potential of horses, offering a unique perspective on alternative counseling therapies. Throughout their experience, students participated in herd observation, reflecting on non-verbal communication and exploring the dynamics of human intention, particularly its impact on those affected by trauma.

The class delved deeper into various aspects of equine therapy, covering therapeutic techniques, horsemanship and pathways to becoming a licensed professional in equine therapy.

Additionally, students had the unique opportunity to observe select peers participate in exercises, and discuss the importance of mental well-being when advocating to address societal challenges.

Exploring Broader Community Issues
Other site visits throughout the course included Fort Worth Housing Solutions, addressing urban poverty in Stop Six—a community historically affected by redlining—and the International Newcomer Academy, which supports young immigrants and refugees adjusting to a new life in America.

The spring 2024 course also hosted guest speakers from influential advocates like Tonya Stafford, a trafficking survivor who now champions anti-trafficking efforts to Matthew Sinclair from the Boys and Girls Club of Tarrant County, who discussed initiatives to alleviate youth poverty. Jack Sewell ‘21, who earned his bachelor's degree in youth advocacy and educational studies, now works with Arise Africa and joined the lineupproviding an international perspective by sharing his educational support experiences in Zambia.

Topics, site visits and guest speakers vary with each course offering based on student and professor interest.

Initiating Impact
Issues in Education: Global and Societal Contexts is a transformative journey into the heart of community and advocacy, examining a spectrum of topics—from immigration to juvenile justice and mental health—equipping TCU students with the necessary knowledge and empathy to positively influence societal change.

The lesson in this course is evident: the most potent education moves from theory to action, transforming insights into meaningful impact and nurturing the next generation of ethical leaders.