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Wedel First Counseling Ph.D. Graduate

Dr. Frank Thomas, Dr. Olivia Wedel and Dean Mary M. Patton

Olivia Wedel, TCU’s first Counseling and Counselor Education doctoral graduate, is used to firsts. The southwest Virginia native attended Old Dominion University as a first-generation college student and moved to Fort Worth to complete her Master of Education in Counseling at TCU. She graduated with her master’s in 2007 and was one of the first to apply to the counseling Ph.D. program when it launched in 2012.

Wedel was the doctoral student speaker at the College of Education Academic Hooding ceremony in May, saying, “this degree is a result of determination and good old fashioned grit, but most of all it’s the result of daring to dream. Just as our professors and other mentors have supported and encouraged us, it could be any of you that becomes that same voice for someone else.”

She said Counseling Professors Marcella Stark, Becky Taylor and Frank Thomas encouraged her to go beyond her comfort zone and try to get published and present at conferences. The encouragement and support worked for Wedel. While at TCU, she worked part-time as a clinician and supervisor at Phoenix House in Dallas, served as an adjunct faculty member at TCU and worked as a Teaching Assistant for Dr. Thomas. She served on the Texas Counseling Association’s Ethics Committee and continues to serve on the Board for the Texas Mental Health Counselors’ Association, presented at professional conferences, contributed to publications and completed a study abroad trip in England, Scotland, and Wales to learn more about international practices in counseling.

Through her studies, work and community outreach, Wedel discovered a passion for teaching and improving access to higher education. Inspired by the experiences of family members and friends in rural Central Appalachia, she researched factors that motivate students at the New Opportunity School for Women to complete higher education and training. Wedel explored what has made the school’s programs successful helping women overcome cultural and economic challenges unique to the region.

Through detailed review of literature and interviews with women at the school, she found that access to transportation, satisfaction with life and the presence of a support network were key predictors for participant success.

Wedel defended her dissertation in April. Dr. Thomas said her study was “thorough and meaningful, and her presentation was a model for those who follow in our program.”

While Wedel’s studies at TCU have come to an end, she views the transition as a beginning rather than an ending. She will teach at Bluefield College in Bluefield, Virginia for the summer session of the New Opportunity School for Women. She plans to maintain status as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and pursue a career in higher education.

“I still remember what it was like to be apprehensive and worried as a master’s student,” she said. “It’s important for me to be helpful in return.”