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Staff Stories: Counseling Center

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Dr. Brian Quigley
Dr. Brian Quigley

Arriving at Keene State College in 2009, Dr. Brian Quigley set out to inject new life and creativity into the College’s Counseling Center to better support its mission of trying to meet the emerging and existing needs of college students who struggle with issues around their emotional health.

Seven years later, Quigley, thanks to a supportive administration and staff, has ample reasons to feel a sense of accomplishment. “We’re very proud that we’ve become what I believe is one of the more innovative, successful, exemplar counseling centers in the country,” said Quigley, the director of Keene State’s Counseling Center.

While their modus operandi of providing quality care for students is not uncommon, their pro-active approach has set the Counseling Center apart. After identifying five different challenges that students are most likely to experience in college, ranging from depression and suicide to alcohol and drugs, Quigley and his staff take a preventative approach, designing programs and putting together teams comprised of staff, trainees, and students to address specific issues. “Most centers are just reacting to these problems when they come up,” Quigley said. “We’re one of the first and few centers in the country that say, ‘Wait a minute, we know what those issues will likely be – let’s come up with services and events that are designed to prevent those things from happening.’”

For example, when new students step onto the campus for orientation, a frank discussion about sexual assault follows, along with a related production called “No Zebras, No Excuses,” a set of several skits, coordinated by counselor Forrest Seymour and acted out by students.

The College also calls on canines to help ease anxiety and adjustment, implementing a Paws 2 Play program, a series of events that supports first-year students settling into college life.

Growing up just outside of Detroit, Quigley got a late start to his college career. Settling on psychology as a major, he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn before heading to Texas A&M University where he received his doctorate. He worked at several hospitals and centers and spent five years as the director of the counseling center at Marymount Manhattan College prior to his arrival at Keene State.

Acknowledging that student academic performance goes hand-in-hand with their personal well-being, Keene State has gained a national reputation for thinking outside the box and finding ways to creatively and innovatively tend to retention, well-being, and resiliency building. Concerns about students’ struggles with resiliency led to the formation of a set of services called PoWeR (prevention, well-being, and resilience). This fall, the Center will pilot a program called the Student Support Network – a peer-to-peer program that gives students the skills to help friends in crisis. “Part of the overall vision we have at the Center is to create a more caring and compassionate campus, and here’s one way to do that,” said Quigley. “It gives students who are attending KSC the skills to care and be compassionate to their peers.”

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