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Emily Cook Named 2022 VCA Counselor of the Year

by | Jan 3, 2023

Bluefield, VA Alumna Emily Cook ‘12, BU’s Director of Counseling and Wellness Services and Virginia Counselor Association (VCA) Member, has been named the 2022 VCA Counselor of the Year, the most prestigious honor given by the state counseling association.

“I am incredibly honored to even be considered, and everyone in this room deserves this award,” shared Cook at VCA’s Annual Convention Awards Luncheon. “I want to say that I could not stand on this stage without the people who poured into me, especially the strong female counselors in Southwest Virginia. I want to recognize one of my mentors, Brandy Smith, and thank you for everything you have done for me.”

Cook embodies the mission of Bluefield University daily in helping develop servant leaders to transform the world through her care, counseling, and promotion of wellness.

A native of Hinton, WV, Cook graduated from Summers County High School in 2008. Her BU admissions counselor, Kathy Shott, helped her apply for the Presidential Scholarship, which she received.

“When I came to campus to interview for the Presidential Scholarship, it really felt like home, and I was in awe of the beautiful campus,” shared Cook. “I felt welcomed and excited to be around other learners who wanted to grow in knowledge and in their faith.”

During her time at Bluefield, Cook was a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society and president of the Student Government Association. She loved organizing events and communicating student concerns with the institution’s administration. She helped collect Christmas presents for children with incarcerated parents as part of Bluefield Union Mission’s Angel Tree program.

“The friends I made at Bluefield are my family, and I am forever grateful that Bluefield is the reason I found my people,” shared Cook. “My favorite people in my life are still my Bluefield friends.”

Cook graduated from Bluefield University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with Teacher Licensure.

“I learned how to fulfill the role of a teacher, how to be a reflective practitioner, and how to navigate the educational system,” shared Cook. “I also learned how to show my love of Christ to my students even if we couldn’t talk about our faith openly while working at a public school. Dr. Donna Watson (former dean and professor of the School of Education and Social Sciences) consistently encouraged us to spread goodness and light, and her positive spirit was contagious. I saw how she created high expectations for her students while also building positive relationships with them.”

After graduating from BU, Cook taught English at Graham High School in Bluefield, VA. In 2015, she earned a Master of Education in School Counseling from Liberty University and served as Graham High School’s school counselor.

“The biggest influence on me becoming a counselor was my desire to help others,” said Cook. “I went into the field of education because I wanted to make a difference, and I saw such a need for more school counselors who can serve students in a different role than teachers do.”

Cook’s love for Bluefield University, her eagerness to learn from the counseling center’s former directors, and her shared passions with the university’s leadership inspired her to return as the Director of Counseling and Wellness.

“I thought about what it would have looked like if there had been a counselor when we were students and how it could have helped us,” said Cook. “I thought about how I could make a difference with the opportunity to be that support to the BU students.”

Established in 2019, The Center for Counseling and Wellness enhances Bluefield University’s holistic approach to educating the minds, hearts, and spirits of students by supporting their mental health needs. The Center offers individual, and group counseling provided by professional counselors and supervised graduate student interns. Students can seek assistance for various concerns, including career, crisis, and substance abuse counseling.

“Emily is a gifted counselor,” shared Brandy Smith, assistant professor of the School of Education & Social Sciences. She uses high-level clinical skills grounded in counseling theory and makes it look effortless. Emily is a fierce advocate for students, BU, and the counseling profession. It is a pleasure to work alongside her.”

The Center organizes various activities – such as weekly activities, nature hikes, small group discussions, and events with Hazel, therapy dog in training – to enhance students’ academic and personal functioning.

“Counseling services are important because no one has to go through life alone,” Cook said. “Counseling services provide a confidential and safe environment to discuss, process, nurture, challenge, heal, and grow.”

In February 2022, the Center unveiled the Mindfulness Space for the campus community with the help of the VCA Foundation. The space is designed for the campus community to learn healthy coping strategies for stress and to practice mindfulness.

Read more about BU’s Mindfulness Space here:

“I want to say thank you to my family: my husband and my five-year-old daughter, Avery,” shared Cook. “This is an honor to stand here to remind Avery that the way we lead is by serving others.”

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