Making the right connections

Making the right connections


UW-Superior’s M.S.E. – Counseling program provides valuable experience in a needed field

For many students, the process of selecting where to pursue an undergraduate degree can seem like a daunting and potentially life-changing process. Navigating a balance between academic offerings, extracurricular activities, location and overall campus feeling can be overwhelming. The task doesn’t get any easier for students pursuing graduate degrees, who may be juggling work and family responsibilities.

The Master of Science in Education – Counseling program at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, which is available both on campus and in an online format since 2021, is designed for students who want to become professionals in counseling and related fields. It is currently the fastest-growing graduate program at UW-Superior.

“When our online program started during the pandemic, we used to have a cohort of up to 60 total students, but since we also became an online program, we have grown to almost 600 students and every semester we’re gaining more students,” said Jane Howard, UW-Superior assistant professor of counseling and a graduate of the program.

Online Option Adds Flexibility

“I remember folks driving hours three nights a week to come up here to work on their masters – and they were people with families and jobs – and I always thought that that was such a commitment,” said MaKenzie Johnson, UW-Superior teaching assistant professor and graduate of the program. “Now, for people to be able to plug-in from home and have access to these degrees, especially in all the rural part of Wisconsin and the Midwest, I think is one of the biggest strengths of the program.”

For Tanner Prochaska, who graduated from UW-Superior in May with a master’s in counseling, selecting the program checked many of the boxes on his list.

“Looking at different colleges around the area and what programs they offered, I wanted to do an in-person program and not an online program, which was [also] offered here at the time,” he said. “The idea of counseling other people was daunting. If I had to say what excited me the most though, I would say it was the idea of connecting with my peers and my professors. I also was excited to learn more about myself and gain more knowledge of why people are the way they are.”

Students in the M.S.E. – Counseling program at UW-Superior engage in two years of intensive professional development, building skills and gaining knowledge through traditional classroom instruction, practicums and an internship experience. Experienced faculty are dedicated to student success.  

“I went through the program with a lot of really amazing people and continue to meet more each step of the way,” said Prochaska. “I feel lucky to have gone through the program when I did because I felt like we grew together as a cohort and were able to support each other when it was needed. In my experience, the professors were knowledgeable, reasonable, and caring. The entire experience is something that I will always have and am a better person because of this.”

Areas of Concentration

UW-Superior’s M.S.E. – Counseling program has three areas of concentration – both on campus and online – for students to choose from. Areas include marriage and family, licensed school counselor and clinical mental health counselor.

“The clinical and marriage and family tracts are quite similar to each other,” said Howard. “They would train people to work in non-profit organizations, for-profit organizations, private practice, Indigenous communities and behavioral health departments. The school counseling tract trains people to work in school counseling settings, although they take the same core course work that teaches therapy skills and psychological information.”

“I felt like this program did its job in terms of preparing me and giving me the necessary tools to be a competent and effective counselor,” said Prochaska. “In this program, I did pre-practicum where my classmates and I would counselor each other. Then I took group-practicum where we did therapy as a group. After that is practicum where we counseled undergraduate students and community members.

“All these experiences have been really impactful in the sense that I was able to gain experience, make mistakes in a low-risk environment, and feel supported the entire time.”

Abundant Career Choices

For graduates of the program, career opportunities are nearly endless.

“I have 32 interns in the school counseling program this [Spring 2024] semester, out of that, 18 of them are on emergency license in Wisconsin, which means they were hired before graduation because the districts are in such need of hiring someone in mental health,” said Johnson. “There are no reports of people not being able to get a job. It’s a very booming career field and with the changes that happened during the pandemic with telehealth becoming more popular and seen as appropriate by insurance companies, there’s a lot of opportunities for people, even if they live in a rural community, they can have a telehealth business or telehealth portion of their career, which is also opening doors for folks.”

The program has provided a foundation for a successful career for hundreds of students.

“Overall, the counseling program at UWS was what I was looking for in my pursuit of figuring out what is going to be fulfilling for me,” said Prochaska. “Much of the time that I spent in the program, I felt a sense of imposter syndrome as if I was in the wrong field or incapable of being an effective counselor. The main thing is that I felt supported and that gave me the confidence to feel like I can do this job. It can be a difficult task to sit with someone through their emotions and be present with them in what they are going through, but it also can be incredibly rewarding.”