After being nominated by numerous faculty members, Lander University Director of Counseling Services Justin Brewer has been named the recipient of this year’s Mary Frances Poole Alston Award.
The award was established by Rowland P. Alston, host of the SCETV gardening show “Making It Grow,” to honor his grandmother, a 1914 graduate of Lander. The prestigious award, which carries an honorarium of $1,000, recognizes a faculty or staff member who has made an impact on the campus community.
Brewer is in his 12th year at Lander, having served previously as a mental health counselor and adjunct professor of psychology. A licensed professional and nationally certified counselor, he graduated from Clemson University with a master of education with an emphasis in clinical mental health counseling. He has served as president of the South Carolina Counseling Association, and has been recognized by the American Counseling Association.
He described his role as having “general responsibility for the mental health care of the university.” The job involves providing individual counseling sessions to students, clinical supervision to counselors on staff, consultation for issues related to mental health on campus, and emergency and crisis support as the need arises. It also entails “providing education, programming and training for the campus community, collaboration with community and campus partners, and advocating for the mental health of our students, faculty and staff, in any way that I can,” he said.
Brewer said there are times when his job can feel overwhelming. “But then you look through a commencement program and see the names of students who have spent hours in your office questioning whether they would even be able to finish the semester, or you see an announcement for students on the dean’s and president’s lists, or even just an email that says, ‘hey, I finished that paper.’” Then, he said, he knows that his work is making a difference in people’s lives.
According to Professor of English Dr. Lillian Craton, Brewer’s accomplishments go beyond helping students to meet the demands placed upon them by their studies.
“I know for a fact that Justin’s intervention has saved the lives of students I taught. Because much of his work happens in private, he rarely gets public acknowledgement for the contributions he makes,” she said.
Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Mandy Cleveland said she has heard students “bragging that he is their therapist. While this is clearly a compliment to Justin’s clinical skills, the excitement with which these students talk about their experience in therapy also helps destigmatize help-seeking. Once our students leave our campus, they take this perspective with them. This increases the likelihood they will seek care in the future, and that they will encourage others around them to seek care,” she said.
Brewer said he was “appreciative and humbled” to receive the Alston Award. “To be recognized for what we’ve been doing here in Counseling Services means a lot,” he said.
Mike Worley, vice president for University Advancement, expressed congratulations to Brewer and thanks to Rowland Alston “for this award recognizing and highlighting our incredible employees. The award has become a wonderful tradition at Lander and special recognition for Mr. Alston’s grandmother. We are truly grateful for his generosity.”
-Photo by Laura Wood