In uncertain times, professional school counselors provide critical support for students facing a variety of challenges in their homes and schools. To continue to support the profession with highly qualified school counselors, the College of Education and Human Services will welcome Rawn Boulden as an assistant professor this fall.
“We are pleased Dr. Boulden is joining our CEHS faculty. He is a committed and passionate early career scholar whose work I expect will impact his discipline in significant ways,” said Melissa Luna, associate dean for research. “His early accomplishments already demonstrate this—he was recently awarded a small grant from the American School Counselor Association to support his research, outcompeting scholars much more senior to him for these limited research dollars. He is certainly on a path to become a leading scholar whose research and teaching will make a difference in school counseling.”
Boulden will join the School Counseling Program, where he’ll work with future school counselors to develop the skills they need to succeed in the counseling profession. His expertise in the field not only comes from his work as a scholar, but also his experiences as a professional school counselor.
“Dr. Boulden has the real-world knowledge of school counseling that our students crave,” said Christine Schimmel,” associate professor and program coordinator of the School Counseling Program. “His research interests around school counseling topics will add a great deal to the advancement of school counseling in West Virginia.”
For the past three years, Boulden has served as a school counselor in Virginia while simultaneously completing his doctorate in counselor education and supervision at Old Dominion University. He also worked virtually as a college advisor to help students find their fit in higher education institutions.
“Overall, I really enjoy having the privilege to serve as a champion for youth and help them find their voices to advocate for the changes that they hope to see in the world,” Boulden said.
Throughout his experiences as a professional school counselor, Boulden has developed a diverse range of research interests including rural school communities, instrument development and validation, students with special needs, counselor education and supervision, and multiculturalism in school counseling.
The transcendent theme in Boulden’s research is his desire to develop concrete tools that professional school counselors can use in their daily work. For example, Boulden’s dissertation involved developing a survey that evaluated school counselors’ self-efficacy in working with students with special needs.
“I focus on real-world issues that our counselors are facing and create research and knowledge that can enhance our understanding of the profession,” Boulden said.
Through his dissertation, Boulden became more interested in school counselors’ roles in the 504 Plan process for students with special needs. Similar to individualized education plans, or IEPs, 504 Plans ensure that students with disabilities receive academic accommodations that facilitate their success. According to Boulden, school counselors’ involvement in coordinating those processes sometimes takes away from their ability to work directly with students.
“Recently, my research has focused on determining if there is any correlation between school counselors’ involvement in the 504 process and counselor burnout,” Boulden said. “I want to find out if the paperwork, bureaucracy and red tape is mentally impacting our talented school counselors because they are bogged down by these administrative duties.”
Through this and other endeavors, Boulden hopes that the research he gathers will translate to advocacy for improvements in the school counselor profession and prevent instances of counselor burnout.
Boulden’s interest in the counseling profession grew out of his experiences as an undergraduate student. During this time, Boulden served as a resident assistant and enjoyed helping new students navigate the college experience.
“Certain aspects of the RA role transfer well to becoming a counselor,” Boulden said. “You have to have good listening skills and be empathic and supportive. Part of your job is to connect students with critical resources that they may need such as financial aid or student health services. You help students, especially freshmen, who are unsure about their next steps and are still developing as young adults.”
Beyond working as an RA, Boulden was also heavily involved in campus organizations that incorporated volunteer opportunities in local schools. There, Boulden gave lessons on topics including character development, financial readiness and other skills that students would need in the future.
“I really took to being in the classroom setting and being able to work with students to help them understand important soft skills that employers are looking for in their work force,” Boulden said. “This helped me develop some of the critical competencies that are needed in counselors who support clients with a myriad of challenges.”
Now, Boulden will bring his passion for working with students to the School Counseling Program at WVU, where he will continue to research topics that translate to advances in the school counseling profession and nurture his passion for helping students succeed.
“The thing that excites me most about coming to WVU is the students,” Boulden said. “I’ve always been a very student-centered person. When I came to campus for my interview, I learned from the faculty that WVU is a place where students’ personal and professional growth come first. I look forward to developing relationships with my students and having the honor of seeing their growth.”