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College of Education faculty have expertise in areas as wide-ranging as school administration, behavioral health, and exercise physiology – because of their landmark research and reputations as top scholars, state and national media frequently cover them. Check out the media mentions our professors recently received on topics such as helping children understand racism, navigating parent-teacher conferences, and the economic benefits of bilingualism.

UT KNOW
Sheri Mycue
“Can’t Go To Your Child’s Parent-Teacher Conference? Try This Instead”
http://www.utexas.edu/know/2014/11/06/can’t-go-to-your-child’s-parent-teacher-conference-try-this-instead/

“Some parents, for a variety of reasons, do not take advantage of the parent-teacher conference. I once had a parent of a child in my class who told me, after several unsuccessful struggles to get him to come in, and finally one successful attempt, that he did not plan to sit down to hear all the bad things about his daughter. With a smile I assured him that my agenda did not include that. ”


New York Times
Erika Patall
“Help Children Form Good Study Habits”
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/11/12/should-parents-help-their-children-with-homework/help-children-form-good-study-habits

“When kids struggle with homework, parents sometimes have an instinct to take control by using commands, incentives, threats, surveillance, or just doing the work themselves. These tactics may work in the short term, but won’t benefit kids in the long run. A better strategy is to explain why even the most boring homework could help students accomplish personal goals (aside from just getting a good grade).”


The Texas Tribune
Rebecca Callahan
“The Q&A: Rebecca Callahan”
http://www.texastribune.org/2014/10/29/q-rebecca-callahan/

“School districts are constantly cutting bilingual and first language services for kids that already speak another language. There is this idea that those kids need English. The outside world is all in English. The testing system is English. Music, art and P.E. are in English. The cafeteria is in English. They will learn English. We have the opportunity to develop their home language as well but we don’t do a very good job of that.”


Diverse Issues in Education
Evelyn Waiwaiole
“Colleges Find Success With New Approaches to Developmental Education”
http://diverseeducation.com/article/67502/

“Waiwaiole says her center’s report on part-time faculty disputed that full-time faculty, who spend more time on campus than adjuncts, are more engaged with students. ‘We didn’t find that to be true,’ Waiwaiole says. ‘What we really found was that part-time faculty really want to be there, and, traditionally, they’re extremely passionate about why they’re there. They’re not there for the dollars. They’re very engaged in their work.’”


Huffington Post
Jennifer Adair
“White Parents Should Talk To Their Kids About Discrimination”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-keys-adair/white-parents-should-talk_b_5990486.html?1413389836

“Some people believe that children are too young to talk about race and racism. Yet parents raising children of color do it all the time. Schoolmates make comments about their skin or hair. Movies or the news portray people who look like them in a negative way, which prompts questions. But children who are white do not have to think about it. They don’t have to ask why their parents were looked at funny in a fancy store or why someone yelled at them to go back to where they came from.”

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Helicopter parents delaying children’s adulthood…indefinitely

This is a quick, thoroughly unscientific quiz for parents of high school students:

1)   Did your hardworking scholar turn in a research paper he’s never laid eyes on; you know, the one you “helped” him with?

2)   Do you spend more time on Instagram and Twitter than a Kardashian, keeping tabs on little Madison’s BFFs and boyfriends?

3)   Has the principal’s office toyed with the idea of getting a restraining order against you?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you could be a “helicopter parent.” If you answered “yes” to every one, you may want to tweak your strategy before you become the parent of a college student.

Patricia Somers, an associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Administration at The University of Texas at Austin, has spent years studying this flourishing parent species and was among the first scholars to investigate the trend. Her research illuminates how and why levels of parent involvement have increased worldwide over the past two decades. She has investigated categories of micromanaging parents, and can offer a few reasons it may be better for parents to ease up on the hovering.

Coined in the early 1990s and made popular by the media, “helicopter parent” refers to a parent who tends to be overly involved and hyper-prone to intercede in their children’s lives.

To obtain data, Somers and her fellow researchers surveyed academic and student affairs professionals at four-year universities nationwide. The results serve as a cautionary tale for parents of high schoolers, and a wakeup call for those with “kids” in college.

“Several cultural shifts over the past 25 years or so may explain this change in parent behavior,” says Somers. “First and most obvious are the technological advances that allow people to stay connected 24/7. It’s just extremely easy to cross the line between being involved at a reasonable level in a child’s life and micromanaging.”

“In high school, at a time when it’s critical, developmentally, for youth to be establishing their autonomy, some parents are behaving as though they’re still raising a third grader.” – Dr. Patricia Somers

Because of a steady increase in the number of terrorist attacks and school shootings, a lot of parents perceive the world as a much more dangerous place than they experienced as children. They worry, sometimes to excess, about their kids’ wellbeing and don’t feel entirely comfortable entrusting their children’s safety to others, says Somers. This leads to more hovering.

Also, research suggests that some mothers and fathers may be rejecting the less attentive child-rearing style of their own parents. And, says Somers, people are choosing to have fewer children and, as a result, lavishing much more attention on one or two offspring regardless of age.

The quest for the best may begin with the scramble to score the most exclusive preschool (must teach Mandarin and be gluten-free); then comes calculus tutoring from a MacArthur fellow, chef-prepared organic lunches delivered to school, and demands that the child be catcher on the baseball team.

This gentle guidance and protection often stretch right through college graduation, a job search, and into the “child’s” employment, delaying adulthood indefinitely.

“One of the first things we discovered,” says Somers, “is that helicoptering is not an exclusively middle- and upper-class phenomenon, as many assume. All income levels are represented to some extent, as well as both genders and every race and ethnicity.”

Somers’ research also shows that most helicopter parents fall into five broad categories:

1)   CONSUMER ADVOCATES – They see each phase of the college experience, from application to diploma-in-hand, as a business transaction and want the most bang for their buck. They push hard to get scholarships or other financial awards for their children and may expect what amounts to an assurance from the university that a degree in X will equal a job in Y, with a salary of Z. To keep tabs on their investment, they may expect staff and administration to overlook a minor technicality called the Family Rights and Privacy Act and produce progress reports on demand.

2)   EQUITY OR FAIRNESS ADVOCATES – They might seem to be lobbying for fairness and equality for all students, but more often they are demanding better, not equal, treatment. The fairness advocate may also have become well versed in state and federal entitlements for their child and be well prepared to argue the legalities of what they deem unfair treatment

3)   VICARIOUS COLLEGE STUDENTS – The most well-known, they are simply parents who either did not enjoy their own “golden four” years of college and want to make up for missed time; or they did have a great time at college and are determined to relive the fun. These parents tend to behave more like a best buddy than a guardian and show up for every football game and mixer. They often want to accompany their child to classes, labs, and study sessions.

4)   TOXIC PARENTS – These are parents with considerable psychological issues. They’re controlling, negative, and often try to live their children’s lives while at the same time one-upping the child.

5)   SAFETY PATROL PARENTS – This is a group that’s grown rapidly and includes parents who are notably preoccupied with the safety of their children. They frequently talk with campus staff about safety concerns and may even request copies of floor plans, campus emergency procedures, and safety policies. They can feel very helpless once the child is out of the home, and with each shooting, bombing, or other act of violence that makes the news, they become more afraid, more insular, and feel more protective of their family.

“In high school, at a time when it’s critical, developmentally, for youth to be establishing their autonomy − learning how to handle setbacks, deal with frustrations, and make their own decisions − some parents are behaving as though they’re still raising a third grader,” said Somers. “Before the child even leaves for the university parents can intercept mail containing computer passwords and login IDs, and then go online to fill out the profile for roommate matching, for example.

“We’ve heard that more than a few take the initiative to ‘research’ their children’s roommates on Facebook and Twitter, masquerade as their child online, and ask for a roommate reassignment. It’s not uncommon for the parent to register online for the student, follow the child’s academic progress, monitor most of the online communication from the university to the student, and compose and answer e-mail.”

If you’re scratching your head wondering how a 22-year-old who’s not able to fill out routine applications is ever going to adjust to a real-world job and independent adult life, then you share that concern with university administrators, faculty, and staff who deal with helicopter parents.

According to Somers, many universities have already started using research feedback to educate and support helicopter parents and wean students. There are separate orientations for parents and students, separate social events for “vicarious college students,” newsletters that offer tips for gradually disengaging, lists of suggested reading material, and policies that keep university staff from discussing an issue with a parent without student consent.

As she speculates on the trend reversing, Somers points out that many of the reasons for its appearance are not going away any time soon. Life in the modern world can be dangerous and children’s safety will continue to be an issue. Consumerism and the desire for a good deal probably won’t disappear. Technology advances will likely make “stalking” or intrusion even easier.

“The name for the phenomenon keeps morphing – now we have ‘snowplow parents’ and ‘lawnmower parents,’ who never stop smoothing the path for their kids, and in Scandinavia they’re called ‘curling parents,’” said Somers. “But the behavior largely remains the same. I don’t anticipate the debate over ‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy’ parent involvement winding down in the near future.”

Photo by: Marsha Miller

Melissa Chavez, Ph.D. in Special Education, 2013, M.Ed. in Educational Administration, 2004, and B.S. in Applied Learning and Development, 1997

Melissa Chavez

Melissa Chavez

Melissa Chavez is associate vice president and executive director for UT Elementary School and the UT University Charter Schools. She began teaching in Austin public schools in 1997, rapidly rose to the position of assistant to the superintendent, and soon was recruited to help open UT Elementary School in 2003. She started at UT Elementary as an assistant principal and created the school’s special education and reading programs. Chavez was promoted to principal in 2006, helping the school win numerous exemplary awards, and in 2009 became superintendent. As executive director, she not only has excelled at academic and operational management and leadership of the school, but also oversaw the development and construction of Phase I of UT Elementary’s permanent school building, which opened in August 2012.

Her Story

While I was in the College of Education’s principalship program and obtaining my master’s degree, I was selected to intern for an associate superintendent in Austin ISD. Although it was a very demanding position for me at the time – I was a full time graduate student and pregnant – I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world. I got to work with 15 very talented principals in Austin ISD. I learned so much from them about managing schools, working with parents, training teachers, collecting and using school data, understanding school law and school policy, and working with budgets. That experience was invaluable.

Why UT?

I had such positive experiences with the professors and instructors in the College of Education during my master’s program and I felt very successful as a student. I also felt that the instructors cared about me. For those reasons, when I decided to get my Ph.D. in special education I knew UT Austin was the place for me. As far as faculty who were particularly influential, Dr. Norma Cantu, Dr. Martha Ovando, and Dr. Terry Falcomata definitely stand out. Dr. Cantu’s passion for civil rights through the public education lens made me appreciate the job I do every day. Like Dr. Cantu, I believe high quality education for all children is important and that this goal deserves our complete attention. Dr. Ovando taught me how to be an instructional leader by modeling the instruction I wanted to see for my teachers, and modeling how respectfully children and parents should be treated. Dr. Falcomata taught me how to make meaningful, data-driven observations of students and how to use that information to implement behavioral or instructional interventions. I loved that class!

Life After UT

My story is pretty straightforward – I have simply continued to do what I love, which is work in public education. In addition to being a school administrator, I have done some guest lectures, committee work, served on dissertation committees, and written some articles about UT Elementary School.

Advice For Students

First, build strong relationships. The education you get at The University of Texas at Austin is of the highest quality, but it’s the relationships you build with your peers and professors that are crucial in order for you to thrive in the real world. Your peers become your colleagues and your professors become your mentors. Second, create opportunities to learn more and gain new experiences. Volunteer to guest lecture in a class you love, tutor a student in an elementary school, or volunteer to support a research project. Once you leave the Forty Acres, it ends up being your experiences, along with your degree, that help you do well! And, finally, never stop learning. Learning shouldn’t cease once you leave school. I still learn something new almost every day.

September 2, 2014

Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards

Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards

Keisha Bentley-Edwards, PhD, a University of Texas at Austin Assistant Professor in the College of Education, has received a $100,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to study the effectiveness of current bullying assessments and to examine socialization practices for African-American students.

RWJF is the nation’s leading philanthropy working to build a Culture of Health in America. The two-year grant is awarded through the New Connections program and addresses RWJF’s Vulnerable Populations program priority area by focusing on how health is “diminished by all forms of violence.”

“Right now, assessment tools and interventions for bullying don’t seem to do a very good job of targeting African-American students,” says Bentley-Edwards. “Researchers on this topic ask African-American children if they’ve been bullied and the children almost always say, ‘No,’ even when bullying has occurred. As it turns out, there are cultural factors that determine how children define and perceive bullying.”

“If you ask African-American students about very specific behaviors they’ve experienced, such as, ‘Are you being picked on by someone?’ they tend to say, ‘Yes,’” says Bentley-Edwards. “Also, students don’t usually think they’re being bullied if it’s not happening every single day. My goal is to develop an assessment resource that takes all of these culturally relevant factors into consideration.”

Bentley-Edwards’ work will address African-American students who are perpetrators as well as victims of bullying because, according to research, the person doing the bullying was often a victim at one time.

“We are so excited to welcome Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards into the eighth cohort of New Connections grantees,” says Catherine Malone, DBA, MBA, RWJF Program Associate. “The program connects first-time grantees to the Foundation, and the new perspectives they bring are essential to solving the critical, complex issues affecting our nation’s health.”

This cohort joins the larger New Connections network of over 1,200 scholars.

New Connections is a national program designed to introduce new scholars to RWJF and to expand the diversity of perspectives informing the Foundation’s programming. The program seeks early- to mid-career scholars who are historically underrepresented ethnic or racial minorities, first-generation college graduates, or individuals from low-income communities.

“The community of scholars garnered by the RWJF New Connections program is unparalleled,” says Bentley-Edwards. “I am honored to be among the grantees, to have access to the mentorship and collegiality of leading health scholars, and to have the opportunity to investigate and facilitate enduring good health for African-American children.”

About The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education

The College of Education is ranked among the top ten in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and includes leading national researchers in areas as diverse as autism, exercise physiology, math disabilities, depression, and literacy.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

August 20, 2014

College of Education professors Kevin Cokley and Jo Worthy were among 27 UT Austin faculty to receive the 2014 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, The University of Texas System’s highest teaching honor.

The Regents’ recognition program is one of the nation’s largest monetary awards for teaching in higher education, honoring the highest quality instruction and spotlighting innovation in undergraduate instruction.

A total of $2.4 million will be awarded to educators from the UT System’s 15 academic and health institutions during a ceremony Wednesday, Aug. 20, at the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom in the Texas Union at UT Austin.

“Our excellence in teaching faculty is a critical part of the System’s vision of an institution of the first class,” said UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. “These awards are a reflection of the Regents placing the highest priority on undergraduate, graduate and professional teaching excellence System-wide.”

Faculty members undergo a series of rigorous evaluations by students, peer faculty members, and external reviewers. The review panels consider a range of activities and criteria in their evaluations including outstanding teaching, mentoring, personal commitment to students and motivating students in the classroom.

“UT Austin places a very high value on classroom teaching,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “I am pleased that the UT System is recognizing these 27 individual faculty members for their performance as teachers and their commitment to their students.”

Dr. Jo Worthy

Dr. Jo Worthy

JO WORTHY

Worthy is a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s language and literacy and a department graduate adviser. She teaches classes in literacy development and pedagogy and conducts research on children’s reading interests and preferences, alternatives to grouping students according to ability, and bilingual education. In 2006, Worthy won the Elizabeth Shatto Massey Award for Excellence in Teacher Education

Dr. Kevin Cokley

Dr. Kevin Cokley

KEVIN COKLEY

Cokley is a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology as well as director of UT Austin’s Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis. He researches African American psychology, with a focus on racial and ethnic identity development and how factors such as academic self-concept contribute to academic achievement. Cokley is a Fellow and Chair in UT Austin’s African and African American Diaspora Studies program. He’s also been honored with the Louise Spence Griffeth Fellowship for Excellence, Elizabeth Glenadine Gibb Teaching Fellowship in Education, and Charles and Shirley Thomas Award for mentoring, education, and training of ethnic minority students.

 

– Kay Randall, k.randall@austin.utexas.edu

July 11, 2014

The College of Education’s Institute for Public School Initiatives (IPSI) and UT Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) recently hosted the first-ever education-focused national summit on big data and data visualization.

The Invitational Summit on Education Data Visualization drew tech gurus, educators, policy makers, and community leaders to Austin to discuss how big data can help education solve problems to the same degree that it’s benefited areas like medicine, transportation, and law enforcement.

Attendees learned about

–       issues of privacy, security, ethics

–       how data visualization can affect policy making

–       tools that are particularly helpful when using data visualization in education

–       global trends

–       selling leadership on the importance of gathering and analyzing data

–       how data visualization can help the learning process and educational research

“Over the past 20 years there’s been explosive growth in learning that happens or is tracked in a computer-mediated environment,” said Paul Resta, who holds the Ruth Knight Milliken Centennial Professorship in Learning Technology in the College of Education. “As a result, educators and scholars have large amounts of data that could significantly improve teaching and learning. Data visualization, which has long been used in the sciences and business, offers a variety of powerful tools that can enhance research and make communication of education reform proposals to the public easier.”

Speakers included:

Paul Resta, University of Texas at Austin

George Siemens (keynote), University of Texas at Arlington

Kathleen Styles, U.S. Department of Education

Eric Newburger, U.S. Census Bureau

Larry Johnson, New Media Consortia

Mark Milliron, Civitas Learning

Richard Rhodes, Austin Community College

Peter Winograd, Center for Education Policy Research

JoAnne Wendelberger, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Ben Glazer, Eduvant

Chris Dede, Harvard University

Experts explained the best uses for big data, how to organize and share the data, and the limitations of data as a silver bullet for all education problems. Several applicable case studies also were presented not only from the field of education but also from areas like the oil industry, the military, and wildlife preservation.

“Regarding big data, it’s both complicated and simple,” said Charles Thornburgh, founder, CEO, and director of Civitas Learning. “You have to provide the correct infrastructure with the right data to the right people in the right way.”

– Kay Randall, k.randall@austin.utexas.edu

July 11, 2014

Two of science education specialist Anthony Petrosino’s recent doctoral students – Vanessa Svihla and Candace Walkington – have been awarded National Academy of Education Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowships. The NAEd Spencer Fellowship is one of the highest honors given to graduates who recently obtained a Ph.D. in education, and it’s designed to promote scholarship that improves the field of education.

Walkington is an assistant professor of math education in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University. Her research focuses on how abstract math concepts can best be understood when they’re grounded in students’ interests, experiences, and everyday reasoning practices. At SMU she teaches preservice and inservice STEM courses and is chair of the math, science and technology programs.

Svihla is an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico and director of the Interaction and Disciplinary Design in Educational Activity Lab. Her area of study is how learning occurs in authentic, real-world conditions. This includes a two-strand research program that includes: 1) authentic assessment, aided by interactive technology, and 2) design learning, in which she studies engineers designing devices, scientists designing investigations, teachers designing learning experiences and students designing to learn.

Both Fellows are continuing to pursue research that was launched under Petrosino’s mentorship in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

To learn more about Petrosino’s work, visit his blog, “Dr. Petrosino’s Education Project.”

– Kay Randall, k.randall@austin.utexas.edu

College of Education faculty have expertise in areas as wide-ranging as school administration, behavioral health, and exercise physiology – because of their landmark research and reputations as top scholars, they’re often tapped by state and national media. Check out the coverage our faculty recently received on topics such as school finance and academic challenges facing males of color.

KUT/NPR

Christopher Brown

“Despite Campaign Focus Pre-K Won’t Likely Expand Soon”

http://kut.org/post/despite-campaign-focus-texas-pre-k-wont-likely-expand-soon

“Pre-K is one piece of a larger puzzle that we need to think about. As we focus on the K-12 system and the larger debate, I hope we don’t forget the children who aren’t enrolled, but are a part of our state who need a high quality education.”

 

MSNBC

Kevin Cokley

“Obama: Boys teased for ‘acting white'”

http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/obama–boys-teased-for-acting-white-312791619685

“What the President just described is known in academic circles as the Ogbu Thesis. It’s named for researcher John Ogbu, who popularized the belief that Black youth shun educational achievement as a way of proving their racial authenticity. Scholars like the University of Texas’s Kevin Cokley have said that issues of racial identity and educational achievement are far more complicated than Ogbu initially imagined.”

 

DIVERSE ISSUES IN HIGHER EDUCATION

Greg Vincent and Project MALES

“Addressing the Crisis Among Men of Color in Higher Education”​

http://diverseeducation.com/article/65603/

“The abysmal underrepresentation of men of color on college campuses is symptomatic of admissions processes, which have fallen under strict scrutiny. It is also indicative of the larger lack of research on, support for and access to higher education for young men of color.”

 

A seven-year-old boy wakes up in the middle of the night complaining of a stomachache. Mom takes the boy to the family doctor, who runs tests, asks routine questions, prods and probes, and concludes there’s no apparent physical reason for his distress. But what about his mental state?

In that quick 15-minute patient visit, no one ever mentions to the doctor that mom and dad are going through a vitriolic divorce and the family has just moved. The boy is asked only to describe his physical symptoms, not how he is coping emotionally with the situation at home.

Oversights like this are common – in fact, of the 10 most frequent physical complaints people go to the doctor for, only 15 percent are found to have a physiological cause. Addressing both physical and mental issues might help explain some symptoms and indicate that the patient needs to see a behavioral health specialist in order to get better.

To prepare behavioral health specialists to work as part of a close-knit, interdisciplinary team The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education has launched an Integrated Behavioral Health Psychology Program in the Department of Educational Psychology. Graduates of this program will be prepared to smoothly segue into a very different kind of health care environment, one in which mental and physical health services are not separate.

This new approach to medical care is referred to as “integrated health care delivery.” For the patient, it’s a very convenient form of one-stop-shopping and for a health care professional it’s the best way to get the patient’s whole health story.

“Health care in the 21st century will treat the patient not only as a whole person but also as a member of a family and community that are actively involved in treatment,” said Cindy Carlson, chair of the Department of Educational Psychology. “Being a psychologist who offers psychotherapy in a private practice office and confers, when necessary, with other providers and being a team member in a primary care office where the team is collectively responsible for the outcome are two very different job experiences. In universities, we’ve been training students for the former, not the latter.”

Cindy Carlson Group Photo

Regional Advisory Board for Cindy Carlson’s integrated behavioral health grant: Front row (left to right): Michele Guzman, PhD, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health; David White, Texas Psychological Association; Michael Carey, PhD, Scott & White Healthcare; Cindy Carlson, PhD.

To prepare them for this different role, the one-year program teaches doctoral psychology students how to deliver culturally and linguistically competent, evidence-based behavioral health services in a community clinic setting as part of a blended health care team. Instruction focuses on the best ways to assist vulnerable and underserved populations, a particularly important aim since studies show these groups are typically the least likely to access behavioral health services.

The award finances the planning, development, and operation of a 15-hour program emphasis in integrated health services delivery, with preference given to applicants who are bilingual (Spanish-English) and/or members of ethnic minority groups.

Student Fellows complete 10-12 hours of supervised clinical practice in integrated healthcare settings at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) like Lone Star Circle of Care, People’s Community Clinic, and Seton-Blackstock Family Clinic. The Fellows take additional course work for a curriculum emphasis in integrated behavioral healthcare, including a course devoted to inter-professional healthcare teams, and they receive training in motivational interviewing, which has proven effective in helping patients make health behavior changes.

Even though there are challenges to placing behavioral health experts in integrated healthcare settings, the benefits to patients far outweigh them, according to Carlson and other experts. In some blended healthcare setting, the patient sees the same front desk check-in person at each visit, for example, whether she’s there for depression or the flu, and her clinical records are shared among the entire health care team.

As Carlson points out, an enormous benefit of the team approach is that “proximity breeds familiarity” – simply being in the same physical environment tends to encourage more communication among team members. The cardiologist has access to information about a patient’s anxiety disorder, and the general practitioner knows that another patient just lost her son in a skateboarding accident, which may explain her blinding headaches, sleeplessness, and weight loss.

“The health care team approach has so many positive aspects,” said Elizabeth Walsh, a doctoral student in the UT Austin program and one of Carlson’s research assistants. “There’s a lot of evidence that having integrated health care teams ends up cutting healthcare costs and reducing employee and student absenteeism, for example, and both providers and patients report that the quality of care is much better.

Taking a Team Approach

IBHP trainee Leann Smith, Elizabeth Walsh, and Brittany Linton consults with Celia Neavel, MD, of People’s Community Clinic. (Photo by Megan Stanfield)

“Studies show that the majority of people don’t go to a mental health professional, even when their family doctor refers them, so there are a tremendous number of people walking around with unaddressed health problems. If the behavioral health specialist is right there, in the same building as the general practitioner, that becomes almost a non-issue. I’m really excited about becoming part of a health care team – as a behavioral health care specialist, you’re an absolutely integral member of that group.”

With her grant funding, and as part of the ongoing training of doctoral students like Walsh, Carlson convened a May meeting in Austin that drew integrated health care experts from all over the country. The experts talked one-on-one with students and shared presentations on what it’s like to be a behavioral health specialist on a multi-professional team.

“This is the scenario of the future, and what particularly excites me is the movement to locate health care in close proximity to the patient, such as in school-based clinics,” said Carlson. “Integrated health care teams will soon be the norm. Right now, here at UT Austin, we’re ahead of the curve in preparing top-notch, highly skilled students who can enter that environment and immediately start contributing.”