For many students, the apprehension they carry into the classroom weighs heavier than their textbooks.

“Why do I feel so frustrated and unable to focus? What should I do after graduation? How can I resolve conflicts with my friends and family?” These questions and more can press on students’ minds as they try to learn.

Fortunately, heroes stand at the ready.

“Mental health is important at every stage of our lives and we often take it for granted,” said Laura Welfare. “Counselors are prepared to help in our K–12 schools and in our agencies, colleges, and hospitals. We address mental health and substance use issues, support wellness, and work toward positive changes in our communities.”

An associate professor of counselor education, Welfare excels in training counselors to provide vital services in communities across the nation and globe.

The American Counseling Association recognized Welfare’s dedication with the 2020 Fellows Award, the organization’s highest honor. Welfare joins 12 others as the only recipients across the United States.

“I’m humbled by this recognition,” said Welfare. “There are so many amazing leaders in our profession and it’s an incredible honor to be recognized in this way.”

The awards honor members of the association for significant and unique contributions to counseling and career service. Recipients “represent a diverse community of leaders that creates and expands knowledge and insight into the strategic matters of the counseling profession,” according to the association.

Requirements include membership in the organization for at least 10 continuous years and appropriate professional credentials. Fellows candidates must also take an active role in the organization to identify future trends, research, and issues.

Welfare’s research centers on counselor cognitive development, evidence-based practices in counselor education and supervision, supervisor development, and counseling assessment.

“I love that research, teaching, and servant leadership are part of my work at Virginia Tech,” said Welfare. “In my research, I invite students to collaborate on every project. They are outstanding and inspiring partners and together we answer important questions. It’s such an honor to be a part of their journeys.”

Welfare has earned an array of tributes, such as the Excellence in Advising Award and the Certificate of Teaching Excellence from the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the outstanding research award from Chi Sigma Iota, an honor society for counselor educators, students, and professional counselors.

As a faculty member in the School of Education, Welfare credited her colleagues and students for motivating and inspiring her.

“I love being a part of this community of outstanding scholar educators who care deeply about our students and our impact beyond the university,” said Welfare. “My colleagues and my students bring out the best in me and remind me daily why our research, teaching, and service must continue.”

Written by Andrew Adkins