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UW’s Bruce Receives National Counselor Education Honor

November 2, 2015
woman listening to someone
Mary Alice Bruce

A longtime University of Wyoming counselor education faculty member’s lifelong commitment to her profession, her students and her peers was spotlighted during the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision’s (ACES) 2015 conference last month.

Mary Alice Bruce, professor of counselor education and head of the UW Department of Professional Studies, received ACES’ Legacy Award at the Philadelphia event. The award recognizes members “who have made a significant and lasting impression on ACES or on the counselor education and supervision profession.”

Word that she was one of the inaugural Legacy Award recipients, announced during a recent department meeting, came as a major surprise. A former student quietly gathered nomination letters and other evidence of Bruce’s worthiness for the recognition. It was surprising and welcome news, she says.

“I was ever so grateful, so honored to be among this inaugural group of those recognized in this way,” Bruce says, crediting institutional and college support for the leadership roles she was able to take with ACES and other organizations.

While her list of professional contributions is long, a few assignments stand out as particularly noteworthy. For instance, ACES’ membership roster doubled during Bruce’s service as membership committee chair.

“That helped me realize that, as a person, I can help make systemic change,” she says.

Bruce co-chaired the American Counseling Association’s international committee and helped to establish activities, including a conference speaker dedicated to international student concerns that continue today.

She also served on, and chaired, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs board. That work supported a longer-term commitment to defining and expanding national standards.

“We’ve really made a lot of strides to have counseling come together as a respected, identifiable profession,” Bruce says.

Evidence of that work’s success is compelling: Where once only a handful of states offered counselor licensure, all 50 states require it today. One likely outcome of that effort: stronger public understanding of, and appreciation for, the role counseling can play in improving quality of life.

“No longer is it as worrisome to visit with a counselor,” Bruce says. “People realize their friends often are supportive and yet may not be as objective as a counselor can be. Counseling is really about supporting people to find their strengths, make their own decisions and empower them to move ahead in their lives.”

While the ACES Legacy Award is a lifetime achievement recognition, Bruce’s career still has several chapters left to write, including her continued leadership of the Department of Professional Studies and as a member of the Counselor Education Program. She speaks with particular pride about the ways in which counselor education faculty members model the kind of interactions and processes that those in the profession advocate.

“We collaborate,” she says of the counselor education faculty. “We actually do what we say. We have a lot of diversity among us, as far as diversity of ideas and strategies to handle situations, and in terms of what we really value.”

She also continues to maintain ties to the tight-knit community of school counseling faculty and researchers.

“It’s a small and vibrant, intense community, and everyone does support each other,” she says. “The goal is to support and empower our clients and students, whether they be P-12 students or adults and families, to be their best. That’s the whole point.”

Longer term, Bruce also looks forward to exploring new opportunities to mentor students and junior faculty, including relationships requiring distance-delivered support.


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Chad Baldwin

Institutional Communications

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Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

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