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Advocacy Interview: Danica Hays
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Advocacy Heroine: Dr. Danica Hays

Interviewed by Dr. Julia Whisenhunt, CSI Leadership & Professional Advocacy Committee Member, Gamma Zeta Chapter, The University of West Georgia

Dr. Danica Hays has transformed the field of counselor education and inspired countless professional counselors. Dr. Hays serves as Executive Associate Dean and Professor of Counselor Education at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has held a variety of leadership roles, including Editor of Counselor Education and Supervision and Founding Editor of Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, and has over 100 publications and 80 presentations. She has authored or coauthored seven books and has received national awards, including the 2009 ACA Counselor Educator Advocacy Award. Although her accomplishments are abundant, Dr. Hays emanates humility and grace.

Dr. Hays first became interested in professional advocacy while enrolled in her master’s program. In retrospect, she acknowledges that several key experiences were “coalescing and steering [her] towards advocacy.” During her doctoral program, Dr. Hays discovered the connection between teaching, research, and service, which gave her a sense of direction in her role as an advocate. This direction largely centers on counseling research, which Dr. Hays says can bring “a louder voice to what we are doing with clients.”

Dr. Hays holds the belief that client, social justice, and professional advocacy are inextricably interwoven. She stated, “When we convey a shared professional identity to multiple audiences, we invite conversation and new understanding of the role of counseling in improving lives at multiple levels. At the same time, we promote awareness of the counseling profession.” In her current role, Dr. Hays utilizes her interactions with various colleagues and community members to shed light on the “role of counselors in community and education settings, how counseling researchers contributes to the university’s mission, and how counseling faculty and students contribute overall to the interdisciplinary world we live in.”

Reflecting on her own struggles and accomplishments as an advocate, Dr. Hays reminds us that advocacy does not have to be large. Rather, advocacy is “about being thoughtful about how we can engage in work, conversations, or community service that helps to teach ourselves and others what being a counselor means while doing some small good for the world.” She also addressed the misnomer that advocates must be well-established in the field. In fact, she suggested that we can advocate for the profession while we are forming our professional identity; it is a “bidirectional process.” Dr. Hays advised that counselors identify their strongest skill set, grow those skills, and communicate across multiple audiences.

When asked about her challenges and accomplishments as an advocate, Dr. Hays spoke of the importance of work-life balance. She discussed the freedom our profession affords us to pursue an expertise that is personally meaningful, but also the challenge of not allowing ourselves to be consumed by that passion. She further emphasized the importance of introspection in the process of finding balance while advocating for significant matters.

Dr. Hays highlighted her leadership and service to professional organizations, such as CSI and ACA and its divisions, as her most satisfying advocacy work. The leadership opportunities she was afforded through those organization have provided her with a “community and a home, one that [she is] motivated to give back to whenever [she] can.”

Dr. Danica Hays exemplifies the power of one person’s advocacy to make a difference.  Her compassion and desire to encourage future generations of counselors make her a heroine of the counseling profession.

Originally posted October 27, 2017 at csi-net.org.

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