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Leadership Essay Contest
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2014-2015: Advocacy to Strengthen Professional Identity

Craig Cashwell, President, CSI

Contest Deadline: November 15, 2014

In Act 4, Scene 5 of Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote that "We know what we are, but not what we may be.” Existential philosophers have long pondered the essential questions of "Who am I?” and "Why am I here?” The counseling profession seems precariously poised at a tipping point. It is arguable whether we yet fully know who we are and why we are here, but it seems apparent that we do not yet know what we may be.

For decades, Chi Sigma Iota has led the charge to establish a clear professional identity for Professional Counselors. In fact it sponsored two national conferences of counseling organizations in 1998 from which came essentially the same consensus of attendees as did the ACA/AASCB 20/20 Vision for the Future of Counseling initiative just ended in March, 2013. The goal of the CSI Advocacy theme A (Counselor Education) is "to insure that all counselor education students graduate with a clear identity and sense of pride as professional counselors.” The objectives under this advocacy theme highlight the importance of clear professional identity through consistent training (achieved through accreditation standards), respect for specialty areas of study, professional credentials, and professional memberships.

The theme for CSI Day 2014, then, is Advocacy to Strengthen Professional Identity. We wish to note at the same time that advocacy is a two pronged activity. Our ultimate goal is service in keeping with our mission to: "… promote a strong professional identity through members (professional counselors, counselor educators, and students) who contribute to the realization of a healthy society by fostering wellness and human dignity.” As a result, our leadership training will foster a clear professional identity with a purpose. Because of our preparation and history as a profession, we professional counselors uniquely contribute to optimizing the well-being of others across the life span in this society and increasingly around the globe.

Historically, there is much that has divided and fragmented the counseling profession. At times, we have stumbled and fallen. As Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, "The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

Adler once wrote that we must "Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.” The emphasis of this leadership theme, then, is on movement, actions that will move the profession forward with a stronger professional identity and help us to get up one more time than we have fallen.

Those interested in participating in the 2013-14 Leadership Essay Contest are asked to review the advocacy themes and to reflect on questions such as these:

  • Why is the development of a strong professional identity important for counselors?
  • How can CSI chapters contribute to the development of a strong professional identity?
  • Identify one or more barriers to the development of a strong professional identity for counselors and discuss how that barrier can be overcome.

Essays will be submitted in one of three membership categories: Entry-Level Student, Doctoral Student, or Professional Counselor/Counselor Educator. Prizes in each category will include a first place award and three honorable mention awards.The First Place award recipient will receive $200, publication of their essay at, and a one year renewal membership in CSI. Three honorable mentions in each category will be recognized with publication of essay at and a one year renewal membership in CSI

Submission and Contest Rules

  • Only current members of CSI are eligible to participate.
  • All essays will be written by one person and submitted as sole authored; only one essay submission per member is allowed.
  • Prior recipients of the CSI Leadership Essay Contest award may not submit within a three year period (i.e., if you received 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place in any year between 2010 and 2013, you will not be eligible to enter again in 2013-14).
  • Essays may not exceed 500 words; references and title page are in addition to word limits.
  • All essays must be in English and submitted using the online CSI Leadership Essay Contest Entry Form.
  • Only original work is acceptable; all entrants warrant that their submission is original.

Essays will be evaluated by a panel including counselors-in-training and experienced counseling professionals for originality, clarity, and relevance to CSI. They will not be returned and become the property of Chi Sigma Iota, International. If you have questions about the contest, please contact the Essay Contest Chair at


Resources such as the following may be useful to you as you think about and develop your Leadership Essay Contest entry. Although a literature search is neither required nor intended as you develop your essays, we encourage you to include citations when appropriate.

  • Burns, S. (2010). Best practices in counselor advocacy: Writing letters and emails that get results. CSI Chapter Leader Training Materials. (see
  • Chang, C. Y., Barrio Minton, C. A., Dixon, A. L., Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. (2011). Professional Counseling Excellence Through Leadership and Advocacy. NY: Taylor Frances/Routledge.
  • Cashwell, C. C. (2009). Chair reflections: At the crossroads. CACREP Connection. Reprinted with permission at
  • Chi Sigma Iota. (1999, 2011). Principles and practices of leadership excellence. See
  • Herr, E. L. (2010). Leadership: A Position Paper (see
  • Myers, J. E., & Sweeney, T. J. (2004). Advocacy for counselors: Results of a national survey. Journal of Counseling & Development, 82(4), 466-472.
  • Myers, J. E, Sweeney, T. J., & White, V. E. (2002). Advocacy for counselors: A professional imperative. Journal of Counseling & Development, 80(4), 394-402.
  • Wester, K., & Lewis, T. (2005). It’s not just another line on your resume. Reprinted with permission at
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