Janet Froeschle Hicks, who was just named the department chairwoman, is one of 138 people to receive this honor nationwide since its inception.
When Janet Froeschle Hicks got an email from the American Counseling Association (ACA), she wasn't sure what to make of it.
"Congratulations!" it read. "You will be receiving a national award. You're going to be inducted into the ACA Fellows.
The ACA Fellows is an elite group of professional counselors – people Hicks, a professor of counselor education at Texas Tech University, looks up to, cites in her research and teaches in her classes. They are the leaders in her field.
"I thought it had to be wrong," said Hicks, who recently became chairwoman of the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership. "That can't be right, because being inducted into ACA Fellows is huge."
Not until the ACA posted the announcement on its website and one of Hicks' students found it and posted it on Facebook did it feel real. Congratulations from students and colleagues started pouring in.
"It's amazing to look at the people who are on this list because they're the founders of our professions," counselor education professor Charles Crews said. "I think that's one of the biggest deals."
Hicks started her career teaching sixth- and seventh-grade math. From there she transitioned into school counseling, where she found herself confronted with larger problems than she was equipped to handle.
"As I learned more and more I realized I could make a bigger impact," she said. "The higher up you move, the more you can make an impact on the people below you, so now it all trickles down and I feel like I can help that many more people."
She returned to graduate school at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, earning master's and doctoral degrees and spending a few years as a professor in Colorado and at West Texas A&M before coming to Texas Tech in 2009. She was promoted to chairwoman of her department earlier this year but is still teaching. She did say, however, the most important aspect of counseling doesn't come from a textbook.
"The most important thing they can do if they're going to be a good counselor is walk the walk," Hicks said. "You can't live your life one way and then help counsel people to live their lives another way. You have to be congruent."
Hicks' research has focused on issues of the day: cyberbullying, abuse, cutting and eating disorders. These topics don't always have a big body of research behind them because they weren't around or recognized a decade or two ago. Her current research is on cyberbullying and developing protocols for school counselors to use on individuals and families who are struggling with it.
Becoming an ACA Fellow
A nominating committee looks at a researcher's body of work and discusses whether he or she meets the criteria for this recognition. Criteria for induction includes innovation in practice, advancing counseling as a practice, earning a national and international reputation as an expert, contributing to counseling as a profession and documented evidence of service.
Hicks had some clues that others in the profession were aware of her work. For the last two years she has been invited to speak at the ACA conference; only about one in 10 applicants present at these conferences, and almost none are actually asked to speak. A few months ago she received an email from another counselor, who she knew by reputation and admired but had never met. He read some of her work and wanted to pass on some of his research that may be of interest to her. Now, she suspects he was a member of the committee.
"This means I've moved into the next level and I'm being respected by people in the field that are way up there," she said. "It just kind of puts my name out there nationally. Everybody knows who I am. It's just amazing to think that these people who I have looked up to for so long picked me for this award, that they've said, 'hey, you're on this level with us.' It's surreal."
Hicks is a deserving honoree, said Charles Crews, a professor of counselor education. He and Hicks have presented together at a number of different conferences and collaborated on ideas, and he looks to her for guidance as well as friendship.
"She's one of the select few, the trailblazers in our profession," Crews said. "Texas Tech's already on the map, but I think this puts Texas Tech on the map in a whole different area, which is mental health. It's something that's lacking in a lot of places.
"Counselors have to be quiet about what we do. We can't brag on it. Janet just doesn't let other folks know how good she is."
Hicks' boss agreed.
"Janet is the ultimate professional and is very deserving of this recognition," Scott Ridley, dean of the College of Education, said. "I appreciate her so much because she always goes the extra mile in her work and does exemplary work yet retains great humility."
Eleven people will be inducted into the ACA Fellows this week at the annual conference in Orlando. Since 2004, when the Fellows award was created, only 127 people have thus far been inducted. One of those, Loretta Bradley, is a Texas Tech Horn Professor.