Counseling associate professor receives Group Practice Award

Angela Coker, an associate professor of counseling and family therapy at UMSL, recently received the 2015 Group Practice Award from the Association for Specialists in Group Work. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Angela Coker, an associate professor of counseling and family therapy at UMSL, recently received the 2015 Group Practice Award from the Association for Specialists in Group Work. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Angela Coker has created an outstanding career focused on group counseling training. Her dedication recently earned her the 2015 Group Practice Award from the Association for Specialists in Group Work.

Coker, an associate professor of counseling and family therapy at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, received the award for her development of the innovative SisterScholars-in-Training group at UMSL. SisterScholars was developed as a response to the needs of African American women who are seeking a college degree, many for the first time in their families.

“I feel extremely honored to receive this award,” Coker said. “Ultimately, I hope I can inspire other counselors and counselors-in-training to pursue group work as a specialty area.”

SisterScholars meets weekly and is an open support group where students come together to work on academic and personal goals as they move toward degree attainment. The group also serves as a vehicle for mentoring students. Several faculty and staff members attend the meetings and share their expertise with students. SisterScholars is funded by the UMSL Graduate School and Chi Sigma Iota and is supported by the Department of Counseling and Family Therapy in the College of Education at UMSL.

This award recognizes an outstanding practitioner of group counseling, including innovations in group work practice and the dissemination of group work skills through research, conference presentations, supervision and training.

Coker has demonstrated commitment and has made significant contributions to advancing group work both as a practitioner and counselor educator. She is a longtime member of American Counseling Association. In 2013, she served as a visiting professor at the University of Botswana in Africa, where she taught courses in counseling, presented at conferences and conducted workshops. She co-wrote the article “Teaching Group Counseling in Botswana: Two U.S.-Trained Counselors Discuss Experiences and Share Cultural Considerations for Practice,” which will soon be published in the Journal for Specialists in Group Work.

In 2014, she participated in an exploratory trip to Nairobi, Kenya to examine the utility of enhancing counseling in Kenya’s primary and secondary schools. While there she co-facilitated a focus group, which explored the experiences of Kenyan college students with career counseling. Qualitative data collected from the focus group revealed that issues of gender, race and socioeconomic status intersect and often served as barriers for students to gain access to education and career counseling.

Coker also has provided professional development training for UNICEF in Botswana, in addition to community outreach and counseling at a women’s homeless shelter in Namibia. She served as a visiting scholar at the Women’s and Gender Studies, Faculty of Arts and the Psychology Department at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. She currently serves as a fellow in the Office of International Studies and Programs at UMSL.

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