Masters Matter: Dr. Jill Van Horne and Swathi Prabhu, Professional School Counseling

Dr. Jill Van Horne, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling, and graduate student Swathi Prabhu discuss Appalachian’s Master of Arts in Professional School Counseling. This program is housed in the Reich College of Education's Department of Human Development and Psychological Counseling.


  • Dr. Jill Van Horne: Well, I’m Jill VanHorne. I’m an assistant professor in the HPC department, specifically the professional school counseling program and I have been here, this is my second full year here on faculty.

    Swathi Prabhu: I am Swathi Prabhu and I’m a graduate student in the professional school counseling program and it’s my first year, and I’m an assistant for Dr. VanHorne.

    Dr. Jill Van Horne: We are in the College of Education. The research that I’m currently working on with another colleague has to do with racial socialization in children, and this conversation came up just with our own experiences with our own children and as a school counselor I think it’s really important that we always keep our finger on the pulse of what the local culture is, what the school culture is, you know we just got talking about our different experiences, myself as a Caucasian female and my colleague is not. Here with Swathi, as my graduate assistant, she and I have had some informal conversations as we’re working about some of the racial issues or social issues and it just so happened that I invited her and asked her if she would be interested in jumping on this project and she’s been diligently working on a literature review and helping us, you know uncover what research has been done on the subject and where we might need to go with it.

    Swathi Prabhu: It’s something that like I’m already passionate about just because I have a multicultural identity. But, also it’s really helpful to see kind of how parents are kind of teaching their kids messages about race and how they’re kind of enlightening them about how to deal with it. It’s good for us as school counselors because we’re going to see how that plays out in a giant group setting in the school. So, my relationship with Dr. VanHorne, both as like a student and as an employee, and not just with her but kind of with all the faculty here is that they treat us like their peers, like we are going to be their future colleagues in just two years and that’s the way they treat us. It is professional but it’s also very like friendly and caring.

    Dr. Jill Van Horne: Swathi is fantastic, she’s a great GA to have. She’s knowledgeable, fun, her interest in the research is certainly a plus and I truly believe even if she had no interest in this particular research that she would, she would still follow through on the request but I think it’s really neat that she and I share this similar interest, and again as I mentioned, as a Caucasian female having only limited sight of diversity issues, working with someone who does identify as multiracial and multicultural in a variety of ways, It’s helpful to have insight and I guess that also lends to the, yes, she’s learning from me as a professor but, I’m also learning quite a bit from her and her own experiences. We treat our student as colleagues because they will be colleagues. One of the things we focus on is our cohort model, and how when we bring our students in, that is the group of students that they will travel throughout this program together as a cohort, and so we start them off in our orientation doing high adventure activities, ropes courses, which is not something that other programs do. I have a little bias there, I lived at a camp for quite some time, my husband was a camp director for twenty years so that’s probably a little bit of me coming through there but, we definitely feel like it’s very important to not just grow intellectually and academically but in a way that we see the value in all people and all facets and it’s not just a how well you’re doing on the test. They will need folks to rely on and they will need people to consult and there are only a few of us faculty here and we continue to graduate school counselors so we really want them to be able to rely on one another and so again the cohort model is really what we’re striving for there.

    Swathi Prabhu: I chose Appalachian State because the day I interviewed I could already tell this was just a welcoming place. I interviewed a couple other places and it felt a little  more competitive so I felt like I would have to be on my toes the whole time throughout my program and here both like with the faculty and we interview with the second years as well but, the faculty and the second years described the cohort model and at first your, as a student, you’re like “Oh no, they’re not all friends.” and then you get in and you started engaging with your cohort and they really do push for you to be like friends and be supportive of each other instead of trying to compete with each other, you’re all just trying to help each other become the best professionals you can be and that’s why I picked it, and throughout the interview the faculty talked a lot about self-care and how do you take care of yourself and that was really important that they cared we’re in a good place so, that’s why I picked it.

    Dr. Jill Van Horne: If you are considering coming to Appalachian State, the things that I would, I would hands down feel like would be at the top of the list would be: One, I feel like our faculty is very strong, between the three of us we have 30 years plus of professional school counseling. We are also dually licensed as North Carolina Licensed Professional Counselors, that is not something you will find in programs in fact, that’s pretty rare to find that we have our Professional School License as well as our North Carolina Professional Counseling License, our state license to practice private, to work in a clinical setting, and then as I said we have a lot of just maybe single focus courses that folks are able to take, I think we’re also really available to our students, you know being in the mountains,  you have to be when it comes to snow days and trying to get in touch with somebody “Are we having class tonight? and you know, well the roads are dry where I am but, I understand there’s a foot and a half at Appalachian and somebody let me know what’s going on.” and so I think there’s also a lot of you know helping each other around here.

    Swathi Prabhu: Also, if you have a really specific passion, for example, my passion is in LGBTQ populations, you can find definitely a faculty member that’s already worked with a population that you’re interested in and you will definitely find at least like one course that you can really really engage in and like get your passion out and that could lead to opportunities to do like personal research and personal exploration and personal publications.

    Dr. Jill Van Horne: If students do have an interest we find a way for them to capitalize on that interest, whether it’s something that they’re just beginning to explore or something that they came into the program very passionate about and we help that flower. You know, Swathi has a project that she’s currently working on, something that she brought in unbeknownst to any of us here and she put it out there very informally to a faculty member who said “Hey, I think there’s something that can be done with this” and that faculty member is really helping her get it published and it looks like it could be a full curriculum and that’s pretty exciting and I don’t know that often times masters programs, we really focus on you know, creating quality practitioners and quality clinicians and I think it’s really neat if we do have certain students that are very focused on research and writing that we also are ready to jump in there with them.