New Counseling Center Director

Jessie Hellmann

In high school, Thomas Longwell experienced the attempted suicide of one of his classmates. From that moment, Longwell knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life helping people.

“In my group of friends, I was always the listener: kind of the advisor of the group,” Longwell said.

Longwell is the new director of USI’s counseling center, hired just 19 months after the former director, James Browning, was fired for possessing marijuana in his university office and home.

Longwell received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Pacific University in Oregon and a master of science degree in behavior analysis and therapy from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Longwell comes to USI from Eastern Kentucky University, a school roughly the size of USI. However, he notices one major difference between the two universities.

“(USI) being a younger school, it seems like there is a great sense of community I’m really feeling here,” Longwell said. “There just seems to be a lot of energy that I really like.”

EKU’s counseling center also has achieved accreditation, and USI’s has not.

“I think accreditation is a good thing, and I think it’s something we might pursue,” Longwell said.

He said accreditation is desirable, because it will provide an outside opinion for the counseling center.

“Accreditation is a good thing, because you get somebody from the outside that’s not from your world, not from your perspective.”

Although he expresses that accreditation is a desirable goal to achieve, Longwell doesn’t know if it will happen anytime soon.

“Just with the state of affairs in terms of the economy, budget issues, I don’t know if that [accreditation] is going to happen right away.”

Longwell expressed several steps the counseling center can take to help the student body without hiring more staff. He said outreach is an important part of trying to address students’ needs before they get to too advanced.

“Personally, I’d love to see more (staff), but we’re going to do what we need to do.”

Longwell’s current main goal is to make the counseling center a place where students can come and receive kind and compassionate help during a time that is difficult for a lot of people.

“I don’t know if we’re every going to be able to meet everybody’s needs,” Longwell said. “I’m not sure that’s possible, but were going to do what we can to meet the majority of the needs that we can.”