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Today I have the great honor of presenting the All Together One award to Dr. Sarah Jones.  Sarah serves as a staff psychologist at the Counseling & Student Development Center (CSDC) and has been a member of the JMU community for many years, as she received her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1994 and her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology in 2003 from the University.

When writing the speech for today’s ceremony, I had problems deciding where to begin.  Sarah has contributed so much to the JMU community and there were three glowing nominations on her behalf.  She is truly an unsung hero that deserves this recognition.  While an outstanding professor will receive excellent evaluations, great recommendations on the infamous student rating website, and word of mouth references, students who seek counseling at JMU’s Varner House are not as open about their experience.  Due to the confidentiality of such a service, it is unknown how many lives Sarah has touched.  Yet one of those students that has been the recipient of Sarah’s guidance was gracious enough to not only submit a nomination for her friend and mentor but also emailed others in the JMU community to ask them to do the same.  The result was nominations from different departments about the dedication and service of Dr. Sarah Jones.

I would be remiss in presenting this award if I didn’t share the wonderful things that Kim, a graduate student at JMU, says about Sarah.  She says, “But in my five years at JMU, one person has made a bigger impact on my life in a mere five months than all of the people I’ve known at this university.”  She continues in her nomination by noting that after seeking help from many different avenues,

It wasn’t until my first session with Sarah Jones that I was able to experience and understand aspects of myself that I previously repressed and avoided.  In an hour’s time, she summarized my feelings with precision and generous expression.  Because of Sarah’s patience, understanding, and acceptance, my attitude changed.  It changed because I now feel better equipped to cope with life’s problems more adequately and comfortably.  Sarah showed me the essential entanglement of learning with life.  She clarified the meaning of intrinsic motivation and showed me the fundamental inadequacy of extrinsic rewards.  Sarah’s clinical skill, constantly challenges me to become better integrated, more self-directing, self-expressive, and unique.  In a sense, Sarah has helped me become more of a person.

Kim continues by saying that Sarah “does not simply ‘fix’ people, rather she provides a relationship which people can use for their own personal growth.  Such attunement to others is an art.  Sarah has mastered this art and continues to assist students in need through various mediums such as therapy, outreach, and consultation.”

All that Sarah’s done for students like Kim would be enough for her to deserve the All Together One award, but she has impacted many other areas of campus as well.  In addition to her primary duties at CSDC, Sarah serves as a co-advisor to Phi Beta Delta, an international honor society.  Sarah also serves as a liaison to the Interdisciplinary Services for Learning Assessment.  Additionally, Sarah works with the CSDC’s Psy.D. Practicum Program and serves as a liaison between CSDC and the Department of Graduate Psychology.  David Onestak and Shirley Cobb, the Director and Associate Director of the Counseling & Student Development Center note in their nomination letter that Sarah has “provided individual supervision and training in psychometric assessment, multicultural awareness, and professional ethics for the Center’s pre-doctoral interns.  Similar to the clients to whom she provides clinical services, practicum students and interns have given Sarah excellent evaluations and described her as attentive, validating, insightful, and competent. 

Melinda Burchard, learning strategies coordinator for the Office of Disability Services, shared the great job that Sarah did collaborating with campus groups to help one student.  Melinda said that “on behalf of one student, Sarah collaborated with the Office of Disability Services, the Office of Residence Life, Orientation and others to help coordinate a comprehensive support system.  She taught many in the collaborative team lessons about confidentiality, flexibility, sensitivity and communication.” 

I hope after hearing about Sarah’s involvement it is as obvious to you as it was to the selection committee that she deserves this award.  On behalf of Omicron Delta Kappa, I’m pleased to present this year’s All Together One award to an unsung hero who is helping students, one student at a time.  Congratulations Sarah!

Written by: Jamie Lockhart

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