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Meet Nicole Cross: Austin Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program Director

by South University
May 14, 2018
An image of several South University nursing students.  The image has the National Nurses Week 2018 logo in the right corner.  It reads nurses inspire, innovate, influence.

Dr. Nicole Cross is the type of person whose positivity, excitement, and passion for her work is immediately apparent and contagious from the minute you meet her.

"I love any opportunity that allows me to communicate with and educate others, whether it is public or motivational speaking, counseling, consulting, coaching, teaching, or journalism," she says. "When I can talk with other people, when I can help someone and support them in making important life decisions, that is when I'm the happiest."

Establishing a Successful Career & Expertise in Counseling

Today an accomplished journalist, educator, and mental health professional, Dr. Cross initially began her career focused on counseling. After earning a bachelor's in psychology and speech communications, a master’s in behavioral sciences, and a PhD in counselor education, Dr. Cross practiced in both private clinics and various public health agencies. Her career highlights include serving as the Texas Southern University Director of the Office of University Counseling, Career, and Disability Services and later as the Director of Counseling and Behavioral Health for The Potter's House of Dallas (a 30,000 member megachurch led by Pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes).

On the side, Dr. Cross served as a relationship expert for a Houston radio show and, in time, became an in-demand speaker at conferences, seminars, and events on effective communication practices, self-improvement, and relationships. She even found time to teach college courses online and in person.

Bridging Psychology, Health, & Journalism

By 30, Dr. Cross was happy with her success, yet was unsure of her next move up in counseling. Instead, she decided to recommit to her interest in journalism—something she first remembers exploring as part of her middle school newspaper. "You've got Dr. Oz and you've got Dr. Phil," she says. "Why not Dr. Cross?"

After studying broadcast journalism at the New York Film Academy, which later named her a distinguished alumni, Dr. Cross began working as a news anchor and health reporter. She started a “Healthy Living with Dr. Nicole” show and later hosted a personal health program featuring local health professionals. Most recently, in Austin, she led the popular Wellness Wednesday segment, educating viewers on how to talk to children about topics like friendships, relationships, and cyberbullying.

Since becoming a journalist in 2013, Dr. Cross has earned awards that include four Associated Press awards and an Emmy nomination for Breaking News Coverage. “I took a major risk trying something new, not knowing if I would sink or swim,” she says. “Those awards bring to life my philosophy that all things are possible. I use it as a testimonial to anyone willing to risk trying something new. The same rules apply: if you work hard, it will pay off.”

Returning to the Classroom

While anchoring in Austin, Dr. Cross began teaching at South University and soon found herself wanting to get more involved in the program; education is something Dr. Cross has always felt strongly about.

"The moments in my life that helped me and motivated me, as much as it was my family, it was also those educators who went the extra mile to keep me on the right path," she says. "I want to be that for someone. I want to be the reason someone works that much harder. Gets that extra degree or challenges themselves to go further than they expected or further than they've been exposed to in their personal lives."

In 2018, Dr. Cross became the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program Director at South University, Austin and is enjoying educating a new generation of counselors. "I'm at this stage in life when it's about significance and meaningfulness and purpose," she says. "It's about me being a change agent for others, and as Program Director I can do that."

Discover Our Clinical Mental Health Counseling (MA) Program

Interested in a career in Clinical Mental Health Counseling? This Master of Arts degree program can help you prepare, allowing you to explore the theories, principles, and dynamic applications in the field, get training in effective assessment and treatment practices, study the significance of research in the field, and gain competence in ethical, legal, and professional standards. Request information or learn more today.

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Faculty Tips for Reducing Stress as a Student

by South University
April 11, 2018

Often, we think of individual events or issues as the cause of our stress. The stress of completing our coursework, paying a bill, or a problem at work is seen as unique. In reality, stress can be cumulative, crossing over from your job to your personal life and even to your classes. In this blog, we'll look closely at cumulative stress and explore several techniques you can use for managing stress.

What is Cumulative Stress?

Stress is the body's response to any demand made on it, and light stress—when you believe that you can cope with the demands you currently face—can actually be motivating and energizing.

However, as various causes of stress start adding up, the total cumulative stress you feel increases. Such causes might include:

  • Deadlines and commitments (like assignment due dates)
  • Financial problems
  • Relationship troubles
  • Health problems
  • Work problems

So, what happens when cumulative stress is left unchecked and the stressors in your life remain? While we may hope to let stress roll off our backs, it's more likely you're piling on the stress and carrying it everywhere you go. Over time, cumulative stress can lead to health and psychological problems such as:

  • Headaches
  • Indigestion/nausea
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Poor judgement and memory problems
  • Nervousness/anxiousness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem

Tips for Managing Stress

Now for the good news: stress can be managed. Beginning right now, here's what you can do to significantly reduce your cumulative stress.

  1. Be healthy: Start by looking at your daily life. Track how much physical activity you get, what you eat, and how much you drink alcohol or smoke. Most of us speed through the day so fast that we don’t realize what our day actually includes. After taking a good look at ourselves, we can see how to become healthier. It could be as simple as eating more vegetables or a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Even a daily walk will help.
  2. Have fun: Laughing is good for you, so find time to have fun and to laugh. It's also important to stay positive. Finding the good in the world, even when faced with significant challenges, will lead to reduced stress.
  3. Relax: To relax and reset, you need to take breaks, not just from work but also in your personal life and your school work. We don’t mean a 6-month vacation, just a few breaks during the day, where you leave behind life's problems for a time, possibly by doing one of the following:
    • Read a book (other than your text). There is nothing like diving into a good mystery, fantasy, or romance novel—or even your favorite magazine—to separate you from daily stress.
    • Play a game. (Remember, there is a difference between taking a break and procrastinating, so don’t use your breaks as a way to delay work.)
    • Exercise. Take a short walk, stretch, or do light aerobic exercises to revitalize your body. During the exercise, let your mind think about things other than what is causing your stress.
  4. Use your time wisely. Everyone talks about time management as if it's some complicated process that only high-priced consultants can figure out. That's simply not true. Start by keeping a journal for a few days on what you do throughout the day. You’ll be amazed how much time is spent on things like looking for clothes in the morning, finding the kids' library book, or playing your favorite video game.

    From there, find ways to streamline or cut back on things that take too much time. An hourly schedule might not be needed, but a calendar of daily chores or appointments could likely help you organize your time at home and work. Within your schedule, prioritize your coursework by putting aside time, not just for the assignments, but also to study and complete your readings.

The More You Know...

Improving your ability to deal with stress and knowing that stress be carried from one environment to another (i.e. job to home) may have a long-term impact on improving your resilience and your health. If, before or after trying these tips, you'd like to talk with someone about your stress, contact your Academic Counselor or Student Affairs to ask about the resources available through the South University Counseling Center.

About the Author

Mark Fabbri Ph.D. is the Chair for Psychology Online at South University. Dr. Fabbri has been teaching for South University since 2006 and lives in Michigan.

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5 Healthcare Degrees and Career Paths Outside Nursing

by Jared Newnam
January 24, 2017

A career in healthcare isn’t only for nurses or doctors. With the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS) expecting the creation of 2.3 million healthcare jobs between 2014 and 2024, you have many options for pursuing a career in healthcare. If you’re drawn to helping others and bettering your community but practicing medicine isn’t for you, below are five healthcare degrees that can prepare you for other rewarding healthcare jobs.

1. Public Health Degree

With a public health degree you can prepare for a career where you work to improve health across local, national, and global communities and to make a large-scale impact on the world.

Public health career options are diverse, with opportunities to conduct disease research, influence legislative and social policy, solve health-related problems, and develop and lead programs that promote healthy lifestyles and teach disease prevention. Job growth and salaries in the field likewise vary, according to the BLS. For example, job growth for epidemiologists (who research diseases) is projected at 6%, about as fast as the average for all occupations, whereas health educators and community health workers can expect higher job growth at 13%. In 2015, epidemiologists saw a median annual wage of $69,450, with health educators at $51,960 and community health workers at $36,300.

While a Bachelor of Science in Public Health can help you to get started in this field, some public health occupations require a Master of Public Health degree.

2. Healthcare Management Degree

Healthcare managers plan, direct, and coordinate healthcare services, with leadership and administrative duties that are critical to the health of institutions and individuals. To prepare you for this responsibility, healthcare management degree programs teach both industry-specific knowledge and foundational management competencies involving critical thinking, analysis, and decision-making.

According to the BLS, medical and health services management is a growing and financially rewarding field, with an above average job growth of 17% and a 2015 median annual wage of $94,500. While a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management can equip you for many positions, the BLS notes that some employers prefer individuals who also have master’s degrees.

3. Psychology Degree

Fascinated by what makes people tick? Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology is the first step toward a career in psychology, or the scientific study of what drives human behavior. A bachelor’s psychology degree can prepare for you for entry-level positions in psychology—like counselor aide, therapeutic assistant, career advisor, or caseworker—or for continuing on to graduate school. Other jobs, such as psychologist or clinical counselor, require advance studies beyond an undergraduate psychology degree.

While a psychology degree can lead to many careers, the BLS predicts a 19% job growth for psychologists and reported a 2015 median annual salary of $72,580 for this position.

4. Physical Therapist Assistant Degree

A physical therapist assistant career allows you to work one-on-one with patients under a physical therapist’s supervision. In this role, you would support and train patients with therapy exercises and activities, treat patients using special equipment and procedures, and report on patient progress as you help guide them back to health.

Beyond enjoying a fulfilling career, physical therapist assistants can expect to be in demand, with the BLS projecting an impressive 41% employment growth. In terms of median annual salary, physical therapists assistants brought in $55,170 in 2015. To pursue this career, you’ll need to complete an Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant degree program and fulfill state licensing requirements.

5. Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree

While physical therapy assistants typically focus on patients recovering from injuries, occupational therapy assistants specialize in helping patients build and recover skills required for daily life. Work under the guidance of an occupational therapist, occupational therapy assistants may:

  • Help children with developmental disabilities become more independent
  • Assist older adults with physical and cognitive changes
  • Teach patients how to use special equipment
  • Perform patient evaluations and support ongoing patient care

The BLS also anticipates promising growth for occupational therapy assistant careers with a 43% rise in employment. In 2015, occupational therapy assistants also reported a median salary of $57,870. If you’re interested in this rapidly growing career path, earning an Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree should be your first step, followed by pursuing any state licensing requirements.

Explore Your Options for Healthcare Programs at South University

With an academic tradition of excellence that’s lasted over 100 years, South University has helped to prepare thousands of students for success in the healthcare field. Here, you’ll discover over 25 campus-based and online programs that can equip you for a career in healthcare. To learn about the healthcare degrees offered in South University’s College of Health Professions, College of Nursing and Public Health, and even our College of Business (with graduate and undergraduate healthcare management degree programs), call us at 1.800.688.0932 or request information today.

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Student Bobby Porter Inspired by His Own Experiences to Give Back

by South University
May 21, 2015
What does South University mean to me?

Like many South University students, Bobby Porter feels strongly about giving back to his community and helping the individuals within it. In fact, he was drawn to studying psychology through his own experience of raising a son diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Currently in his third year of the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program at South University, Savannah, Bobby has plans to pursue a master’s degree and then a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, so that he can eventually achieve his goal of helping children who have multiple disabilities. Somehow, between classes, his own family time, and everything else that makes up a full schedule, he’s already started working on a book intended to help families with children that simultaneously have Asperger's Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder—a book he hopes will “give parents a better understanding on what all we have gone through over the past 16 years and let them know they are not alone in this big world.”

With over 26 years of prior experience as an EMT, First Responder, and Lieutenant for a Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department, Bobby has already made a tremendous impact on the lives of many, and now he’s hoping his experience of keeping people calm in traumatic and trying circumstances will also be applicable in his future psychology career. More recently, he’s been volunteering with the American Red Cross, this time focusing on providing emotional rather than physical.

“It’s all about giving back,” he says, recalling his family member’s pasts as firefighters, paramedics, and doctors. “That’s how I was taught. For years, my dad, my granddad, my whole family has been devoted to volunteer work.”

Bobby is also working on an initiative to start educational programs on topics like healthy eating, teen peer pressure, and other important topics—something he decided to do after calling local organizations and police departments looking for a DARE group or something similar and coming up empty handed.

“I was in one of those programs growing up, and it worked really well for me. I ended up teaching that same program for years, and I want to continue that tradition,” he explains. He’s also built up his own educational website at http://www.blp2.com/ as a resource for parents and other psychology students.

Education is another cause he feels strongly about and something he sees as a powerful tool for achieving your goals. At one point, Bobby’s wife suffered an injury that left her unable to work, leaving their family in tough times. “I knew I had to take control and do something. I had to find a job and a career that could get me out of the situation I was in. The only way I could do that was to get more education under my belt,” he explains. For Bobby, this decision has changed his life, helping him to discover his passion for psychology and leading him to inspire his own college-age daughter to pursue a degree at South University as well.

He says, “What you achieve and what you learn at South University, you’ll carry it with you the rest of your life.”

For more from Bobby, read his essay “What does South University mean to me?”.

See http://ge.southuniversity.edu/programoffering/1603 page for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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What does South University mean to me?

by South University
May 17, 2015
What does South University mean to me?

Written by Bobby L. Porter
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology student
South University, Savannah

We live in a land of opportunity, and each of us needs to take advantage of the many opportunities we are given to form a brighter future for ourselves. To me, South University is my opportunity to further my goals. Having a chance to attend school and get an education that will prepare me for a rewarding career is priceless.

If, as individuals, we fail to realize our ability to positively impact the surrounding world—from minor to major transformations—it will be nearly impossible for communities to evolve into stronger versions of their current selves. But, when we realize our potential to change the world around us and pass along our knowledge from present to future generations, we ensure the efficient progression of society.

In the current information age, I believe education is the key to societal advancement. South University encourages social and economic progression by preserving the American dream of opportunity and giving us the tools to succeed. I have learned that going back to school and getting my education through South University is only beneficial if I am persistent, work hard, and fully utilize this opportunity. It is the individual who decides what to do with the capability to learn; using it wisely will lead to positive improvement.

Furthermore, South University encourages democratic ideals by giving students the freedom to explore and ask questions. I have learned that I can succeed by questioning what I do not understand and taking advantage of opportunities to expand my realm of knowledge. South University inspires me to break boundaries in order to fully utilize my abilities for personal and societal improvement.

I would not have accomplished as much as I have at South University if it wasn’t for my Admissions Representative, Christine Smith. She was the first one to see something in me and help me to get the ball rolling and admitted to my first class. The next person to have a large hand in my success is my Student Finance Counselor Bill Pettis, who was able to help me find the finances I needed to attend the university. Lastly, I would like to thank my Academic Counselor Pamela Stamer for her ability to keep my academic skills polished, fine-tuned, and work to prepare me to develop into a graduate student.

Now the time has come to hand down the torch to my daughter. I still remember the day we brought her home after being at the hospital for over 120 days. Now she is 19, out of high school and entering her first classes in a school that I know will treat her with the upmost respect. That school goes by the name of South University. By going to this school, I believe she will secure a brighter future and a chance to live the same American dream of opportunity that has been given to me through South University.

In closing, I would like to say thank you to South University for being a part of our educational success and for giving my family the chance to have a future.

See http://ge.southuniversity.edu/programoffering/1603 page for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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