Merle Keitel

PhD ’87, College Counseling/Student Personnel Work

Merle Keitel.

1)    What is your current position and place of employment?

I direct the counseling programs at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education at the Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan. We have a master’s program in school counseling and mental health counseling and a doctoral program in counseling psychology. I am the current director of training for our APA (American Psychological Association)-accredited doctoral program.

2)    What path led you to attaining your current position?

I majored in psychology at Binghamton University where I volunteered at the university’s counseling service, participated in training as a crisis counselor on a hotline called High Hopes, and worked at a clinic for autistic and developmentally delayed children. After graduating from Binghamton University, I volunteered as a counselor at Planned Parenthood and applied to graduate programs in counseling psychology. I accepted an offer from the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education and went on to receive a rich education. I was fortunate to be offered an academic position as an assistant professor at Fordham University immediately following completion of my doctoral degree requirements at UB.

3)    How did your education in GSE prepare you for this position?

As a doctoral student, I had the opportunity to publish and present with professors and counseling center staff. Drs. Stan Cramer and Robert Rossberg invited me to write an article on the effects of unemployment on the family. Drs. Terry Tracey and Pat Sherry invited me to collaborate on research involving person-environment fit and life satisfaction for university students living in dorms. Having articles published as a graduate student definitely facilitated my obtaining a faculty position right out of graduate school. I also was able to attain a wealth of clinical experience through practica and internships. I spent several years as an extern and graduate assistant at the university’s counseling service, was a research and clinical associate at Roswell Park Memorial Institute (a cancer hospital and research center similar to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City), and completed my pre-doctoral internship at the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center, an APA-accredited site.

4)    What did you learn in your degree program that was the most beneficial?

I learned that I love to learn and that this profession requires a lifetime of learning. On a more concrete level, I learned foundational skills in conducting and evaluating research, and in psychotherapy and counseling (thank you Dr. Greg Bauer for an inspiring psychotherapy seminar and incredible supervision).

5)    What was your favorite part or your most memorable experience during your degree program?

I enjoyed developing strong relationships with peers, professors, counseling center professionals and internship supervisors. The friends I made in graduate school remain quite special to me and I’m still in touch with Dr. Stan Cramer, my mentor and former chair of the department. Recently, I visited with friends from graduate school that I haven’t seen in 20 years and it felt as if no time had passed.

6)    How have you impacted your local community through your work?

My impact has been largely through my scholarship, particularly a co-authored book entitled Counseling Women with Breast Cancer and a coedited book, Handbook of Counseling Women, both with Mary Kopala. I am most proud of the work my doctoral and master’s students do every day to enrich the lives of others. In my 30 years at Fordham I have mentored or served on the dissertation committees of approximately 100 doctoral students and they have gone on to do important work as academics, counseling center staff, private practitioners and psychologists in hospitals and community mental health centers.

7)    What accomplishments (e.g., awards, publications) have you achieved that demonstrate the work you do?

I received the Katherine Scanlon Award from the Graduate School of Education at Fordham, was recognized as a feminist leader through a videotaped interview via the American Psychological Association, and won the James C. Hansen Humanitarian Award from the Graduate School of Education at UB. This was particularly meaningful because I was recommended for the award by my very supportive advisor, Dr. Stan Cramer, for an award bearing the name of the doctoral program director who inspired me to prioritize family and taught me how to do family assessment and therapy.

8)    What advice would you give to current students looking to enter your field?

Counseling psychology is a wonderful specialization that promotes social justice and appreciation of diversity. I love having the opportunity to be involved in research, practice, teaching and advocacy. In addition to contributing directly to mental health or helping others through research and advocacy efforts, the fact that you continue to learn and grow professionally and personally throughout your career and can alter your work demands to fit with changing life circumstances, makes this a highly rewarding profession. I highly encourage students to enter this field and join a community of bright, competent and caring individuals.