Adams State to award first Ph.D.s


The first graduates of Adams State University's doctoral program in counselor education and supervision will receive their Ph.D. degrees Saturday, May 12, at the 1:30 p.m. commencement ceremony for graduate students. The commencement ceremony for undergraduate students will be held at 10 a.m. that day. Both ceremonies will be held in Plachy Hall. During the morning ceremony, the university will award 179 associate's degrees and 236 Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. The afternoon ceremony will award 418 Master of Arts, 14 Master of Science, and 8 doctorate degrees.

Initiated in 2014, Adams State's doctoral program prepares counselor educators and supervisors to serve as faculty members, researchers, and practitioners in academic and clinical settings. The degree also qualifies them to assume leadership positions in the counseling profession and/or their area(s) of specialization. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs recently granted accreditation to the program. Adams State is one of only seven institutions in the nation to offer an online, CACREP-accredited doctoral program. CACREP is a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

The address at the graduate commencement will be given by Mark Vander Ley, who is the "first of the first" - he was the first doctoral candidate to successfully defend his dissertation. It was titled "The Relationship Between Father Emotional Intelligence and Parenting Style." He said his commencement address will relate to the idea that "We've accomplished great things and we can have all the funny hats and fancy robes, but if they keep us from serving people, it doesn't mean a whole lot."

Vander Ley, who lives in Quincy, IL, is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Illinois and a Licensed Professional Counselor in Missouri. For the last 11 years, he has provided counseling for children, adolescents, and their families. He has worked in residential, outpatient, school counseling, and private practice settings. He has also supervised practicum and internship students, as well as those seeking licensure. In 2017 he started his own private practice and specializes in working with adolescent males who have experienced trauma and couples in distress.

Vander Ley earned a Bachelor of Arts in business administration in 1999 from Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA, followed in 2006 by a master's degree from University of Phoenix in marriage, family and child therapy.

Curtis Garcia will give the undergraduate commencement address.

Adams State Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Curtis Garcia will give the undergraduate commencement address, entitled "You Didn't Learn Everything in College." He says, "We graduate college having learned a great deal of knowledge and skills that prepare us for entering the workforce. But there is a great deal we don't learn in college that only life and experience can teach us. It is important we remain open to these lessons as life-long learners entering a world full of unknowns."

Garcia is a San Luis Valley native who earned his bachelor's degree from Yale University, then returned home to work as an educator. He completed a Master of Art degree in educational leadership with Colorado professional principal licensure from Adams State in 2011. He is now working on a Ph.D. in educational leadership research and policy at University of Colorado - Colorado Springs.

Garcia served in the Centennial School District from 2008-15 as a social studies teacher, director of special programs, then as principal, a post he held from 2012-15. He was recognized in 2013 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Cross State Learning Collaborative with the Integration Award for Outstanding Principal Leadership. He also does educational consulting work. Currently, he is a community coordinator for the Enhancing Civic Education Project, as well as a regional specialist in the Educator Effectiveness Unit for the Colorado Department of Education.

He joined the faculty of Adams State's Teacher Education Department in 2014 and has served as project director for three Title II grants to improved teacher quality. Currently, he is directing Project SERVE (Supporting Early Recruitment and Retention of Valley Educators). The program seeks to alleviate the teacher shortage in rural Colorado by supporting local high school students interested in becoming teachers.

Since 2010, Garcia has been a Los Padres Trainer for the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition. Other community service includes serving as a board member and vice president of the Center for Restorative Programs, and serving on the board of the Colorado Children's Campaign.