“I love my job. I love counseling,” said Brittany Howell, multicultural specialist and counselor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. “Being a former student of color on campus and to now help current students navigate the same journey, it’s full circle.”
Howell, a licensed professional counselor, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW-Platteville and returned to her alma mater in December 2021, with the focus of providing counseling services to minority student populations. In her role, Howell facilitates programming including Mental Health Monday, a weekly multicultural support group and is the liaison for the athletics department in providing mental health resources to student-athletes. Howell explains how the outreach programs allow students to have a safe place to engage in open dialogue about mental health topics.
“We have talked about stress management and healthy relationships. The next Mental Health Monday is November 28. In that discussion, we’ll be talking about anxiety and depression,” said Howell. “The multicultural support group aims to establish a sense of belonging and community for the minority student population on campus, through dialogue and sharing their personal experiences as they relate to being a student of color on campus. It’s an overall opportunity for the students to connect with one another.”
According to Howell, for many underrepresented minority students, attending UW-Platteville can be a difficult transition, where students can feel isolated and experience imposter syndrome [involving feelings of self-doubt of their skills, talents and accomplishments], however Howell notes, having more representation on campus can help students feel more comfortable in expressing their concerns.
“It’s already hard for students of color to ask for help. Having someone they can identify with can make it easier for them to engage in those help-seeking behaviors,” said Howell. “It allows students to feel understood. It creates a cultural space for them to be themselves. It shows the university is committed to prioritizing minority student populations by acknowledging the mental health needs of the students.”
Prior to joining UW-Platteville, Howell worked in Milwaukee as a vocational rehabilitation counselor and spontaneously looked at the university’s website. Howell saw the multicultural specialist opening and knew she had to apply. When students hear about Howell’s days of being a Pioneer, from being the former president of the Black Student Union to being a practicum student in the UW-Platteville counseling office, Howell said they’re often surprised. She emphasized the importance of her students knowing about her undergraduate and graduate days.
“It gives students a sigh of relief,” said Howell. “Most students are appreciative of the connection we make, whether it’s through individual counseling or through one of the programs. Students find it comforting to know that I also walked the same path before.”
As Howell embarks on her one-year anniversary of being back in the southwest corner of the state, she said her favorite part of her position is guiding students to see they have the key to their success.
“I’m committed to creating these spaces for students of color, because I know first-hand how it feels to feel isolated, alone and to not have a sense of belonging,” said Howell. “To witness the progress students are making when they decide to put their mental health first and prioritize themselves, to take care of themselves – witnessing that progress is the gratification I need to stay in this position.”
To learn more about University Counseling Services, visit www.uwplatt.edu/department/counseling-services.
To learn more about the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, visit www.uwplatt.edu/department/office-multicultural-student-affairs.
Written by Ruth Wendlandt