Psychology professor helps students overcome challenges to succeed

Elise Hendricker, a University of Houston-Victoria assistant professor of school psychology and director of the psychology program, has a strong desire to help children find out what they need to succeed in school.

Hendricker’s passion to help students succeed led her to pursue a career in school psychology so she can help others fulfill that same desire.

“I always knew that I wanted to work with children in some regard,” Hendricker said. “I just didn’t quite know how.”

Hendricker realized education is a big equalizer in terms of opportunities for growth as an individual. She knows from firsthand experience.

“School was kind of my saving grace,” she said. “I had a lot going on in life, so I always felt safe at school. I was lucky to be successful in school, which is really what propelled me. So, I wanted to give back by making sure children receive a proper education and have a great school experience that hopefully will propel them in life, as well.”

Originally from Beardstown, Ill., Hendricker earned her bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois, then received both her master’s and doctoral degrees in school psychology at the University of Missouri.

Before she started teaching at UHV, Hendricker worked with about 10 different schools as a school psychologist for the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District. She worked full time for the school district from 2010 to 2013 before starting at UHV.

“I still worked as a school psychologist at Cypress-Fairbanks while working at UHV full time from 2013 to 2018,” Hendricker said. “I still had one campus at the school district that I went to regularly. I was their go-to person for children who needed psychological services. I thought it was important to stay in the schools, and it really helped my teaching. I was able to take examples and things that I saw in the schools and share those experiences with my students at UHV.”

Helping children is different from helping adults, she said. Hendricker thinks there are many factors to consider when working with children.

“They are growing, changing and developing, so I had to take those things into consideration when teaching them,” she said. “They might change from one day to the next or one year to the next, so educators have to consider that. They go to school, have friends and have family situations along with things they are exposed to in their cultures and social media. I think when working with children, there are so many environmental influences that we must take into account to work with them effectively.” 

Hendricker said the biggest thing she learned as a school psychologist is that every child is different.

“Educators and counselors may have assumptions about things that are going on, but we must dig deeper to learn more about the children and what they are going through,” Hendricker said. “Every child is kind of like a puzzle or a mystery, and we must figure out what’s going on and how to put the pieces of the puzzle together to help the child. I think that’s what really draws me to psychology.”

Working at UHV is enjoyable for many reasons, she said.

“I love that UHV has a small-town feel,” Hendricker said. “I really get to know my students, and they know me by name, and I know them by name. I’ve cultivated close relationships with them, particularly in our three-year graduate program, so I get to see how much they grow over a three-year period. I also really enjoy the diversity, and how UHV attracts a lot of nontraditional students. I love graduation day when people walk across the stage and I hear people say things like ‘That’s my mom!’ I really enjoy that we are catering to students who may not have the opportunity to access education in a traditional way.”

She thinks the UHV psychology program has a lot to offer students. Hendricker said many of the faculty members in the program have experience working in schools, so they know how to work with students, teachers and families.

“Our program is small, and a lot of students seem to enjoy that,” she said. “They get to know us on a first-name basis. We get to know them. We’re a family-friendly environment. I think the biggest draw to our program is that it is nontraditional. We have students from all walks of life. The diversity of our students creates a really rich classroom environment.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Lisa Shapiro, Special to UHV