UHV alumna supports students as licensed specialist in school psychology

From a very young age, Kelsey Schuenemann knew she wanted to work with children and adolescents who were struggling.

And after earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2008 from the University of Houston-Victoria, she spent the next five years pursuing job opportunities across the juvenile mental health field at Gulf Bend Center, juvenile probation services, Child Protective Services, and Mid-Coast Family Services. She held titles that included case manager, family services worker and youth prevention specialist, but none seemed quite right.

Kelsey Schuenemann

“They were all positions I learned from,” Schuenemann said. “None were the exact right fit, so in 2013, I finally went into education.”

Schuenemann obtained her alternative teacher certification through UHV and began teaching fourth grade at Hopkins Elementary in Victoria. As she watched her students struggle in developmental, academic, emotional and behavioral areas, Schuenemann realized that was her true calling.

“It pulled at my heart and made me realize that there needed to be someone on these students’ side who could address the needs behind the academics,” she said. “No one can learn when their fundamental human needs are not being met.”

Schuenemann knew she would need an advanced degree to work in school psychology, and there was no question that she would go back to UHV.

“The quality of instruction I got when I was an undergrad made me want to come back for graduate school,” she said.

She visited the UHV website to explore her options. When she stumbled upon the specialist in school psychology page, she said she was hooked and applied that very same day. She continued to teach at Hopkins Elementary while studying, ultimately graduating from the program in 2018.

The 2021-2022 school year marks Schuenemann’s ninth in the Victoria Independent School District and her fifth working as a licensed specialist in school psychology – a position low in supply and high in demand across the country. The shortage of LSSPs creates stressful, high-pressure workloads, especially since the job involves strict legal deadlines.

At VISD, Schuenemann primarily works with special education students. No two days are the same. Common tasks include testing students for special education services; conducting admission, review and dismissal meetings with teachers and parents; and visiting classrooms to support teacher interventions. Some days Schuenemann must drop her schedule entirely to support a student in crisis.

Despite the difficulties of her job, Schuenemann is grateful to be pursuing her passion. Learning and working in the Victoria area also offers many benefits. She credits much of her success to the strength of the relationships she has formed both at UHV and in her workplace. She is considering furthering her studies in a doctoral program.

“Some of the people I work with now were teachers when I was in high school,” she said. “People get to know you, your work ethic, and that they can trust that you are willing to be the person they need.”

Looking ahead to the future, Schuenemann is excited to continue watching UHV expand. She will be returning to UHV during the fall as a teaching assistant for the school psychology program.

“The campus has doubled or tripled in size since I began my journey many years ago,” she said. “I am excited to see what the future holds for students. I am always proud to say that I am a UHV Jaguar.”

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.

Victoria Hudgeons, Special to UHV