UHV Counseling Center director turns passion into career

Growth at University of Houston-Victoria is a whirlwind, and it’s one Hege Riise is more than happy to have been swept away in.

The director of the UHV Counseling Center had an interesting journey to Victoria. Growing up on a dairy farm in a mountain village in Norway, Riise – at age 17 – decided to join a student exchange program. She spent a year on a farm in Illinois attending public school.

Hege Riise

As much as she loves Norway, Riise decided to continue her education in the U.S. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and master’s and doctoral degrees in adult clinical psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She also completed her psychology internship at the New Mexico State University Counseling Center and her postdoctoral fellowship at Arizona State University Counseling Services.

That training was put to use at UHV in November 2012 when she began working as a counseling psychologist, a position originally made possible by a U.S. Department of Justice grant the university received.

Riise spent her first two years growing increasing her leadership skills by focusing on her passion for trauma resolution, multicultural issues, anxiety and mood disorders, and issues with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community. She started a LGBTQ program and went through Safe Zone training to give UHV a support system for LGBTQ employees and students.

“We started off small in the beginning,” she said. “It was something we needed at UHV. A lot of people are coming out, and they need to feel safe doing that.”

The LGBTQ program has grown and organizes activities for UHV employees and students. This includes Denim Day, where people wear denim to raise sexual assault awareness.

“It’s amazing how much it has grown,” Riise said about the program. “It’s taken off, and there is a lot of interest in it. Students are excited about being involved.”

In September 2014, Riise became interim director of the Counseling Center. In February, she transitioned from interim director to director. She has transferred the LGBTQ coordination to another staff member while Riise stays busy operating the center and applying for grants.

“Part of what I love is having the opportunity to grow in many different types of areas,” she said.

Staff Feature is an online profile highlighting staff members at the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a staff member, contact Jeremy Shapiro, UHV communications manager, or call 361-570-4296.

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.