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UHV counseling educator teaches how music, basketball can help clients

Wayne Smith, a University of Houston-Victoria assistant professor of counselor education, said the biggest influences in his choice of career were God and his mother.

Wayne Smith

His mother was diagnosed with lupus when Smith was an infant. She learned to live with the illness and a number of breast cancer diagnoses while dedicating her life to serving others. She is now a school bus driver for Coastal Bend College in Beeville and helps adult learners read and write.

“She’s always been a model of goodness, of true altruism,” Smith said. “Because of her influence, I’m a natural helper.”

Smith, who earned his doctorate from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in August and began teaching at UHV in the fall, said he modeled his behavior off of his mother’s and eventually turned it into a career in counseling and teaching.

During his counseling courses, Smith teaches his students to employ music when working with their clients. The rhythm and lyrics offer a way into the person’s feelings. Songs with the theme of anger, for example, can help people access and explore their feelings of anger.

“Music is important to us,” Smith said. “Music evokes strong emotions and memories.”

Smith uses other methods to help his clients. An avid NBA and college basketball fan, Smith said he has taken at-risk youth to a basketball court for a game of one-on-one. Eventually, he said, they open up to him in what is a safe, familiar place.

Along the lines of helping people, Smith received a $6,000 grant for the 2016-2017 school year to perform a study he hopes will lead to a way to assist freshmen in coping with stressors during their first year on campus.

Fifty students will be chosen for the study. Half will spend time at a relaxation station and learn a technique with a heart monitor as they watch a video that trains them to control their heartbeat. It’s meant to give the students a way to control anxiety.

Smith and two other UHV faculty members have applied for a $731,599 grant that would go toward training students to detect when a client needs intervention and treatment. Students would learn how to engage patients suffering from substance abuse, Smith said.

His dissertation focused on how college students’ behavior impacts career decisions, but he’s also spent a lot of time researching how Hispanic students function. His experience growing up influenced his pursuit.

Originally from Ohio, Smith and his mom moved to Houston when he was 13. It was the first time he’d been exposed to a large Hispanic and diverse population. About two years later, the family moved to Beeville, where the neighborhood he lived in was made up mostly of Hispanic people.

“I felt right at home,” he said. “I felt accepted and connected with my community at all levels.”

His time in Beeville eventually led to research, his doctorate and a job at UHV. But for Smith, it’s not just a career.

“I see it more as a calling,” he said.

Faculty Feature is an online feature highlighting faculty members from each of the University of Houston-Victoria’s three schools. To nominate a faculty 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, offers courses leading to 70 bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degree programs and concentrations 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 a teaching center in Katy, 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.