UHV faculty member receives counseling research grant

Karyna Garcia, an assistant professor of counselor education at the University of Houston-Victoria, recently was a recipient of the Chi Sigma Iota Excellence in Counseling Research Grant in the amount of $2,170 for wellness counseling research.

Garcia received the grant for his study titled “The Essential Self: Gay Men’s Perceptions of Spirituality, Gender Identity, Cultural Identity and Self-Care.” This study and grant will help to inform further research into the topic at UHV, Garcia said.

“With this grant, Dr. Garcia will be able to provide and share important insight for counselor education professionals,” said Rachel Martinez, interim dean of the UHV School Education, Health Professions & Human Development. “We are delighted that Dr. Garcia received this grant and look forward to hearing what she learned during this study.”

Garcia joined UHV in 2019 and teaches a variety of counselor education courses, including “Multi-cultural Counseling,” “Counseling Techniques,” and “Addictions Counseling.” She is the faculty advisor of the Mu Kappa Nu chapter of Chi Sigma Iota at UHV. Chi Sigma Iota is an international honor society that recognizes academic excellence in professional counseling. In addition to being the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs Accreditation Liaison for the Counselor Education Program at UHV, Garcia also was appointed this past fall to the Equality and Inclusion Task Force for the Texas Counseling Association.

Each year, Chi Sigma Iota awards three grants for Excellence in Counseling Research in the areas of professional advocacy research, leadership research and wellness counseling research. The committee that awarded Garcia wrote that his proposal stood out from a large number of applications and stated, “Overall, this is a well-written proposal that is very important to the profession.”

Rachel Martinez

This was the first time Garcia applied for the grant, and she said she was pleased with the help and support she received from Martinez, his counselor education faculty colleagues, and the School of Education faculty.

“There is a consistent gap in counseling research in counseling when it comes to underserved populations such as the LGBTQ populations, minority groups or the disabled community,” Garcia said. “It feels appropriate given the current social conversations surrounding diversity to do further research focused on minority populations and learn more about effective counseling techniques for different communities.”

The study will focus on gathering qualitative data into understanding the perception of wellness held by gay men, as well as spirituality, gender identity, cultural identity and self-care. Garcia was inspired to do more research in this area by the concentration of diversity and inclusion activities at UHV, including the Brave Space Series, during which she served as a panelist for a discussion about LGBTQ and faith in the fall.

This research will help inform counseling theory and practice for professional counselors, counselor educators and other counseling stakeholders, Garcia said. The study will involve up to 25 participants and will be completed later this spring. She will present the research findings this summer at the Chi Sigma Iota annual conference. She also will be able to publish his research in an academic journal and would like to publish the study in an LGBTQ research journal.

“The takeaway of this study is to give power to people’s voices so that we can better understand and help others,” Garcia said. “It is important that we learn these stories and honor and respect these voices.”

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.

Amber Aldaco