On Sept. 18, Allison Gulati, Dean of Students, announced that Dr. Tim Silvestri had been selected as Muhlenberg’s newest Director of Counseling Services.
Silvestri, who holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology from Lehigh University and completed his psychology residency at the University of Pennsylvania, comes to Muhlenberg from Lafayette College, where he served as the Assistant Director of Lafayette’s Counseling Center. Silvestri is also no stranger to Muhlenberg, as he is both an alumnus (Class of 1992) and a part-time faculty member at the Wescoe School.
Now, he is tasked with leading an oft-maligned component of Student Health Services at the College. Needless to say, Silvestri is excited to meet the challenge head-on.
“When I meet with students or I’m walking on Academic Row, it feels nice to be surrounded by your own community,” said Silvestri. “It’s truly amazing and rewarding to be able to give back to the community that has supported me so deeply.”
Recent improvements to the Counseling Center began in earnest in Dec. 2016, when the College formally identified short and long-term plans. At the forefront of concerns was the approximately three week-long waiting list to see a counselor.
Currently, with respect to waiting times, the overall goal of the Center is to ensure that students looking for ongoing counseling wait no longer than four days and that students seeking a single, time-sensitive session wait no longer than two days. According to Silvestri, the Center has been “able to strike a balance” between the single and ongoing tracks and thus is meeting those goals as it enters the peak phase of counseling requests for the semester without a waiting list.
“We want to meet folks in the community and do outreach to arm people with skills to give them tools to combat stress,” said Silvestri.
Silvestri attributes these improvements to the work of Dean Gulati, Brynnmarie Dorsey, the Executive Director of Student Health Services, and the Counseling Center staff — which, including Silvestri, has two new counselors this year.
In addition to new staff for this academic year, Silvestri stated that there will be a further expansion moving forward with the incorporation of doctoral interns.
“These advanced trainees can bring in a fresh perspective with current trends that students can relate to,” said Silvestri. “It will help us expand our diversity in terms of staff, interests and perspectives.”
However, the Center is completing other changes that reach beyond staffing.
In the coming months, the Center will begin holding workshops for students on topics of relationships, stress management, and authenticity and performance. Currently, the workshops will begin in a “soft rollout” phase, with full integration by next year.
“We want to meet folks in the community and do outreach to arm people with skills to give them tools to combat stress,” said Silvestri. “These are workshops I’ve held at other colleges that have been well received and I’m excited to bring them here.”
Hosting such workshops was one of the areas of improvement that Gulati mentioned when discussing longer-term changes at the Center. What will be important is properly balancing in-office counseling with outreach events.
“When it comes to physical and mental health and well-being, we need to proactively give students the tools to make good decisions and manage their own health,” Gulati told The Weekly in December. “We also need to be effective in being responsive when students are in need of support.”
Silvestri agrees, saying “when a counseling center is functioning at its best, it is there to not only reduce stress, but also to enhance vitality.”
But for now, four weeks into his tenure as director, Silvestri is appreciative of those who came before him and is excited to continue to work with his staff to improve general health and wellness for students on campus.
“It’s been a real team effort that began before I arrived,” said Silvestri. “We now have a nice package that will really serve students well.”