Grace College hosted its largest-ever online graduate counseling Residency the first week of August. The tenth annual Residency brought 110 students and seven faculty from across the nation to Grace’s campus in Winona Lake, Ind., for a week. The purpose of the residency is two-fold: to teach important concepts and skills to prepare the students for the next year of classes and to foster opportunities for students to build peer-to-peer and student-faculty relationships.
“I remember our first residency in 2012,” said Dr. Jenny Preffer, professor of online Graduate Counseling. “There were only three faculty and 15 students. We’ve come a long way since then, and it brings me so much joy to see the program grow,” she said.
This year’s Residency included numerous opportunities for students to connect, including a welcome dinner with guest speakers Cokiesha Bailey Robinson and Dr. Deb Musser, an equine therapy experience for second-year students and a farewell dinner for third-year students. In addition to spending a day at the park team building and riding the Grace boat, the faculty celebrated the third-year students’ hard work with dinner, games and prizes.
According to Daniel Marquez, a first-year student in the program, Residency is crucial for students to feel connected with their online classmates and to Grace as an institution. “There were many times throughout the week where I saw students sitting together and sharing in community with each other as they not only talked about what they had just learned but also about their lives. I often heard many praises and remarks from my peers about how nice and beautiful the campus was as they got to walk around and explore,” said Marquez.
While many online CACREP-accredited programs require a residency, Grace is rare in offering both Residency and synchronous classroom sessions. Therefore, the relationships established at Residency continue to grow throughout the year as the students meet synchronously for classes, advising and group projects.
“Residency is a mainstay for Grace College graduate counseling because it helps students build a strong support system,” said Preffer. “We are intentional about building relationships while being rigorous in our academics — that is what a Grace education is all about,” she said.