Our new program director brings her community experience to the Alliant programs.
“I see the value of online learning and I'm hopeful that we can inspire others in rural communities to access this program and grow a flourishing community of professionals.”
Dr. Sherri Sedler, associate professor, and new school counseling program director at the California School of Education at Alliant International University, has always been able to see an area that needs help and go above and beyond to find a solution. She has spent the bulk of her career using this talent to ensure students in her own rural community have access to the mental health resources they need and continues to do so today.
Sherri’s college journey started in her thirties while she was raising her children. She earned an associative arts degree in psychology, followed by a bachelor’s degree in child development with a minor in psychology at Stanislaus State University. It was here where Sherri met her mentor, Dr. Victoria Cortez, who guided her toward a master’s degree in counseling and helped start her teaching career.
While earning her master’s degree in counseling at Sacramento State University, Sherri found an opportunity to earn her practicum hours at a local school district that didn’t have any counselors for their students. When this practicum turned into a paying position with the district, she added a PPS school counseling credential to her training. Sherri was able to use this opportunity to not only build her career but show the value of what a school counselor can do. As the only person fulfilling this role, however, Sherri found herself wearing many hats when serving across the elementary, middle, and high school students. “I was a jack of all trades because in a rural community, you can’t just be a guidance counselor. You're going to be a social worker, part of the administrative team, work with feeder schools, and help provide and create interventions and mental health supports for students and the community.”
Sherri soon found herself in a crucial support system role when her community was grieving from a tragedy that involved the deaths of a local coach and his two children. “It really put me in an expertise role that I had never thought I would be in to support staff, students, and families because, as a community, we become the catchall for everything that happens.” This experience led Sherri to pursue her doctorate in clinical psychology at Cal Southern University with a focus on a community-based approach to complex trauma with adolescents. Completing her doctoral hours while working full-time helped Sherri realize that she was being impacted by compassion fatigue and burnout. “I was so determined to help everybody that was impacted by loss that I started recognizing the signs and symptoms of it in myself and got certified as a compassion fatigue specialist. Ironically that was part of my cathartic moment in trying to heal, understand, and make sense of out of what it was for me.”
Sherri has seen the need for mental health and counseling for children and teens greatly increase in the last few years. “The children used to internalize their thoughts and feelings which made it difficult to know what they were struggling with. Now their behaviors are screaming at everyone that they need help and the staff, faculty, and the counselors are telling us that they just don't know how to help them. It’s difficult because I'm the only counselor in private practice in my entire community that works with children or teens, and I can't meet the need alone.” Additional obstacles like affordability or lack of transportation also create gaps that Sherri helps bridge through a corporation she developed that gives her access to grants that can pay for counseling services. Sherri believes that children are becoming more vocal about their needs which is a positive thing, but nothing can replace the need for more qualified, highly trained counselors to be on the ground with the students, teachers, and staff and she wants to help make that happen.
Sherri was approached by Alliant last year to teach online courses in school counseling and eventually became the school counseling program director in the spring of 2023. She is excited to help educate future counselors and mental health professionals, especially in rural communities. “I see the value of online learning and I'm hopeful that we can inspire others in rural communities to access this program and grow a flourishing community of professionals. I'm thrilled to be able to offer this platform and to really advocate for it.”