By Andy Goodell
Associate Professor Noel Estrada-Hernandez has a vested interest in his new role at the University of Iowa College of Education.
This summer, Estrada-Hernandez became the new Departmental Executive Officer for the Rehabilitation and Counselor Education (RCE) Department. As an alumnus of the Rehabilitation and Counselor Education Program (Ph.D. 2004), he takes pride in the work his department does. This includes preparing people to become vocational rehabilitation counselors who help individuals with disabilities overcome life and work-place challenges.
“Being legally blind and having received Vocational Rehabilitation services, as well as having served as a counselor, and counselor educator, fuels my commitment to enhance the quality of life of individuals through any teaching, research, and services opportunities,” says Estrada-Hernandez.
Students in these programs are prepared to facilitate human development across the life span, to advocate for clients and students, and to serve local, national, and international communities through the delivery and creation of state-of-the-art counseling and therapy services. The department achieves these goals by advancing knowledge, skills, and attitudes appropriate for effective and ethical professional counseling and therapy practices and by conducting and disseminating related applied research.
Estrada-Hernandez describes his leadership style as inclusive, with a willingness to make important executive decisions independently.
“I want people to feel that they can be active contributors to making decisions,” says Estrada-Hernandez. “I do value the relationships that I build with people in the college, especially the ones I have with my colleagues in RCE.”
UI College of Education Dean Dan Clay says that Estrada-Hernandez is a strong scholar and leader.
“Dr. Hernandez is an excellent teacher and scholar, who is a trusted and respected member of the faculty. I am grateful for his leadership and look forward to his contribution to the college’s leadership team.”
– Dan Clay
University of Iowa College of Education Dean
Originally from Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, Estrada-Hernandez has been a part of the UI College of Education since the early 2000s. He earned a doctorate in Rehabilitation Counselor Education in 2004, having previously earned Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Puerto Rico in 2001.
Following his Ph.D. coursework, Estrada-Hernandez did a research fellowship at the UI College of Education for two years. His mentor for half of that time was Clay.
Another excellent mentor Estrada-Hernandez had during his research fellowship was William Liu, who is currently a professor with the college.
He became a postdoctoral faculty member in 2004 and a faculty member at the college in 2006.
Advancing research within the RCE department is key to moving understanding of numerous modern issues, notes Estrada-Hernandez.
“I would like to see us exploring more contemporary issues in research and teaching,” says Estrada-Hernandez, explaining that, for example, the need for counseling for returning veterans is on the rise.
Estrada-Hernandez says he would also like to see more research done in the following areas: substance abuse, chronic mental illness in community and school settings, and the use of technology in counseling and counselor preparation.
“These are areas that need attention,” says Estrada-Hernandez. “Programs like ours can help with these issues.”
When it comes to his own research, Estrada-Hernandez is focused on psychosocial adaptation to disability, or how people react psychologically to their disability. He also examines employment and counseling outcomes in these individuals.
He most recently began researching ethical decision making related to consumer participation. “In other words, ‘How can a client receiving counseling services be an active participant in ethical decision-making processes?” Estrada-Hernandez explains.
In additional to his research and scholarship, Estrada-Hernandez recently helped organize a successful 60th anniversary celebration of the college’s consistently nationally top-ranked Rehabilitation and Counselor Education program, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Estrada-Hernandez credits the other department DEOs within the college with helping him be the best he can be in his new role with the RCE department. He also says all faculty members and staff that he has the opportunity to work with have been instrumental in his success thus far.
“I have such a great cast of resources around me, and I am thankful,” says Estrada-Hernandez.