Photos of Mariaimeé Gonzalez and Devona Stalnaker-Shofner.

Two Antioch Faculty Elected President of Regional Counseling Associations

This July, two Antioch faculty will step forward to assume the presidencies of two out of the five regional counseling associations in the U.S. Mariaimeé Gonzalez, Chair of the MA in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Antioch Seattle, has assumed the presidency of the Western Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. Meanwhile, Devona Stalnaker-Shofner, the Associate Chair of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs at Antioch New England and Antioch Online, is president of the North Atlantic Region Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. As Gonzalez explains, “It’s not very often that a university has someone elected to one region, but to have two people for two regions—that’s something.”

Gonzalez, who also is co-founder of Antioch’s Latinx Mental Health and Social Justice Institute, has been affiliated with the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) for almost twenty years, and she has served in counseling leadership for nearly sixteen of those years. As such, she is no stranger to ACES’s dedication to the education, overall support, and professional development of counseling professionals. However, it is the organization’s proven commitment to antiracism, coalition building, diversity, and inclusion that have spoken to her as a Latinx academic with a history of grassroots activism and a special care for the cultivation of community and culture. For her, this leadership role “will always come back to a place of love,” she says. She sees it as a continuation of the wisdom passed along to her by her own Puerto Rican community of elders and peers. “It’s just something you always did. You gave back, because you care—about those around you, those that came before, and those that will come after you.” 

Stalnaker-Shofner, who has been elected president of the North Atlantic Region Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (NARACES), has been a member of ACES for sixteen years. She received the 2021 NARACES Social Justice Award for her contributions to research and literature on social justice and multicultural issues. This, in part, reflected her service to NARACES, co-chairing the Wellness Committee during the pandemic. Stalnaker-Shofner explained that this evolved “into advocacy work with respect to BIPOC counselor educator faculty.” And it brought her into greater self-reflection on her role at Antioch. “I reflected on all that I was feeling as a Black woman working at a predominately white institution, and it occurred to me that others may have been having similar feelings and experiences.” This led her to create BIPOC Wellness Affinity groups through NARACES, and she even held similar affinity spaces at the national ACES conference. Through all of this work and her track record leading at Antioch, it was natural that she would be elected to this important post leading NARACES and steering the profession of counseling in her region.

To be a counselor, a counselor educator, and a leader—especially as a woman of color in academia—is to know a great deal of intellectual and emotional labor, says Gonzalez. For her, taking on the role of president, even for an inclusive and advocacy-grounded organization such as WACES, requires acknowledging that these positions of power carry within them the history of “individualistic, colonialist concepts of leadership.” That’s why she makes the choice every day to continue learning, growing, educating, and leading toward social justice in her world. “For me,” she says, “counseling means mental liberation.”  

Gonzalez looks forward to turning traditional notions of the presidency on their head by using her position to foster togetherness and to take a coalitional approach to social justice. With these new positions, both she and Stalnaker-Shofner will be key in steering not just Antioch but the entire profession of counseling toward greater justice.

Maria Symons

Maria Symons is a Marketing Account Manager on Antioch University’s Marketing Services team, where she focuses on psychology, counseling, and therapy.