New mental health counselor role specializes in diversity, equity, and inclusion
Black and Hispanic communities face health disparities, notably highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately impact these populations. As a way to address these disparities, Indiana University established the IU Pandemic Health Disparities Fund to provide resources to develop health and safety programs geared toward Black and Hispanic students across campuses.
Indiana University South Bend used this grant opportunity to create a new mental health counselor position in the Student Counseling Center, specifically to offer mental health services and resources to minority students. Misel Ramirez Vasoli, diversity, equity, and inclusion counselor, was hired at the end of 2021 with the main goal of increasing the number of minority students utilizing the Student Counseling Center. This has two major intended outcomes: to offer counseling services to minority students to address the unique challenges they face, and to increase the rate of successful graduation among these students.
Misel brings extensive personal and professional experience to this role. Born and raised in Mexico, she first came to the United States to attend college at the University of Texas at El Paso. Adjusting to a new culture, while also juggling the expectations of her family’s deeply rooted cultural heritage, has given her an understanding of the similar experiences that many minority students face, particularly immigrants and first generation students. “It’s always good when they see someone who looks like them and has had a path similar to them because it helps to build that trust,” explains Misel.
Common struggles that minority first generation students face in particular are an immense sense of pressure to work as hard as possible to make better lives for themselves and their families, and to feel they are making their parents’ sacrifices worthwhile. This often leads them to take on full course loads, multiple jobs, and caregiving or other familial responsibilities. “It is so empowering, but sometimes at a really high price to their mental health,” says Misel.
Misel is also an alum of Indiana University South Bend, where she earned her master’s degree in Counseling and Human Services. Prior to coming to IU South Bend, Misel assisted with a research study on the local Latinx population and the effects of discrimination and racism on their mental health. Hearing their stories led her to realize her calling as a mental health advocate. “Healing takes many forms, not just the physical,” she explains. “I want to reduce the stigma of mental health, and help students get to a place of being proactive, instead of waiting until they are really struggling to ask for help.”
The Student Counseling Center is located in the Administration Building 175, and is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Fridays by appointment. For more information on specific services, call 574-520-4125 or visit their website.