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Monday, April 11, 2011

Counseling Center's Mark Schwarze earns doctorate

When Mark Schwarze looked for a topic for his doctoral dissertation, he did not have to look far.

Mark SchwarzeDr. Schwarze, a counselor and substance abuse services coordinator with UNC Pembroke's Counseling and Testing Center, successfully defended his dissertation on March 16. With five years of working and studying behind him, he earned a Ph.D. in counselor education from NC State University.

His dissertation was an 11-week study of stress relief therapy and its effect on UNCP nursing students. He contends that unmanaged stress among these students can affect their academic performance in the short term and their career in the long term.

"Stress among nursing students is a national issue," Dr. Schwarze said. "There is a real need for nurses, and retention of students is important."

Dr. Schwarze employed a program of "mindfulness-based cognitive therapy" to help nursing students manage their stress. It is a relatively new treatment that is winning converts in places like UNCP.

"There is a need in college counseling for more 'action' research to test strategies and interventions," he said. "This is an appropriate type of therapy because it focuses on the present moment in a nonjudgmental way. It trains the mind to stay in place."

In addition to building Schwarze's expertise, his doctorate is a boon to UNCP's Counseling and Testing Center. Raising the credentials of the center's staff, said Director Dr. Monica Osburn, is a win-win situation.

"Completing a Ph.D. program while working full-time is difficult to accomplish," Dr. Osburn said. "We are just excited that even after his recent achievements, he will continue on here to carry out his work at UNCP.

Because of his research, Dr. Schwarze has developed an expertise in the field of nursing education, but he would like to extend his reach into other disciplines.

"There is a need for interaction between academic programs and counselors like myself," he said. "Each discipline has unique stressors."

Dr. Schwarze has worked for the Counseling and Testing Center for six years. He earned state and national credentials in professional counseling, clinical additions and clinical supervision.

"Much of my work on campus has been in substance abuse programming, and I will continue to work toward a comprehensive, campus-wide substance abuse program of outreach and intervention on campus," he said. He added that a committee comprised of students, faculty and staff from across campus has already taken shape since the beginning of this semester.

With doctorate in hand, Dr. Schwarze is ready to take on wider responsibilities in areas of health and wellness, to expand the center's group therapy program and clinical services and to teach in UNCP's graduate counseling programs.

A longtime resident of Lumberton, N.C., Dr. Schwarze earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Master of Arts in service agency counseling from UNCP. He worked in a private treatment center and with youth and family counseling before joining UNCP.

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