This is one in a series featuring the university’s 2020 Faculty and Staff Excellence Award recipients, who are being recognized for outstanding teaching, significant scholarly and artistic contributions, and dedication to furthering the mission of the university.
Jaime Clark’s commitment to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, her advocacy for its students and her innovative approach to making things happen ensure she is a natural selection as the 2020 winner of the Women of Distinction Award, colleagues say.
Honoring commitment to women and diversity
The award is presented to a faculty, administrative/professional or civil service staff member in recognition of “sustained commitment to women and/or issues of diversity through demonstrated leadership, vision or actions.”
Clark, director of SIU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and associate director of Student Health Services, said receiving the award is quite emotional, not just because the nomination came from “top-notch professionals” that she holds in very high regard, but because the nomination letters indicate that she has “made a difference in the lives of students, staff, and in particular, young women. Since empowering young women has been a primary goal of my adult life, their words of nomination were a gift that I will cherish forever.”
Finding new ways to help
Clark came to SIU in 2005 as a volunteer at the Counseling Center, fulfilling a requirement for advanced practicum students. The next year she served a post-doctoral internship at the center and stayed on, becoming outreach coordinator and interim practicum coordinator in 2007. She rose to her current position in 2015 after nearly six years as assistant director and director of training with CAPS.
As director, she quickly determined that she needed to take some unique approaches to reach those she was trying to help.
Traditional outreach models call for reaching underserved students through scheduled presentations by experts but that model wasn’t effective at SIU, she discovered. Clark worked to create collaborative partnerships with colleagues across campus and to learn more about the topics that are important to students. By reevaluating and revamping the community intervention program, she was able to more accurately identify and meet the needs of the students. Event attendance has increased due to the collaborative effort.
She’s especially pleased with another initiative created with Jon Shaffer, director of University Housing. Partnering CAPS with University Housing satellite programs were launched within the residence halls. This enables students to receive mental health care where they live at times that are convenient for them. Embedding counselors within University Housing and the Achieve Program addresses healthcare disparities, improves counseling access and enables SIU to better meet the needs of underserved students, Clark said.
“These programs are atypical of most university counseling centers and are a testament to Dr. Clark’s ability to be a visionary, effectively communicate her ideas, work together while holding authority and getting the task done,” Abby Bilderback, practicum training director and CAPS assistant director, said.
Helping those who are hurting
In addition, Bilderback dubs Clark a ‘visionary’ who encourages and fosters a collaborative, teamwork approach, making sure everyone is heard and feels empowered.
Clark also wants to make sure those who are hurting are heard and helped. She notes that sexual assault happens to people of all ages and genders, although at higher rates to young women. She helped create a comprehensive treatment team, the Sexual Assault Treatment Team (SATT), to coordinate medical care, counseling and psychiatry and make it easier for survivors to get the help they need.
Clark is a “staunch advocate” for anyone who has been victimized, Bilderback said.
Coaching young people
Clark earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Colorado State University and her master’s and doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Denver. She was going to play college soccer until a leg injury during her senior year of high school caused her to switch gears. She recovered sufficiently to play college volleyball and basketball and run track in Colorado, as well as playing competitive tennis. She’s combined her devotion to sports and desire to help others by becoming a coach.
“I love coaching because it is a perfect mix of my love of sports and my passion for psychology,” she said. “The best part of coaching is mentoring young women to be confident, well-rounded people who love and respect themselves and know the dedication that it takes to push themselves to the limit for their team. I have a passion for developing relationships with the girls and helping them learn life’s many lessons through sports.”
She’s coached soccer, volleyball, basketball and tennis during the last 24 years and also helped launch the Legends Soccer Club eight years ago.
Contributing in other ways
Clark is leaving her mark on SIU and the community in other ways as well. She serves on numerous committees and task forces and is always looking for ways to help.
She “has stepped up in a multitude of ways for SIU students and our campus at large and truly represents what it means to be student-centered,” Bilderback said.
Clark is likewise effusive in her praise for those who have been there for her through the years and for those she encounters in her job.
“This award would not have come without great mentors giving me the opportunity to learn from them and grown into a leader under their guidance,” she said. “I have been extremely fortunate to be part of the Saluki family and to be a trusted coach to many Southern Illinois youth.”