4th Annual College Ambassador Conference

4th Annual College Ambassador Conference
May 2013

Twenty students from UNL, UNO, UNK and Creighton University attended BHECN’s 4th Annual College Ambassador Conference, a week-long, in-depth introduction to behavioral health careers.

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Feedback from students

All about the Ambassador program for high school and college student

In May 2013, BHECN hosted its 4th Annual College Ambassador Conference. Twenty students from UNL, UNO, UNK and Creighton University spent a week at UNMC learning about mental health, substance abuse and behavioral health careers. They also earned one hour of college credit.

The conference is an interactive, in-depth forum that allows students to:

  • learn about behavioral illness and treatment.
  • understand the current system of care.
  • explore career options in behavioral health professions — and the specific nature of those professionals’ work with people.
  • appreciate the difficulty of living with behavioral illness — and learn the importance of respect for patients as individuals.
  • work with team members from different backgrounds to accomplish a goal.

During the week, the students heard from a wide cross-section of speakers, including educators, care providers, and from people and families directly affected by behavioral illness. The activities structure always provides ample time for Q & A sessions and encourages one-on-one student conversation with presenters.

BHECN medical director Howard Liu, a child psychiatrist, moderated a career panel that included a psychologist, social worker, pharmacist, physician assistant and psychiatric nurse practitioner. Panelists talked about how and why they picked their profession, about their day-to-work, and about their interaction with patients.

Students also visited a variety of care agencies to see first-hand how services are provided in Nebraska communities.

Tracking career paths of student attendees
  • Since 2010, 80 students from across state have attended BHECN’s annual College Ambassador Conference.
  • Nebraska colleges and universities represented: Chadron State, Creighton, Hastings, Nebraska Wesleyan, UNL, UNO, UNK, and Wayne State.
  • Of the 33 participants who have since graduated, 13 are currently enrolled at UNMC: 5 in medical school, 6 in pharmacy school, 2 in nursing.

Student feedback — 4th Annual Conference

“This week has equipped me with tools and information that many students do not have the opportunity of learning so early in their career.”
Alex — UNO sophomore

“I know that I'm going into the right field after hearing the speakers and understanding the need in behavioral health. It was such a blessing to be able to meet all of those professors, workers at community places, and people who live with mental illness.”
Jenna — UNL freshman

BHECN medical director Howard Liu, a child psychiatrist, moderates a career panel with (left to right) Teri Gabel, pharmacist; Diane May, nurse practitioner; Katy Menousek, psychologist; Brenda McIlnay, social worker; and Calvin Russell, physician assistant.

Dr. Blaine Shaffer explains Nebraska's behavioral health system.

Bob Donlan tells how art helped in his recovery from mental illness in his late 20s.

Nebraskan Kristi Barth is one of the creators and directors of Teens Finding Hope, Inc., a website "providing resources and encouragement to teens and families affected by depression."

Joseph Evans, PhD, UNMC psychologist and BHECN associate clinical director, presents the many career options in the behavioral health professions.

Peer to peer: UNMC students were available to talk to conference attendees about their experiences pursuing a degree in behavioral health professions.

Since the Ambassador program began, many participants have said that, before the conference, they never had an opportunity to learn about behavioral health professions. Here, one student's review.