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Endowment for Transforming Lives to enable accreditation and support training
Graduate students in the training program at the UM Counseling Center are (from left) Luke Taylor, Vanessa Moynahan, Emily Jacobson, Eric Suddeath, and Irijah Kinard. Not pictured is Brittany Power.

If the University of Mississippi is to be among America’s best public institutions of higher learning, it’s only fitting that its programs and facilities should be top of mind as well.

“When people who are in the field of psychology are trying to choose where to go to receive the best training, I want the University of Mississippi Counseling Center to be one of the places they think of,” said Bud Edwards, the center’s director. “I want our pre-doctoral internship and our post-doctoral fellowship to be nationally competitive. That, perhaps, sounds a little bit arrogant on my part, but I want us to feel like we have the capacity to do that, and I want us to strive for that goal.”

The goal is now well within reach, Edwards says, thanks to a recent $250,000 anonymous donation to the Counseling Center on the Oxford campus – the single largest gift ever contributed to the center. Of the five $50,000 annual installments, $10,000 per year is designated for immediate use by the center; the other $40,000 will fund the Endowment for Transforming Lives.

The cash on hand will pay the thousands of dollars necessary to achieve best-practice standards that will make the Counseling Center eligible for accreditation, a designation that will enable the center become competitive at the national level. Funds accrued from the endowment will support the continuing education of students in the center’s graduate-level training program.

“We have a couple different ways that we transform lives,” Edwards said. “Most people think of us as transforming lives for the students who come in with problems. We help them resolve those issues and then they go on to be successful and graduate, and that’s an important part of the process.”

The UM Counseling Center provides free services to more than 1,500 students and about 150 faculty and staff members per year. Services include personal, couple and group counseling; stress management; crisis intervention; assessment and referrals; outreach; consultation; and substance abuse counseling.

“Additionally, we see ourselves as being a part of the educational mission of the university by being a trainee site,” he continued. “Our graduate students come and train here, learn professional skills, become better positioned to be credentialed or licensed, and to serve the citizens of their communities after graduation. So that’s a transformation piece in and of itself and it is directly related to the educational mission of the university.”

Currently, six graduate students are being trained by the Counseling Center. With funds from the Endowment for Transforming Lives, the center hopes to add about 12 more students to its training program at educational levels ranging from master’s to post-doctoral.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the gift,” Edwards said. “What I hope it means is a growing, public recognition for the importance of the work that we do on campus related to mental health issues and the success of college students and the broader campus community. It’s validating that people see the importance of what we’re doing here and want to be supportive of us as professionals in this particular fashion.”

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brandi Hephner LaBanc believes it’s critical for a university community to provide the services the Counseling Center offers.

“College students and members of university communities face complex challenges and pressures that can be overwhelming,” she said. “Our Counseling Center addresses needs by helping clients build resiliency and, ultimately, be successful. We feel so grateful to have received this extremely generous gift because it will enable us to further extend the academic mission and transform lives for the better.”

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Counseling Center by sending a check with the designation noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, Miss. 38655; or by going online at For more information, contact Denson Hollis, development director, at or 662-915-5092.

Bill Dabney


Online gifts for the 2024 calendar year should be made no later than noon on December 31, 2024.  Checks by mail will need to be postmarked by December 31 to be counted in the 2024 calendar year.