WBU graduate takes helm in counseling center 

June 14, 2011

PLAINVIEW – Michael Cox has always known he was called to help people, and he realized his passion for counseling several years ago. He also loves ministering to young people, which he’s done since his early days as a youth pastor.

So it seems his new role as Wayland Baptist University’s coordinator of counseling, career and disability services is nearly tailor-made to Cox’s interests and heart for his alma mater.

“I love working with college students, and we seem to be doing that anyway,” he said of the job. “It was a natural fit, and I get to throw counseling in there. I don’t know that I could have written a better job description for myself.”

Cox took over as counselor officially on June 1, coming to WBU from the role as deputy project director for the Rural Children’s Initiative, a mental health project funded by a special six-year federal grant and overseen by the Central Plains Mental Health/Mental Retardation center.

He brings to the counseling office some years in ministry as well, having served as pastor of Stonebridge Fellowship from March 2007 to August 2008 and three and a half years at Mission Arlington, where he worked with an after-school program in an apartment complex, served as associate pastor of one of the mission’s congregations, Grace Street Fellowship, and led projects for visiting youth groups among many other duties. He taught school for a year in Cedar Hill before finally realizing his call to the counseling field.

“It took me 12 years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” he laughs. “I made excuses that I was doing counseling because I was a pastor. Now that I’ve been through the education and been in ministry, I’ve realized that what we call pastoral counseling is not really the same thing. There is a skill set and education around being a counselor that is important.”

Realizing that was where his passions really lay, Cox started the master’s degree in counseling at Dallas Baptist University before moving back to Plainview, so he opted to roll those credits into the WBU program and finish the Master of Arts in Counseling. He earned that degree in 2010 and started the process of earning contact counseling hours to receive state licensure.

A native of Hobbs, N.M., Cox earned his bachelor’s degree in religion from Wayland in 1998 and then returned to Hobbs to become a youth pastor, a role he filled for two years before heading to the Metroplex.

The opening at Wayland held appeal in several areas. For one, it provided more home time with less travel, important with a growing young family, and he relished the chance to return to his college home.

“It’s great to be back here. Wayland was a great place for me,” he said. “I grew a lot here and found out who I was, so the chance to do that for other people was appealing to me. My passion has always been to help meet people’s needs.”

The position allows Cox and wife Coloma, who teaches kindergarten bilingual at Edgemere Elementary, to put down roots for their young family, which includes sons Josiah, 4, Joseph, 2, and James Ray, expected in July. The family is active in Harvest Christian Fellowship, where the Coxes work with college students.

Cox hopes to finish his remaining 3,000 hours of counseling at Wayland over the next two years and earn his state license. But his goals for the university are much bigger. He hopes to expand the career counseling center that is part of his duties and to make that a viable resource for students as they get closer to graduation and begin the resume, interview and job search process. He’s spending the quieter summer months researching those options and how best to make that resource available and useful for students.

Cox also hopes to get the word out more around campus about the counseling opportunities and encourage students to seek help without the stigma with which it used to be associated. He hopes using current students, as well as master’s level counseling students, will help get that accomplished. Identifying the unique needs of students now and how best to provide those services will be a key part in his plan for the coming school year. Educating students about various issues that involve mental and physical health are also part of the agenda.

Tom Hall, dean of students at Wayland and executive director of the student services area under which Cox’s office falls, is excited about his joining the staff.

“Michael is a Wayland guy. He knows who he is and where he is, and that is very important,” said Hall. “We are proud to have Michael back in the Wayland family and know that he will be a great asset, not only in counseling our students, but also in the areas of career placement and disability services as well.”