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Miami’s selfless servant

Professor Kip Alishio recognized with Distinguished Service Award

By Olivia Braude, Senior Staff Writer

Photo by Olivia Braude, The Miami Student

Taking a seat on a brown leather couch normally reserved for his patients, Kip Alishio, director of Student Counseling Services (SCS), prepares for something he is not accustomed to - talking, rather than listening.

The soft-spoken, unassuming man has spent the last 28 years of his life on the other side of the brown-leather couch, hearing students' concerns and working behind the scenes to help them. This year, Alishio's hard work and dedication earned him the commendable Distinguished Service Award.

The award recognizes a member of the faculty, staff or administration for outstanding service to the members of the university community. It is the most significant recognition Miami offers for those who have dedicated their lives to bettering the lives of those around them.

Miami employees are first nominated by their peers, then the Awards and Recognition Committee, an advisory committee to the University Senate, submits a recommendation to President David Hodge. Hodge handed out this year's award at his State of the University address Sept. 3.

According to a document sent to the University Senate by Lisa Ellram, chair of the Awards and Recognition Committee, Alishio's contributions to the mental health and wellbeing of Miami students have been invaluable. It was evident to the committee through Alishio's nomination letters that he has made a tremendous difference in helping numerous students in crises, and has done so with humility and grace.

Ellram wrote that, although she did not know Alishio personally, she was "moved by the letters that were written on his behalf."

Nominators described Alishio as passionate, genuine and humble - a trait he embodied with a shy smile and chuckle, "It's difficult talking about yourself."

In his 22 years as director of Student Counseling Services (SCS), Alishio has accomplished several notable achievements, including founding the organization Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, of which he was the advisor for several years.

Alishio also helped create the Just In Case app, which is intended to make emergency services for mental health-related concerns accessible to students anytime, anywhere, Alishio said. Through the app, students can not only find potentially life-saving contact information but also have access to free mental health screenings.

Although he has played a major role in these and other developments in SCS, Alishio is quick to acknowledge he could not have accomplished anything alone. He said his staff has had an integral role in each achievement and their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

"One of the things that stands out to me about this position, about this award, is that it doesn't feel to me like an individual award. It's about the people that I work with," Alishio said. "I've been blessed with wonderful staff. If we've had success it's been because of that."

As Ellram noted in the recommendation letter to the University Senate, Alishio and his staff have been able to effectively handle the increasing demand placed on their services, without many additional resources.

Last school year, 10 percent of Miami students used the SCS, Alishio said, and he estimated that 40 percent of students will use it during their time at the university. These numbers represent a dramatic increase from 1992, Alishio's first year as director, when the percentages were 3 and 10 respectively.

Alishio attributed the rise to a generational difference -- students are more likely to seek help for mental health problemsnow than they were in the past and he said he is proud of the effort made by the counseling center to foster an environment where getting treatment for a mental health issue is no longer stigmatized as weird or weak.

"I think what's gratifying about this award, on top of what it says about the staff and what we've been able to accomplish, is what it says about the decreasing stigma about mental health services," Alishio said. "We work really hard to decrease the stigma about seeking mental health counseling services among Miami students."

SCS is trying to have a stronger presence on campus through events like the upcoming Suicide Prevention Week,Sept 17-26, and is working on creating a group similar to "Safe-Space" for the LGBTQ community, only for mental health illnesses. The goal is to designate and train faculty, staff and student members to be an available resource for other students who may be struggling.

Seeing progress and development in SCS programs is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, Alishio said, but even the fruition of his projects cannot match the pride he feels in his work with individual patients - the reason he received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1984 from Miami.

"I don't do as much individual therapy as I used to do but I still do some and I have to say that that is, and probably has always been, the most rewarding thing for me," he paused, as if remembering a certain experience."To work with an individual student, to get to know them in depth, and to watch them grow and heal." For Alishio, that is what his effort has always been about.

The Distinguished Service plaque, which rests on a bookshelf in Alishio's office, serves as a poignant reminder that his work does not go unnoticed by his peers.

"There are a lot of people on campus that are deserving of this, so what is incredibly humbling about this is that there are some people on campus who felt strongly enough about me and the work that I do that they would write in my favor," Alishio said.

More than a few Miami employees took the time to write about Alishio's merits and why he is so deserving of the award, according to the document to the University Senate, which quoted several nominators full of praise for the modest, hardworking man.

One nominator wrote, "Kip Alishio personifies Miami's motto, Prodesse Quam Conspici. The fact that he serves without seeking recognition only strengthens his case for this award."

Alishio's many contributions to the wellbeing of Miami University students, faculty and staff is no longer without recognition. He has set the bar high for those who will follow him as recipients of the Distinguished Service Award, a man who embodies the motto, "To accomplish without being conspicuous," a man whose life is spent listening to anyone who takes a seat on his brown leather couch.