Introducing Janet Ward, New Mexico Tech Counselor

SOCORRO, N.M. August 16, 2011 – Janet Ward feels right at home in Socorro, and in her office on the ground floor of the Fidel Center, where she assumed duties three months ago as the new Director for the Office of Counseling and Disability Services at New Mexico Tech.

 Janet Ward, Director of the Counseling Center

Ward comes to her new position with a wealth of experience as a clinical social worker and mental health counselor in both government and academic environments.

“It was nice to come in the summer and have time to immerse myself in the job,” Ward said. She now is looking forward to the start of the fall semester Tuesday, Aug. 23, when her job begins in earnest.

“I love Socorro,” she said. “It reminds me of Greencastle, Indiana, my hometown.”

Socorro has many large, extended families that have lived here for generations, and the same is true for Greencastle, Ward said.

“I have more than 30 first cousins, and I was one of first in my family to earn a graduate degree, and the first female,” said Ward, who has three siblings.

Another first for Ward is her position with New Mexico Tech, marking her debut in higher education.

She describes her job as “to level the playing field for all students,” by providing the services and support necessary to help students achieve their academic potential.

The wide realm of disabilities includes physical conditions, chronic mental health issues and learning disabilities. Examples of these include anxiety, dyslexia, processing disorders, and the many varieties of autism disorders, among which is Asperger’s syndrome, characterized by difficulties in social interaction.

Ward received her Bachelor of Social Work degree in 1979 from Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Among those in her graduating class were the iconic Larry Bird and gymnast Kurt Thomas.

She first moved to New Mexico after graduation, and began working at the Albuquerque Job Corps Center as resident advisor; then, later, as a counselor, before returning to Indiana for family reasons.

Ward found a position with Child Protective Services for Putnam County, Ind., where she grew up, and was the only child welfare worker to serve a community with a population of 10,000.

She returned to New Mexico in the late 1980s to work for the state’s Child Protective Services office in Socorro, before marriage and a decision to pursue an advanced degree took her to the Philadelphia area, where she spent the next 12 years.

During that time, she earned a Master of Social Work degree from Widener University, and began a career in clinical social work and mental health therapy, giving her experience in drug and alcohol counseling, and with managed-care companies.

“But I got tired of the weather, and returned to New Mexico,” she said. She joined Socorro Mental Health as a school-based counselor for Socorro High School and AIM High.

For the last six years, she has worked with a regional educational cooperative as a school-based social worker, working with special education students and students with disabilities in grades K-12.

While she enjoyed the interaction with students, the geographical area of her commute, ranging from Quemado to Mountainair and lasting from two-and-a-half to four hours, proved tiresome, and she wanted to find a position closer to home.

The vacancy left by former director, Laurie Borden, gave Ward an opportunity to fulfill that wish and to advance her career in counseling and mental health therapy.

She also has three personal “pet therapists” – two Bijon Frise named Max and Chloe; and the newest member of the ménage, Molly Mayhem, a miniature Daschund who gets away with chewing up shoes and bringing home rocks “because she is so sweet,” Ward said.

“I love to garden, and have raised vegetable gardens and geraniums,” she added.

New Mexico Tech also has much to offer by way of amenities, such as the Performing Arts Series, swimming pool and gymnasium – and the opportunity to take a class through the Community Education Program.

And who says Socorro has no beach? “Socorro has lots of beach,” Ward said. “Just no water.

“I chose to come back here,” she continued. “This is where I want to be.”

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech