Professor Clare Merlin-Knoblich Named Counselor Educator of the Year by NC School Counselor Association

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UNC Charlotte counseling professor Clare Merlin-Knoblich has been named Counselor Educator of the Year by the North Carolina School Counselor Association (NCSCA). The award recognizes Merlin-Knoblich’s outstanding contributions to the field of school counseling. She joins UNC Charlotte counseling Professors Sejal Foxx and Taryne Mingo, who earned the award in 2015 and 2020, respectively, in exemplifying the university’s leadership in counseling education in North Carolina and beyond.

Merlin-Knoblich arrived at the Cato College of Education in 2015 after earning a Ph.D. in Counselor Supervision and Education at the College of William & Mary and has made a significant impact early in her career.

Passionate commitment to counselor education

The ninth-year faculty member is a dedicated mentor and creates supportive, engaging learning environments through forward-thinking instructional approaches. She has implemented, researched and presented on flipped learning, which empowers students to take ownership of their educational experience by engaging in application activities to learn course content. She has also been actively involved in program development and leadership, serving as director of the master’s and post-master’s school counseling programs.

“I can say without hesitation that our students leave our program with a strong school counseling identity because of the work Dr. Merlin-Knoblich puts into her instruction,” shared department chair Sejal Foxx.

Merlin-Knoblich also connects with her students throughout their academic journey beyond the classroom, advising an average 20 school counseling master’s students and 24 post-master’s certificate school counseling students each year. She further provides research mentorship to doctoral students studying school counseling topics and routinely leads research teams with doctoral students to conduct research about school counseling.

Strong leadership in the counseling profession

In 2017, Merlin-Knoblich began a lasting professional development collaboration with Charlotte-Mecklenburg through a session for current school counselors.

“It was a breath of fresh air for our school-based staff to learn relevant and meaningful action items they could immediately implement to support students’ multicultural identities.” said Sarah Plano, elementary school counseling manager for the district.

In 2019, Merlin-Knoblich expanded her partnership with CMS school counselors by implementing the School Counseling Fellowship Program with Professor Hilary Dack. In this program, Dack and Merlin-Knoblich educated school counselors about best practices in lesson and curriculum development to enhance their efforts when conducting classroom lessons for K-12 students.

Continuing the momentum in 2021, Merlin-Knoblich established the School Counseling Equity Fellowship program in collaboration with district school counseling leaders in CMS and Wake County Public School System. The program provides cohorts of school counselors resources and a community to cultivate social justice school counseling practices that enhance equity and support students. 

Extensive research in the field

Much of Merlin-Knoblich’s research has focused on the school counseling profession, including 11 journal articles and four book chapters. The research has included groundbreaking work on the development and implementation of a clinical faculty supervision training model for site supervisors, which has been adopted by counselor education programs across the country. Merlin-Knoblich’s recent research on the School Counseling Equity Fellowship program will soon be published in Professional School Counseling, the flagship journal of the American School Counselor Association, to serve as a template for other school counseling leaders to develop similar equity-based programs.

In addition to her doctorate, Merlin-Knoblich holds an M.Ed. in Professional Counseling- School Counseling from the University of Georgia, and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I am grateful to spend my career researching school counseling topics, mentoring school counseling students, and partnering with practicing school counselors in the field,” Merlin-Knoblich said. “Though I miss my own days as a school counselor, the work I get to do as a counselor educator provides me with an expanded reach to support K-12 students through the remarkable work of school counselors in our state.”

About the Department 

UNC Charlotte’s Department of Counseling hosts a Masters in Counseling and Ph.D. in Counselor Education program. Its master’s program has approximately 170 students annually who pursue specializations in school counseling, clinical mental health counseling and addiction counseling. The department also hosts a post-master’s certificate in school counseling, for individuals who previously earned a master’s in counseling and want to pursue a specialization in school counseling. It typically has 20-24 students per year. On average, about 30-35% of students identify as students of color and 80-85% of students identify as women.