René Monteagudo took the helm as director of the UM Counseling Center in July after previous Director Ernesto Escoto left to take over the same position at University of Florida (UF). The South Florida native has a plethora of experience fit to lead arguably one of the most important services provided by the university.
Monteagudo, who majored in psychology during his undergraduate studies at UF, has always been devoted to the field. He said he found his true calling while volunteering at a hospital.
“When I was in my undergrad and volunteering at the hospital, I actually saw a flyer that asked people to help out at the crisis center, and after doing it, I took an interest in clinical studies,” he said.
After that experience, he devoted his life to counseling psychology. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees from UF, and his Ph.D. at Indiana University (IU). He then completed his doctoral internship at Pennsylvania State University (PSU).
After completing his studies, Monteagudo worked his way up the career ladder, starting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He began doing outreach to support those in crisis situations and chaired the suicide prevention committee.
Eventually, he became the director of the counseling center training program at UIUC and spent about 10 years there. In 2012, he took the director position at the University of North Florida before family circumstances led him to accept the senior associate director position of Florida Atlantic University’s Counseling & Psychological Services center.
UF, IU, PSU and UIUC are larger state schools with student populations more than double the size of UM’s, so Monteagudo will have to adjust to the smaller size.
“A lot of the schools I come from were in the Big 10, so their campuses and counseling centers are a lot bigger. So going from schools of that size to UM is quite a difference,” Monteagudo said.
Monteagudo was pleased to be offered the director position here at UM and believes that his experience combined with his familiarity with the South Florida region will take the UM Counseling Center to the next level. The school’s administration shares that belief.
“We are thrilled that Dr. Monteagudo will be joining us,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia A. Whitely at the time of Monteagudo’s appointment. “I am confident that his diverse leadership experience will continue to enhance the services of our UM Counseling Center. He will no doubt be a committed and collaborative partner with faculty, students and staff across the campus, and I am delighted he has accepted our offer to join the university community.”
Monteagudo has been collaborative from the start. As soon as he got to UM, he began meeting with different students and organizations to get feedback on what they felt would be the best ways to improve. He is working on three counseling initiatives that are in different stages.
The first is the recently launched, anonymous online mental health screening system. This allows students to evaluate their mental health and determine the next step to take in seeking treatment.
The second initiative is suicide and prevention training, which is an online course sponsored by the Question, Persuade and Prefer (QPR) Institute. All RAs have been trained in this program, and all students and faculty have access to it, as well. It gives the university’s slogan,“‘Canes Care for ‘Canes,” extra meaning. The program is set to launch within the next couple of weeks, and all students are encouraged to take it and get certified.
The third initiative, set to launch in late October, is an after-hours hotline that will allow students to speak to someone about any issue at any time. The school hopes these initiatives will make the UM Counseling Center more convenient and more accessible than ever before.
UM Counseling Center services come at no additional cost for students, as those fees are covered along with tuition at the beginning of each semester. Students also have free access to psychiatric services if they are covered by the university’s insurance plan.
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