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2023 Symposium: Reaching New Heights

Published 6/30/2023


Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 2023 marks the first fully in-person Symposium since 2019. With more than 500 fellows, scholars, educators, clinicians, and counseling professionals in attendance, the 2023 Bridging the Gap Symposium: Eliminating Mental Health Disparities was the largest Symposium to date.

The theme of this year’s event was From Awareness to Action. This theme was chosen because it supports counselors, counselor educators, and others in the profession to continue moving from creating awareness and spreading knowledge around the most pressing issues in the field to progress toward actionable change and steps to address the mental health–related inequities and disparities faced by those in our communities.

The event saw the kickoff of the 2023 Minority Fellowship Program (MFP). Fellows were provided with an introduction to the program and the space to develop the bonds that will follow them over the next year and beyond. It also marked the culmination of the 2022 MFP cohort’s active award year. Though this is the official graduation from their fellowship year, they will continue to work with their population for 2 years after graduation. We welcome new fellowship alumni as continued partners with the Foundation in the work of advancing the counseling profession.

“I enjoy connecting with the previous year’s fellows to learn how their journey has been during the fellowship year,” said Isabel Gomez, Vice President of the Foundation and Professional Resources Division of NBCC. “Their enthusiasm and drive enforce the importance of the Minority Fellowship Program.”

The 2022 and 2023 fellows began their week with a welcome and recognition ceremony. This occasion celebrated the 113 outgoing 2022 MFP Fellows and welcomed the incoming 2023 MFP Fellows, comprised of 107 master’s- and doctoral-level counseling students.

The NBCC Foundation Minority Fellowship Program’s 10th Anniversary Celebration was held on Thursday, June 1. Fellows from all MFP cohorts were invited to the celebration for mingling, a photo booth, and a dance party. It was a great way to celebrate all those who have made the MFP program such a success! 

Pre-Symposium was held Friday, June 2, and included 27 workshops, including a special panel discussion on “Transformative Leadership and Advocacy With African American Counseling Legends!” This session, presented by Drs. S. Kent Butler, Beverly O’Bryant, Thelma Daley, Courtland Lee, and Thomas Parham (virtually), focused on their role in the counseling community and how the smallest of actions can lead to change. They spoke on the pitfalls and isolation they encountered as they entered spaces that were not normally traversed by leaders from communities of color. After the session ended, in-person presenters facilitated meaningful discussions with attendees, who were grateful for the chance to speak with such leaders in the counseling community.

The annual Bridging the Gap Symposium’s main event began with an enlightening keynote address, “Pecha Kucha: Leadership, Advocacy, and Academia Among the Dream Team,” presented by Drs. Michael Jones, Camille Humes, Asha Dickerson, Claudette Brown-Smythe, and Fulani Doughty. As members of the inaugural Doctoral MFP cohort, affectionately known as “The Dream Team,” they focused on their experiences with advocacy, leadership, counselor education, and specifically how the MFP Fellowship experience has supported them.

Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, attendees had a choice of 77 workshop sessions. These included topics like “Growing Counselor Competency of Clients of Color with Autism” from Carlos Castañeda; “Exploring Affirmative Harm Reduction Strategies Among Queer and Trans Students of Color in College Settings” from Jacklyn Joy Byrd and Dr. Frank Gorritz FitzSimons; and “Integrating Indigenous Healing Practices Into Evidence-Based Trauma Therapy Models” from Dr. Julie Ann Smith-Yliniemi.

The event ended with our final keynote address, “Amplify for Impact: Harnessing the Power of Action to Bridge the Gap,” by Dr. Shana Lewis, a 2014 MFP alumna. During the engaging session, Dr. Lewis inspired attendees to reflect on who they are and why they were there. She then detailed her ACTION steps to amplify for impact. It was a captivating keynote from such an accomplished counselor and MFP alumna.

Overall, the 2023 Bridging the Gap Symposium was a success! The workshop sessions embodied the theme and encouraged attendees to think outside the box to move from Awareness to Action.

You can view photos taken at Symposium at

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