Pitt appoints counseling center director


TPN File Photo

Jay Darr was named Counselor of the Year in 2018 by the American College Counseling Association.

By Erica Guthrie, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt’s University Counseling Center director position has been vacant since former UCC director Edward Michaels was arrested May 23, 2017, on charges of possession of child pornography. Now, 19 months later, the University has announced the appointment of a new director for the UCC.

Pitt announced Friday that Jay Darr has been appointed as the new director of the UCC, located on the ground floor of Nordenberg Hall, according to a press release from the University, relieving Iru Brodie-Mends from the role of interim director. Darr will be the fourth full-time counseling center director at the University since 2010, and is due to begin his new position on Feb. 18.

Kenyon Bonner, Pitt vice provost and dean of students, said Darr, as the director, will play an imperative role in the UCC’s mission to support students’ well-being.

“I look forward to supporting Dr. Darr in his efforts to provide high-quality and timely mental health services to meet the evolving needs of our diverse student population,” Bonner said in the press release. “We looked for a transformational leader with an exceptional clinical background who we believed could leverage the immense talent, expertise, and experience of our counseling staff and implement strategies to strengthen our already robust UCC services and programs.”

Darr, who served in the U.S. Army between 1998 and 2001, most recently worked at the University of North Texas as a licensed counselor and liaison for the Division I athletics department and men’s Greek life. At the University of North Texas, Darr coordinated Therapy Assistance Online, which provided students with online modules designed to help them deal with mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. In addition, the American College Counseling Association named Darr Counselor of the Year in 2018.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in sociology, at West Virginia University. Darr then received a M.Ed degree with a specialization in school counseling and a Ph.D. from the Executive Counseling Education and Supervision Program with a specialization in crisis management from Duquesne University. He is also a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania, Texas and North Carolina.

Marian Vanek, the executive director of the wellness center, said in the press release she was thrilled to have Darr join the team.

“He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Pitt,” Vanek said. “I am looking forward to working together to continue to enhance the counseling center experience at the University.”

Prior to beginning his work in college counseling in 2015, Darr was the CEO at a renewable energy company called SDL Citadel from 2009 to 2015. He also previously held roles as a senior learning specialist and care manager at Cigna, a health insurance company, and was the program manager at Pittsburgh-based NGO Healthy Start, Inc., which provides support to families with young children.

Currently, the UCC lists eight counselors, six psychologists and a drug and alcohol specialist as part of their team, including a staff psychologist, sports psychologist and a sexual assault services coordinator. Students in the past have protested and petitioned the university over what they perceived as a lack of counselors and long wait times.

[From 2016: No time to talk: What’s going on with Pitt’s counseling center?]

Counseling services include individual therapy, couples therapy and group therapy. Psychiatric services are available to students through the wellness center.

Darr said he is humbled by the opportunity to serve as the director for the UCC.

“I look forward to listening to, being inspired by, and collaborating with the Pitt community to enhance student well-being and success,” Darr said in the press release.

Brian Gentry and Christian Snyder contributed reporting.