September | Making a connection, one student at a time: Rodriguez changes lives at CCU
by Josh Kisner
Megan Rodriguez, alcohol and other drugs counselor, uses her ability to connect with students to change their lives, earning her the recognition of being a Chauncey’s Champion.
Rodriguez arrived at Coastal Carolina University in September 2017 motivated to change the lives of students and employees she meets. It is her job to meet with students who experience issues with alcohol or other drugs, and she teaches them coping methods, self-care and techniques to help with time management, depression, anxiety or stress.
Rodriguez was born and raised in the Garden State, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s degree in counseling at Montclair State University.
"I have 12 years of experience in the mental health field as well as college-level teaching and academic experience,” said Rodriguez. “I have worked at Rutgers University, as well as worked with FEMA doing crisis counseling right after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.”
CCU was always in the back of Rodriguez’s mind before she and her husband, Eric, relocated to the Grand Strand area. She had vacationed in Myrtle Beach her entire life and decided that she might as well work where she wants to retire.
“Coastal is a wonderful school known for its strong liberal arts programs,” said Rodriguez. “It has a beautiful campus, a warm and friendly overtone, and it made me feel like part of the family the minute I stepped on campus.”
Rodriguez believes that connecting with students who are having a hard time often have some sort of internal struggle going on in their lives such as being homesick, or struggling with depression or stress. She is able to acknowledge the students’ issues and teach them different ways to create better or healthier habits to deal with their hardships.
She was nominated as a Chauncey’s Champion by Jennie Cassidy, assistant vice president of Student Affairs and senior director of Counseling Services, because of how much she cares for the students she meets. According to Cassidy, Rodriguez often meets with students who have been cited for an alcohol or other drug violation. She says students often come into the meetings with a bad attitude or feeling like they have done nothing wrong. She is able to work with the students and show them she cares and is on their side.
“She takes our most resistant students and gets them interested in what they can get out of counseling,” said Cassidy. “She is always looking for ways that she can be helpful to her colleagues and is incredibly supportive in helping the other counselors deal with extremely emotionally taxing jobs.”
Not only is Rodriguez a great influence and team player in the office, but she often tells students to call her anytime they need anything. She ends each counseling session with students on a positive note, even if the student came into the session upset.
Going above and beyond in the workplace comes naturally to Rodriguez. Susan McLean, associate director of clinical services, says that Rodriguez goes out of her way to improve the lives of the people around her. She has been known to take over counseling sessions for other counselors when they cannot make it and has even taken initiative in starting new programs.
“When students are seen individually for an eight-session treatment program, the demand on Megan’s time is too great to see everyone. Some students were left to seek required treatment off campus,” said McLean. “In an attempt to provide alcohol and other drug services to as many students as possible, Megan took the initiative and created a group program to help a number of students she wouldn’t have been able to provide service to.”
In addition to creating new programs and stepping up to help her co-workers, Rodriguez is engaging and resourceful. She is often the one in the office to go to with a question because of her ability to quickly solve problems if they arise. She also has volunteered to be a part of a file review committee in her office, where she took the initiative to streamline the project to an online format and reduced paper waste.
Rodriguez says the most challenging part of her job is working with students who feel like they do not need to be in counseling. She leads the students by showing them that they can speak confidentially and share whatever is on their mind. Off the clock, Rodriguez continues to to stay up-to-date with the different trends of college students such as new music, video games and social media to make a more authentic connection with them.
“Flexibility, humor and empathy are incredibly important for this job,” said Rodriguez. “Every day is a new surprise, and you have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. I love being able to laugh with my co-workers and students because life is hard sometimes, so humor always helps relieve a little tension.”
Teamwork, family and passion is Rodriguez’s definition of CCU. She says that students are the No. 1 motivator for her and she wants to continue to work hard to help them succeed. Through the good and tough times, she loves working at CCU, and Rodriguez and her colleagues put their heart and soul into their work.
“I love the camaraderie that I feel working at CCU,” said Rodriguez. “It is a great feeling, and I truly love being a Chant.”
Chauncey’s Service Excellence Champions are University employees (faculty or staff) who perform service-oriented actions that go above and beyond their job duties and that meet at least one dimension of service quality. These employees are recognized for outstanding performance and embody the Feel the Teal initiative. To nominate someone for Chauncey’s Champion, visit coastal.edu/feeltheteal, fill out the form and submit it. Approved nominees will receive an exclusive Chauncey’s Champion gift as well as consideration for additional recognition. View all the Chauncey’s Champions at coastal.edu/feeltheteal/champions/champs.php.