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Faith, Hope and Love Combine to Make a Big Difference

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Kelly Bushéy never meets a stranger. Her positive attitude combined with a refreshing sense of humor makes her someone who is easy to talk to and enjoyable to be around. Equipped with this demeanor from a young age, she has carried it with her throughout the years as a student, counselor, leader and professor, impacting lives along the way.

“As a professor, I try to find a good balance of rigor and humor in my classes,” she said. “I have to keep my students engaged and humor helps me to do that.”

As vice chair of the applied psychology program at Hodges University, Bushéy brings more than 20 years of professional experience to the classroom. Serving as a program director, working in marketing and public relations, and eventually opening her own private practice, she considers herself a small town girl who is lucky enough to make a difference.

Growing up in Alpena, Michigan, she was a hyperactive child. In fifth grade, her substitute teacher, Shirley Keyes, invited her to dinner. While visiting Keyes’ house, Bushéy noticed a huge bookcase full of books. Asking her teacher if she had read them all, she recalled Keyes saying, “I have…Kelly, if you read, you can be anything you want to be.” Heeding Keyes’ advice, reading captured her attention in a way that by the time she finished sixth grade, she had read the biographies of every U.S. president.

Entering high school, Bushéy attended a faith-based charter school. Coming from a low-income family, she worked at a nearby gas station mopping floors, filling coolers and performing other duties to pay her tuition. After high school, she earned a chancellor’s scholarship to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Earning her bachelor’s degree in philosophy care and counseling in 1989, she remarked, “Some people graduate cum laude, summa cum laude and magna cum laude. I graduated ‘thank the laude’ with my bachelor’s.”

Kelly Bushey and students at Hodges graduation,

Ashley Hibbard, Kelly Bushey, & Nicole Combs at Hodges’ 2015 Graduation Ceremony.

During spring break, Bushéy decided to visit her college roommate, who lived in the Adirondacks. Discovering Word of Life, a faith-based youth organization in Schroon Lake, New York, she attended the School of Youth and Missions. On graduation day, the manager of the conference center asked if she would be interested in serving as the program director for Word of Life Inn, which she did from 1989 to 1994.

Returning to Michigan to be with family, she found herself unemployed but remembered Keyes’ words of wisdom and accepted a position as a receptionist for Courtney Retirement & Investment Services. Within one month, she was promoted to public relations and marketing director. While managing timelines and executing marketing plans and goals, she joined the Alpena Boys and Girls Club board of directors per the request of her company’s owner. “At the time, they needed to find a new CEO for the Boys & Girls Club…I thought, why don’t I do it,” she said.

As the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club Alpena from 1996 to 1998, she increased the funding stream by writing a grant that would design a program called “Skills and Drills,” which was designed to teach children about life skills while incorporating basketball drills. The State of Michigan eventually funded the program.

It was during this time, Bushéy made a change in her life. After the death of her mother, she knew she wanted to serve as a motivational speaker; however, she felt a master’s degree in counseling would help add depth to her seminars, so she enrolled at Summit University and graduated cum laude in 2000.

“I wanted to be able to help people and give them things they could apply to their life, not just shallow discussion. You never know who is in your audience, As I progressed, I saw my strengths and wanted to encourage people.”

While pursuing her degree, she taught as an adjunct faculty member in the communications department at Summit University for two years. In addition, she accepted an internship as a residential worker with the Lourdesmont Residential Placement Program from 1998 to 2002 and became a behavioral specialist/mobile therapist for Lackawanna County Youth Advocate Program from 1998 to 2004.

Kelly Bushey and Dr. Elsa Rogers

Kelly Bushey and Dr. Elsa Rogers

After graduating in 2000, she accepted a teaching position in the applied psychology program at Summit University and served as the clinical director at the university’s Love Life Marriage and Family Counseling Center. Supervising Master of Science in counseling students, she admits, “I found that very rewarding because I got to use the knowledge I had been receiving, as well as help other people who were being counseled.”

Taking her educational background and professional experience a step further, Bushéy founded Cherith Counseling & Conference Ministries in 2004. Operating her private counseling practice for four years, she specialized in depression, anxiety and stress among children, adolescents and families, and served as a motivational speaker for various conferences, seminars and workshops throughout the U.S.

After a trip to Naples to visit a friend, Bushéy noticed a large billboard for Hodges University. Visiting the university’s website, she noticed an open position for an adjunct faculty member in psychology. Emailing her resume to Dr. Elsa Rogers, she received a phone call the next morning for an interview.

Accepting the position in 2007, she taught as an adjunct for one year while working part time as an administrative assistant to Dr. Diane Ball in the university’s Institutional Effectiveness (IE) department. In 2009, she was given the opportunity to join Hodges’ applied psychology program full time, and by 2014, her commitment to higher education and student success were recognized with her appointment to vice chair.

“I believe you should always be mentoring and being mentored by somebody,” she said. Believing herself to be not only a professor but also a mentor, she recognizes the struggles many of her students face, especially with writing, research and managing stressors in life. Understanding their difficulties, Bushéy said, “I try to help them by striving to remain firm with the policies, yet, compassionate.”

Through her pedagogical style of teaching, she works to keep her students engaged through various hands-on activities, placing them in scenarios that require them to observe and report their findings. As applied psychology majors, Bushéy explains, “Our students are in a research-based program. That is how we are different from other universities. I tell the students, ‘you’re getting a B.S., that is Bachelor of Science, and two classes put that Science in there – your research class and statistics.’”

Although it may seem much of her time is devoted to teaching, Bushéy can be found spending her time working on her dissertation. Enrolling at Northcentral University to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy in psychology in 2011, she plans to graduate in 2018. Currently in the proposal stage of her dissertation, the population of her research is the Oglala Lakota Sioux of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The dissertation examines how historical trauma affects Native Americans utilization of mental health counseling.

Bushéy’s Mohawk heritage opened doors for her to begin working with On Eagles’ Wings (OEW), a “movement of Native American young people bringing hope to their communities through Jesus Christ.” Each year, OEW hosts the Warrior Leadership Summit (WLS), a youth discipleship conference that hosts more than 500 Native American youth from the U.S. and Canada. For 24 years, Bushéy has served as a senior counselor and volunteer with WLS, and in 2013, this extensive experience was recognized as an associate member of the National Congress for American Indians (NCAI).

In 2015, she was one of 300 attendees at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C. discussing Native American policy and ways the U.S. government can form an alliance with Native Americans.

To add to her list of accomplishments, Bushéy co-wrote grant with founder of the BEAR (Be Excited About Reading) Program Tiny DeCory in 2000. The program has since evolved to improve literacy on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Encouraging children to read more, BEAR has expanded into a prevention program for suicide and substance abuse. BEAR is a multidimensional support system that now includes the Bear Cave, a place that serves as temporary youth shelter.

In addition, Bushéy is a nationally certified counselor (NCC), one of less than 1,500 NCCs in the U.S. to have the credential of distance credentialed counselor (DCC), and she is one of only 10 individuals in Florida to have the designation of authorized instructor for the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis (T-JTA).

Through all of her experiences and opportunities, academically and professionally, Bushéy is still the same small town girl who is living out her faith by helping and putting others first. From her former clients to her psychology students to the Native American youth population, she embraces each day with a beaming smile and positive attitude, all in an effort to make a difference in the world.