Ian Birky, director of Counseling and Psychological Services for 22 years, was recently honored by his colleagues across the country with a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
Birky was given the award by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD), which represents more than 700 institutions worldwide and works with college and university counseling centers to uphold professional principles and promote awareness of student mental health issues.
Nominators praised Birky as a “consummate professional, a creative and visionary thinker,” with a “rich mix of passion and sensitivity.” One described him as “one of the most creative, insightful, intelligent and thought-provoking people I have met.” Another said, “Birky is a kind, thoughtful, gentle, competitive, intelligent and challenging colleague—a great blessing in my life.”
Others praised his commitment to providing the highest quality counseling center for students and for “accomplishing all this with a relaxed and unassuming style.”
Birky’s Lehigh colleagues cite his dedication, professionalism and commitment to helping students realize their full potential.
“I cannot imagine a better university counseling center director,” said Vice Provost for Student Affairs John Smeaton. “Ian is an outstanding therapist, educator, scholar and colleague. Lehigh and our students have been blessed by his compassion, intellect, commitment, energy and creativity. It has been my privilege and good fortune to work side by side with Ian for more than two decades.”
Giving students “the best possible support”
Dean of Students Sharon Basso also noted the seamless partnership her office enjoys with the Counseling Center, largely due to Birky’s “collaborative spirit, insightful leadership, patient style and cutting-edge approaches to mental health in a college setting.”
“That synergy,” said Basso, “affords us the opportunity to provide the best possible assessment and support to Lehigh students and to help them remain successful in their academic and interpersonal domains. I can’t imagine anyone being more deserving of this recognition by his professional peers, and I’m proud to call Ian my colleague.”
Birky earned a bachelor’s degree in natural science from Goshen College and studied theology in graduate school, but was drawn to clinical psychology. He earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and sport psychology from Oklahoma State University.
After completing an internship at the Yale University School of Medicine, Birky went to Colgate University, where he taught courses and conducted research in sport psychology and worked with athletic teams and athletes in addition to administering the Counseling Center.
Birky came to Lehigh in 1990. He directs the counseling center and teaches as an associate professor in the counseling psychology doctoral program and psychology department. He recently received a federal grant to continue his research in sport psychology and performance enhancement. In addition to working as a sport psychologist with Lehigh’s varsity sports teams and athletes, he is a licensed psychologist in New York and Pennsylvania with expertise in group psychotherapy, peak performance and sport psychology.
His research interests include psychodynamic and existential psychotherapy, and group and sports psychology. Teaching interests include sport psychology, crisis counseling and theories and practices of individual and group psychotherapy.
His many awards and honors include the Hillman Award, which recognizes exempt staff members who exemplify the highest level of achievement at Lehigh.
For more information on University Counseling and Psychological Services, visit their website here. Follow Lehigh on Facebook at facebook.com/lehighu and on Twitter at @LehighUNews.