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Georgia Southern Counseling Center staff win big at Georgia College Counseling Association awards

Licensed professional counselor Nikita Robinson and staff psychologist Mark Taracuk, Ph.D.

Georgia Southern University licensed professional counselor Nikita Robinson and staff psychologist Mark Taracuk, Ph.D., took top spots at the 2021 Georgia College Counseling Association (GCCA) awards in January. Robinson was named the Sylvia Shortt Counselor of the Year while Taracuk won awards for Clinical Program of the Year and Outstanding Professional Contribution to Knowledge.

Georgia Southern Counseling Center Executive Director Jodi Caldwell, Ph.D., said Robinson is one of the most recognizable staff members at the Counseling Center, working within numerous areas of the University.

“Nikita is always willing to help even if it means sitting outside at a table offering resources to students,” Caldwell said. “She deserves this award for her dedication, hard work and collaborations. Nikita truly personifies the diversity of skills, experiences and roles that come with being a counselor.”

Counseling Center Executive Director Jodi Caldwell, Ph.D.

The award reminds Robinson of the importance of her mental health work.

“Winning this award alleviates my fear that the efforts we put forward are not recognized,” she said. “Winning this award is a testament to the work the Counseling Center as a whole contributes daily to our community as we step into a variety of roles to meet community needs. It is a pleasure to receive this award and further my commitment to personal and professional goals as a mental health counselor.”

Taracuk’s work on increasing college students’ positive attitudes toward transgender and gender diverse individuals, along with increasing participants’ willingness to engage in social action on behalf of marginalized individuals, led to his recognition. His research included having participants watch a specific episode of “Star Trek” that relates to gender diversity in the plot without explicitly discussing transgender and gender diverse rights.

Taracuk won the Clinical Program of the Year award for “Creating Champions,” a three-hour interactive program for male-identified individuals designed to confront harmful gender norms through intentional evaluation and increasing mindful masculinity. The workshop helps individuals deepen their understanding of harmful masculine norms in society, gain new perspectives, and provide tips, tools and inspiration to empower everyone to make a difference.

“It’s an incredible privilege to win both of these awards,” Taracuk said. “While the awards honor two very different projects, both are strongly rooted in the values of social justice, inclusiveness and the push to create physical and psychological safety for all people. I am incredibly proud of both of these projects and am so thankful for my fantastic colleagues and collaborative partners who seek to make a difference every day.”

Taracuk said these awards serve as a symbol for the hard work of the entire Counseling Center staff.

“Part of our multifaceted mission is to find unique, innovative ways to engage, support and impact the mental health and well-being of Georgia Southern,” he said. “We firmly believe this will happen through programs, projects and opportunities that maintain a global perspective and sense of community are both essential conditions of life.”

GCCA is a professional membership organization composed of professional practitioners employed in the counseling facilities of Georgia’s public and private institutions, colleges and universities, and is a state branch of the American College Counseling Association. For more information about the Counseling Center, visit


Posted in Awards and Recognition, Press Releases