New Tabor psych profs value relationships

They may be busy in their first year as Tabor College faculty, but psychology professors Brian Mills and Jeanelle Herrel make sure they find time to practice what they preach:

Validate those around you.

Make family a priority.

Fulfill God’s call to help people in all walks of life.

And as assistant professors of psychology and of family studies, respectively, Mills and Herrel couldn’t be more certain that it is God’s call that guided them to their new positions at Tabor.

As part of those positions, they want to guide their students toward finding their own “place” in the working world.

“I want to help my students gain a better understanding of who God wants them to be and what God wants them to do with their lives,” Mills said. “Psychology is a pretty dead topic unless you’re able to put some application that gives life to it.”

A native of Pratt, Mills earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Friends University in Wichita, followed by a master’s in family ministry at Friends, master’s degrees in Christian education and in marriage and family therapy from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a doctorate in counselor education and supervision at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.

He is a licensed clinical professional counselor, a certified alcohol and drug counselor and an ordained Christian minister.

Over the past 15 years, Mills has worked in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings in Kansas and Texas. In 2001, he founded Cornerstone Behavioral Health, a Christ-centered outpatient treatment program that he ran full-time while teaching psychology and Bible classes as an adjunct professor at Barclay College in Haviland.

Mills recently moved Cornerstone’s offices to Newton, where he and wife Heather, an accountant, live with children Abigail, 9, Aidan, 7, and Owen, 3.

Finding the posting online for this Tabor position led to a dream come true for Mills, who was already familiar with Tabor’s good reputation, he said.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher-my mother and my grandmother were both teachers,” he said. “It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed.”

This year, Mills’s classes include general psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, history of social thought, research methods and physiological psychology.

Mills said his goal is to structure these classes so that they apply specifically to the students who take them.

“I want to get to know each of my students as well as possible, because I think that helps me to tailor my teaching to their interests,” he said.

But his own primary area of interest has become quite specific as well: Mills wants to teach his students how to help those dealing with addictions.

“The need has really outstripped the number of people who are out there to help,” he said.

In contrast, Herrel’s area of specialty is the family, in which she hopes to soon begin her doctoral studies, she said.

Her interest in helping people and families through therapy is based on personal experience, she said.

“I primarily decided to get into therapy and be a therapist when I saw how much Jesus really helped me in my life and turned me inside out,” Herrel said. “I wanted to help people turn themselves inside out, too.”

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in education from Wichita State University and a master’s in professional counseling from Doane College in Lincoln, Neb., Herrel has spent the past few years treating children, adolescents, adults and families in a variety of outpatient settings while living in Wisconsin with her own family.

“My goal was to bring families back together through in-home family therapy,” Herrel said.

She and husband Kurt, who teaches math in Peabody, now live about 11 miles outside Hillsboro on a farm with children Jacob, 10, Rebekah, 8, Bethany, 3, and Samuel, 2.

“My passion is growing marital relationships in a deep way in order to create a positive and strong family,” she said.

So while Herrel is passionate about teaching students to help families as she has done, her own family will always remain a top priority.

Her plate is full with classes to teach this year: introduction to sociology, general psychology, family life across cultures, psychology of personality, human development, human sexuality and social problems.

Herrel hopes her students will apply what they learn to both personal and professional relationships.

“One of the things that I want students to be able to understand is that they can take psychology and they can use it in so many different areas of their lives,” she said. “But there’s (also) a need for them to consider future careers and occupations where they can use psychology.”

And while Herrel would love to see some of her students end up helping families the way she has and continues to do, she is as supportive of the differing goals of her coworkers as they are of hers.

“We all just really have a passion to really build the (psychology) program as much as possible with what we have,” she said. “We each have different interests-but we’re all supportive of each other and our goals. We validate each other a lot.”

Affirming each other’s worth in that way is a practice Herrel and Mills have tried to model for their students, she said.

“The most validating thing is that we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ, and we treat each that way,” she said.”The students do the same thing-we’re all really working on collectively being that way toward each other.”

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