ATLANTA – College of Professional Advancement Ph.D. student Jeni Willenzik was awarded the Emerging Leader Grant from the American College Counseling Association (ACCA), an affiliate of the American Counseling Association.

Each year, the ACCA awards graduate students within the field of counseling funding to attend the organization’s annual conference, which was held in February in Las Vegas.

Willenzik, who is in the first year of her doctoral studies in counselor education and supervision at Mercer, learned of the opportunity in the “Contemporary Issues in Counselor Education and Supervision” course taught by Dr. Tyler Wilkinson, associate professor and coordinator of the Ph.D. program.

“For one of our assignments, we had to do research on the American Counseling Association and find a branch that was most interesting to us within the organization,” Willenzik said. “I looked into it as a class assignment but was also looking for opportunities for graduate students.”

Willenzik dug into the ACCA website and noticed the conference along with the Emerging Leader Grant. She applied and was accepted to present her research at the conference. A month later, she found out that she won the award.

“I was excited to be able to get more engaged on a national level,” Willenzik said. “It’s just really exciting to be able to learn from some mentors and be involved in counseling on a different level.”

Willenzik’s passion for counseling comes from her drive to increase the accessibility of mental health care.

“When there are mental health issues, it can be such a barrier for people to achieve their fullest potential, so that idea of systemic wellness is something I’m really passionate about,” Willenzik said. “Counselors can do so many things and help create environments supportive of mental health.”

Mercer has also provided the opportunity for Willenzik to explore subjects that pique her interest within mental health studies.

“The professors have definitely been supportive,” Willenzik said. “It’s an environment where if we want to do research in different things, they’re willing to partner with us in whatever way we need. They are there to advocate for what we want to learn, so that’s been really neat.”

Willenzik was influenced to further her studies at Mercer by a clinical supervisor who attended the University and referred her to its doctoral program.

“I’ve just loved the ability to get experience in so many areas and have faculty and professors who are invested in our growth and want to see us succeed,” Willenzik said.

About the College of Professional Advancement

Mercer University’s College of Professional Advancement is committed to serving post-traditional learners. Undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs are offered to adult learners seeking professional advancement into leadership roles in and beyond their communities. Programs provide students with distinctive, multidisciplinary experiences that integrate theory and practice. In addition to providing general education and elective courses for various colleges and schools at Mercer, the College of Professional Advancement offers degree programs in areas including technology, public safety, public and human services, leadership and administration, health care and liberal arts. Programs are offered on Mercer’s campuses in Atlanta and Macon, as well as Regional Academic Centers in Douglas County and Henry County, and online. To learn more, visit