Counseling, student development department chair to retire


Katja Benz, Student Government Reporter

Richard Roberts, the chair of the counseling and student development department, is retiring from his present position to continue teaching classes in the department.

Roberts, who has been a professor at Eastern since 1998, teaches a career counseling class in the counseling and higher education department, which is designed to help students gain skills in helping develop careers and to help individuals that may struggle to do that.

Prior to teaching at Eastern, he taught at South Dakota State University as an assistant professor in the counseling and human resource development department. 

During his undergraduate experience, however, Roberts had no idea that he wanted to work in higher education. 

Roberts got a bachelor of music degree from North Texas State University.

He says that he was a student that was a “wanderer,” which is a student that may not know what they want to do in college and may benefit from taking a gap year. There are two other types of students in college. 

“Jeffrey Selingo in his book ‘There is life after College’ states there are three types of students: The Sprinters, the Wanderers and the Stragglers,” Roberts said. “I was a Wanderer.” 

Roberts also got a masters degree in theology from the Dallas Theological Seminary. He said they were both very different experiences, even though he gained valuable lessons. 

“Music taught me to work with others and listen carefully,” Roberts said. “Theology taught me to pursue a meaningful life.”

Prior to working in education, Roberts worked in consulting from 1989 to 1993 before going back to consulting in 1996. He started working in education in 1991, but has been at Eastern for 24 years. 

He got his doctorate in counseling and student services from North Texas State University, where he got his bachelor’s degree 12 years prior. 

Going to or working at Eastern runs in Roberts’ family. His son also goes to and works at Eastern and had another child that received a master’s degree from Eastern. 

Despite being in the same department as his son, Roberts said they almost never cross paths.

“He is a graduate assistant in student success, so we don’t cross paths that often,” Roberts said. “He is about to graduate with his master’s degree in college student affairs. That will make two of my children who have received their master’s degree from EIU.”

He also said Eastern has allowed him to grow as well. He hopes that he has been good to Eastern in return. 

“Eastern has been very good to me and hopefully I’ve been good to it,” Roberts said.  “As an institution I’ve tried to follow Parker Palmer’s suggestion that leadership is about creating a space where people can thrive. Eastern has allowed me to work toward that goal.”

Roberts said he got attracted to career counseling through being lost in his educational journey. He said it took him some time to figure out what he wanted to do with his career, which led him to career counseling and teaching.  

“Ironically, my main interest is career counseling, probably because it took me a while to figure things out,” Roberts said.

He hopes that students in college can imagine their futures and create visions while also creating realities based off of those dreams and imaginations. 

“My advice in my career class is to create a vision,” Roberts said. “However, creating a vision requires imagination and clarity. We have been conditioned to rule out options based on past negative experiences, so imagination requires an ability to work through the barriers that cloud our vision. Secondly, clarity requires us to think about our values and skills. Once that occurs, we can be intentional about making our vision a reality.”  


Katja Benz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].