David Fenell, Professor of Counseling Education, reflects on 37 years (and two deployments) at UCCS

David Fenell, a U.S. Army veteran and Professor of Counselor Education in the College of Education, will retire on Jan. 1, 2022 after nearly 37 years as a faculty member at UCCS.

Fenell’s career has had many highlights that you wouldn’t expect from someone who served as a department chair for 20 years — like serving in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11 and surviving over 30 military parachute jumps at the Air Force Academy and Fort Bragg, NC. We could easily write a best-selling biography about his career. Instead, here are a few highlights as we wish him all the best during his transition into retirement.

Fenell was hired as an assistant professor with four years of credit toward tenure in 1984. When you talk with him, you quickly see that there are many things he is proud of during his 37-year career at UCCS. This is a list of a few of them.

  • He taught hundreds of students in three decades on the faculty, with four of those students earning their Ph.Ds and now serving as faculty members at UCCS.
  • He was appointed Director of the UCCS Counseling Center in 1998, setting the groundwork for the emergence of the UCCS Counseling Center. Today, it provides mental health services as a division of the UCCS Wellness Center.
  • He co-authored an award-winning textbook, “Counseling Families: An Introduction to Marriage Couple and Family Therapy” and authored professional articles and presentations on counselling military veterans and their families.
  • He was the founding director of the joint UCCS-USAFA master’s degree program, which has prepared more than 400 U.S. Air Force officers over the past 20 years to lead cadet squadrons at the U.S. Air Force Academy. 
  • He was appointed by Chancellor Emerita Shockley-Zalabak and Provost Emerita Bacon to serve as the interim dean of the College of Education from 2010–2011.
  • He chaired and wrote the initial CACREP evaluation, with accreditation awarded in 2001 in recognition of the high quality of the UCCS counselor preparation program. 
  • He developed one of the first cohort-based training models in the counseling profession, and streamlined course scheduling and admissions procedures.
  • He also co-chaired a committee to determine the best organizational structure to provide non-academic services to UCCS students, which resulted in the creation of the Vice Chancellor for Student Success position.

While working at UCCS, Fenell maintained his affiliation as a psychologist serving the United States Air Force Academy and the U.S. Army Special Operation Command that began decades ago. This commitment included two deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I was asked to serve as the USAFA psychologist at Jack’s Valley, site of the basic field training that all basic cadets must complete, said Fenell. “When the stress and physical challenges became too great for some cadets, and they wanted to leave the Academy, I would counsel them in my ‘psych tent,’ helping the cadets make choices based on thoughtful considerations of their future goals, rather than the pain of the temporary physically and mentally challenging training they were experiencing.”

Fenell’s record as a U.S. Army veteran includes two deployments and two Bronze Star Medals.

And then the Academy offered him the opportunity to jump out of an airplane.

“I had the opportunity to engage in research on the effects of the USAFA Basic Freefall Parachute course on character development of cadets,” said Fenell. “To be qualified to engage in that research, I completed the freefall course myself along with 40 young cadets, providing an understanding of the stressors and character development elements of the rigorous and dangerous parachute training course. That first freefall jump at age 46 is an enduring memory!”

Fenell remembers the tremendous support and encouragement provided by UCCS and the College of Education when he was ordered to active duty in Sep. 2001 to serve as Director of the Psychological Applications, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He was responsible for the assessment and selection of hundreds of candidates hoping to earn their Green Berets. He later deployed to Afghanistan, providing psychological analysis of projected enemy activities as well as providing counseling services to military personnel in the combat zone. In Sep. 2003, he returned to the College of Education, again assuming leadership in the department and teaching courses in counselor education and family counseling.

Just a few years later in 2006, he was mobilized again, this time with the 10th Special Forces Group of Fort Carson, Colorado. Fenell spent six months in Iraq as the Command Special Operations Psychologist. He retired from the Army Reserves as a colonel in Jan. 2007, returning to UCCS to continue his duties as a professor and department chair. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal (twice) and the Legion of Merit for his service. 

“The relationships formed over these 37 years at UCCS and in the College of Education have provided the memories that I will cherish as I move into retirement. I could not have been successful without the support of my family, friends and professional colleagues. I am grateful to all of them” Fenell said. 

“My greatest hope is that I have made valuable contributions to UCCS, the College of Education, the Department of Counseling and Human Services, my students and our nation during my tenure here.”