Jeff Reese, Ph.D., is the new department head in the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and Counseling in the Auburn University College of Education. He comes to Auburn from the University of Kentucky where he was a professor in counseling psychology. He had previously served on the faculty at Abilene Christian University, where he earned his BS and Master’s degrees. Abilene is also his hometown.
“Abilene, in west-central Texas, was a great place to grow up,” Reese said. “Football is huge there. We played in the same district as Odessa, whose Permian High School Panthers was the team upon which the book and movie Friday Night Lights were based in the 1989 season. In fact, I graduated from Abilene High School in 1988, so that was a big deal. I loved sports then and still do. I was a left-handed pitcher in college, and continue to run and play golf and tennis.”
That part of the Lone Star State along I-20 west of Dallas is largely treeless and brown. Reese remembers going to visit an uncle in Texarkana and was taken by the greenery, especially the pine trees.
“Ever since then I have wanted to live where there were a lot of pine trees, and now here I am!”
Reese’s research centers on psychotherapy. He has pursued two basic research questions: Does psychotherapy work, and why does it work? He has most recently been focused on client feedback, and how such feedback impacts the outcome of therapy and the therapeutic relationship. He is also interested in the relationship between technology and therapeutic outcomes, especially telehealth. Reese has practiced as a licensed psychologist in both Texas and Kentucky. He has authored nearly 60 journal publications and book chapters to go along with his three books.
In addition to his love of the Auburn area’s flora, Reese has also felt welcomed by the people.
“I have been bowled over by how warm and friendly everyone is here,” Reese said. “I felt that when I interviewed for the job. Southern hospitality is a real thing. People really like to talk and visit, and I am enjoying that very much.”
As he acclimates to a new culture and environment, Reese is in no hurry to implement big changes in the department.
“I have a lot to learn,” he said. “I know the counseling side of things pretty well, but am learning about special ed and rehabilitation. I am really just in assess mode right now. I’m trying to see how I can complement the many things here that are working very well, which is what attracted me here in the first place. I like the values that are obvious in each of the programs, as well as the applied aspect of the programs. I just hope to work collaboratively with the faculty and staff and build on the success that is already there.”
Reese understands the importance of consistent improvement and program growth, but wants to be prudent and thoughtful going forward.
“You have the luxury of doing that when you inherit such a solid faculty and support staff. We certainly have that here.”
In closing, Reese said he has actually been enamored with Auburn for several years.
“Two of my closest friends at Kentucky were Auburn grads and they dearly loved this place,” he said. “And I knew how nice it was because I interviewed here in 2001. I received the job offer, and drove my wife more than 800 miles so she could see how great it was. We both loved it, but because of family circumstances the timing just was not right. So I turned down the job, which was hard to do. But she saw that it was a great place to live, and now here we are. My father has already moved here, and my wife and youngest daughter will be joining us at the end of the school year while my son and other daughter are finishing up at Kentucky. So we’re all in and are excited to be part of such a great college and department. It’s been a long time coming, but I feel like we are at home.”