Posted on May 18, 2021 by Christopher Reichert


Dhruvi Patel’s career in mental health has always been influenced by her interest in minority communities. After graduating from UTSA with her M.S. in clinical mental health counseling, Patel became a licensed professional counselor. Now back at UTSA to pursue her Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision, Patel has just been awarded the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellowship.

Culture and identity have long shaped Patel’s attitudes as a student and a counselor. “Even before I could really process it, I think my cultural identity had really permeated certain passions that were driving me in ways I couldn’t even put words to yet,” she said.

Throughout her studies, Patel says she observed gaps in scientific literature and a cross-cultural disconnect between many counselors and minority populations. Thus, Patel says the Fellowship’s goals of reducing mental health disparities in various minority populations resonated with her own life narrative.

“Sending the application felt symbolic to me; it felt like me rising to a responsibility,” she said. “And to be answered with support for that, I can’t put that feeling into words. I’m already invested in increasing Asian American representation…so for that to be supported is amazing.”

Patel says she is immensely grateful to have been awarded this fellowship.

“I will never take this for granted, I think it’s one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever received in my life and from a meaning and significance perspective too because I know how many deserving candidates there are for this"

“I will never take this for granted, I think it’s one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever received in my life and from a meaning and significance perspective too because I know how many deserving candidates there are for this,” she said.

But despite her gratitude, she describes stumbling upon the fellowship as a lucky accident. As somebody now studying counselor education, Patel says she would like to see opportunities such as the fellowship, especially those for minority students, brought to students’ attention sooner.

“I would hope we’re better about helping our students be aware…I do think that’s an educator responsibility,” she said.

Now that the application process is over, Patel is shifting her focus forward and anticipating all that the fellowship offers, like the chance to grow and develop as a mental health professional. While the fellowship does include an award of $20,000, she says she is most excited for the opportunities to attend professional conferences and training events.

Reflecting on the application process also brought forth more gratitude for key professors who helped her as she sought to win the fellowship.

“It felt like a collective achievement because I’d known that outstanding support from faculty,” she said.

But even beyond the fellowship, Patel credits her time at UTSA with shaping her passions as a counselor.

“When I first chose [UTSA] for counseling I didn’t even realize how perfectly aligned it was with some of the things I was really, really interested in,” she said. “For example, that multicultural emphasis, the relational-cultural emphasis….I had just amazing professors that embodied certain stances that now I strive to emulate as an aspiring counselor educator. When I actually applied for a doctoral program, I didn’t apply anywhere else. I was 110% in.”

Now in her last semester of classes, and having earned her fellowship, Patel can shift her focus to her dissertation. Even in her research, her goals echo that of the Minority Fellowship, as she is seeking to increase the representation of Indian American women in the scientific literature. Specifically, she will be studying intentional childlessness in this population, and how it relates to cultural prescriptions or pressures Indian American women might normally face.

“To me,” she said, “it gets to the heart of what we do as counselors: help people be who they are. And if I get to represent my community in the process, then I’m having a lot of fun doing that.” 

For more information on the NBCC Foundation’s scholarship and fellowship programs, visit .

To learn more about COEHD's Department of Counseling.

- Christopher Reichert

— Christopher Reichert