Crosswinds Conversations | Curtis Smith Interviews Matt Decker

This video segment is from Restoring Hope, a TV series hosted on WHMB40 and serving the Indianapolis area. Crosswinds Counseling offers counseling services throughout Indiana.

Curtis: It’s time to meet our next guest. Matt Decker is here from Indiana Wesleyan University. It’s not only a wonderful university, but a great partner with Crosswinds Counseling to provide mental health services to Indianapolis. Matt, thank you for being with us.

Matt: Thank you for having me.

Curtis: Indiana Wesleyan has been in Indianapolis for more than 20 years now, but for those of us who don’t know IWU very well, tell us about your university, kind of maybe as a whole, and the presence here in Indianapolis.

Matt: Sure. Indiana Wesleyan has been here in Indiana for over 100 years and we’re up in Marion, the main campus. In the 90s we saw a need to kind of branch out and move beyond just kind of an up ‘north school’ and have regional campuses throughout the region in fact. And we’ve slowly expanded throughout the years. Indianapolis was one of the first places that we expanded to and so we have several sites here in Indianapolis and in the general area. and used for educational centers. We have staff services that we provide. And of course we partner with community agencies to provide some space to do a variety of things including Crosswinds with the counseling center.

Curtis: Yeah, so on the north side of Indy we have a partnership where we share space. We have some of the space there on your campus. Why has been partnering with mental health services been so important from the IWU perspective?

Matt: Well, it’s part of our core as far as our mission is ‘changing the world.’ We seek to serve the communities in any way that we can. We provide a lot of educational programs around mental health services: social work, psychology, addiction counseling, and those kind of things and it’s just a natural fit to partner with agencies in communities that are actually providing the services. It’s really important to us, to me specifically, that we keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in our communities. What can happen in academia is you know we go off in our ivory tower somewhere and we do research and we teach and we forget about what’s happening in the real world. By partnering with agencies in the community, we can keep kind of an eye on, the flow of information, both ways. What the practical side of things are and then what the academic side of things are.

Curtis: You say for you specifically because you are in behavioral sciences, and this is such a great need. I mean I imagine you are seeing all kinds of students flock to the behavioral sciences because in the real world there is such a need to provide those services.

Matt: Absolutely. Yes. And the pandemic has changed that significantly. Mental health needs have gone up significantly in the past, you know, a couple of years. Our programs, social work, psychology, all of the behavioral sciences are growing. Students, the communities I think, sense the need and students are responding. Indiana is of course struggling with the opioid epidemic as well. We’re partnering with people on those fronts too, trying to see what we as a institution do in collaboration with partners with the community.

Curtis: Your students are all age ranges. You have traditional students in that 18-22 and then you also have the adults. Do you have more of the adults are drawn to the behavioral sciences, or are 18, 19, 20 year olds seeing the value of getting into this line of work?

Matt: I think it’s both. I think everyone whose, maybe not everyone, but a lot of people who are driven or drawn to behavioral sciences, have some sort of desire to serve and this is a great way to do that for them. A lot of people have either come into contact with mental health concerns themselves, or have family members or friends, or just other experiences growing up, or in their lives generally, where they see the need and they understand this is the training they need in order to serve those populations.

Curtis: Yeah. Matt, I think that a faith-based foundation is important no matter what your major is or what your studying, but perhaps this arena more than any other – having that root of being faith-based seems critical.

Matt: Absolutely, it is. And that’s the great thing about Indiana Wesleyan is our programs provide the training in evidence-based practices, you know all the latest research. While infusing that and fully combining that with a Christian theology. What’s great about what we do is that it is not you learn the secular practice and then you tack a Bible verse on top of that. It’s really fully synthesizing those two ideas and what’s most exciting to me personally because a lot of my own research is in this area is how actually those two things go together very very well. You don’t have to pick and choose really. What we say is ‘truth and truth and truth fits together very well.’

Curtis: Yeah. That makes sense. I really like that. ‘Truth fits together really well with other truth.’

Matt: Absolutely.

Curtis: Let me throw a big question at you as we kind of wrap up our time together. The whole world is changed in all industries, all organizations are having to pivot and figure out what the new normal is coming out of the pandemic. What do you think the state of higher education is in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? It’s a really simple question that you can probably answer in 30 seconds. [chuckles]

Matt: Right. Right. I think people are looking for things that fit them and their lifestyle. I think that especially for adult students, they’re looking for, ‘OK, how can I get the biggest bank for my buck? What tactics and strategies can I use to really get me where I want to go?’ Traditionally it was a 4-year college degree. Traditionally that was the way everybody wanted to go, you know. This is your ticket to a kind of economic upward mobility. Now we’re thinking about micro-credentialing and other certificates and really specific skills training that people need to get that upward mobility that they’re looking for. The great thing that we’re doing is looking at how can we offer those things in smaller bit-sized packages and still give people college credits. So that you’re getting those credentials. You’re getting those skills that you need as you move forward, but you’re also getting some college credit while you’re at that.

Curtis: Makes sense. Matt, thank you so much, not only for being here tonight on Restoring Hope but for the partnership that Crosswinds has with Indiana Wesleyan. I think it’s already been fruitful, and we are excited to see what happens next and where it goes from here. So Matt thank you for being with us.

Matt: You’re welcome.


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