Skip to main content

UTEP Faculty Profile: Sang Min Shin, Ph.D.

Last Updated on June 14, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Originally published June 14, 2019

By UC Staff

UTEP Communications

Students who take Sang Min Shin's master's-level courses are sure to experience plenty of hands-on learning, including sand play and being paired with a "play buddy" for the semester.

Sang Min Shin, Ph.D.
Sang Min Shin, Ph.D.

Name: Sang Min Shin, Ph.D.

Department: Department of Educational Psychology and Special Services, College of Education

What do you teach? I teach master’s level courses in my department’s mental health and school counseling programs. My courses are Play Therapy, Mental Health Counseling, Theories of Counseling, and Lifestyle and Career Development.

How long have you been a teacher? I started teaching in higher education in 2011 as a doctoral student at the University of Florida. I started teaching at UTEP in 2015. 

What is your favorite classroom activity or teaching technique? I enjoy using experiential learning and reflective activities in my classes. As Albert Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” I try to provide many experiential learning activities in the classroom. For example, in my Theories of Counseling course, my students can experience Jungian sand play, a semi-directive technique where clients create images. At first, my students were skeptical, but after the activity, they had their “a-ha” moments as they better understood the counseling process. At the end of the course, I got positive feedback from the students about this activity.

What background and experience do you have in your field of study that benefits your students? One of my research interests is the integration of nature with child counseling. I co-authored multiple research articles on nature-based child counseling that major counseling and play therapy journals published. One of the articles won the 2017 Charles A. Lewis Excellence in Research Award from the American Horticultural Therapy Association. With my expertise in nature-based child counseling, I conducted a nature-based group counseling research project in El Paso in collaboration with a local garden and a counseling agency. My students helped plan and conduct the research, collect and analyze the data, and prepare the manuscript. They presented this collaborative work at the annual American Counseling Association conference in March 2019. I was proud of them.

What do your students like best about your classes? Based on my student feedback, they like hands-on experiential learning activities such as role-playing, and applications of counseling techniques in my classes. Some of my students have told me such activities enhanced their perspective of counseling. In my Play Therapy course, I pair each student with a child for “play buddies” activity. The play buddies “play” together while UTEP students apply play therapy techniques throughout the semester. This experiential learning activity provides students with the chance to interact with actual children and to use what they learned from the course in realistic situations. Through such experiential learning opportunities, students could have real counseling experience before they go into the field.

What do you love most about being a teacher? I love to see my students achieving more than what they believed they could achieve! It is a joy to see them work hard, challenge themselves, and make so much progress in my course, even just in one semester! Some of the students that I mentored presented their own research at an international counseling conference, and doctoral programs accepted others with scholarships. I am truly proud of their accomplishments! Sometimes I have chances to meet my students in the field after they graduate. When I see them surpass me on certain counseling topics, I feel fulfilled as a teacher. It’s a wonderful feeling to have influenced someone’s life and the El Paso community. I am grateful to be part of their amazing journey. 

When you are not teaching, grading or preparing for classes, what are you doing? I enjoy outdoor running. I have participated in local races ranging from 5Ks to half marathons to include the UTEP Miner Dash, the Run Internacional - the U.S.-Mexico 10K, and the El Paso Half Marathon. What I like about running is that I can support local nonprofit mental health organizations by running their fundraising races. I am part of a UTEP Counseling Runners group. This group includes counseling students, faculty members, and local counselors. It is a great way to support mental health organizations as well as to stay connected with mental health professionals in El Paso. 

What is your favorite place on campus? Definitely Centennial Plaza. The landscape – green grass, trees, and native plants – relax me. I always take my friends who visit me in El Paso to Centennial Plaza. I am so lucky and happy to have this place at my work.

What is your favorite UTEP event, and why? My favorite UTEP events are the Chi Sigma Iota Induction ceremony and the College of Education Pre-Commencement ceremony. Chi Sigma Iota is the international honor society for counseling students, counselor educators and professional counselors, and we have a chapter at UTEP housed in the counseling program. At the annual induction ceremony, counseling faculty, families, friends, and partners celebrate the start of our students’ journey into the counseling field. At pre-Commencement, we celebrate our students’ accomplishments and their successful completion of their degree program with their family members and friends. I really enjoy these two events because we get to celebrate with students at the start and at the end of their academic journeys.

What advice would you give to an incoming UTEP student? I know many incoming UTEP students are first-generation college students. They and their family members should be proud of that. My advice to them is to work hard, do your best, and aim for excellence!