Robert Lundien, a 1996 graduate of Missouri Southern, will be honored at the White House in January as one of six finalists for the 2016 School Counselor of the Year award.

Rob Lundien

Rob Lundien

Presented by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), the award honors professionals who devote their careers to serving as advocates for the nation’s students, helping them achieve success in school and life. The six finalists will travel to Washington, D.C., for three days of events, including visits with their respective state representatives and a White House ceremony hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama.

“With all of the outstanding counselors out there who work hard on behalf of students and families, it’s quite an honor to be chosen as one of the finalists,” said Lundien, school counselor and department chair at Staley High School in Kansas City, Mo.

After graduating from Missouri Southern with a degree in music education, Lundien’s teaching career has included serving as band director in Diamond, a counselor for Neosho High School and working in special education for the Webb City School District. He has been with Staley High School for the last seven years.

The awards process began in Lundien’s school district, with a nomination from Staley’s principal. He was honored by the Greater Kansas City School Counselor Association and was then selected as the Missouri Secondary School Counselor of the Year. Nominations for the national award were then forwarded to the ASCA for consideration.

“The national award looks at how you advocate for your students, but also how you advocate for your profession,” said Lundien. “They also look at programs and activities used to help with students’ social and emotional well-being and their college readiness.”

Advocacy on behalf of the counseling profession is an important part of ensuring that students get the help they need, he said.

“Many times, they are overwhelmed with high caseloads,” he said. “Students need to have equal access to counselors.”

In addition to Lundien, finalists for the award are:

  • Durenda Johnson Ward, school counselor, Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Kris M. Owen, Ridgeview STEM Junior High School, Pickerington, Ohio.


  • Katherine Pastor, school counselor and department chair, Flagstaff High School, Flagstaff, Ariz.


  • Kim Reykdal, career and college counselor, Olympia High School, Olympia, Wash.


  • Samantha Vidal, school counselor, Creekside Elementary School, Franklin, Ind.