University Park, IL,
13:57 PM

Conversations with Leaders: Freddy Tung

Freddy Tung

Governors State University impressed Freddy Tung so much that he took a position as the new Director of the Counseling and Wellness Center at GSU under circumstances that might create anxiety in many people.

Dr. Tung joined the university in 2020 five months after work and classes were forced off campus, and learned the job remotely in the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s very scary to leave something you’re happy with and go to something completely unknown,” said Tung, previously an Assistant Counseling Center Director. “It’s a big step up in responsibility, but really cool to have at this level.”

Not long after settling into his new role, Tung built out the Counseling and Wellness Center with a strong group of professionals — most of whom are Governors State graduates.

“I was in a position to really cast a vision, creating and molding a department from the ground up,” Tung said. “It was great to be able to hire a team who are really good at their jobs, and also to build what an effective Counseling Department should look like.”

As part of the team under the Office of the Dean of Students, Tung said he found helpful colleagues who strive to work together, which makes everything easier, he said.

In hiring staff and creating new policies and procedures, Tung said it was exciting that GSU provided him with freedom and funding to expand the team with the necessary health care and mental health professionals to provide treatment for students.

“Now we’re a full team with a staff appropriate for a school this size.”

There is a tremendous need for counseling services, Tung said, as the demand has gone up across all universities over the past decade and spiked since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

Now, with students studying remotely because of COVID-19, GSU counselors visit with them over the phone or through a confidential virtual program. Tung said the virtual visits suit GSU’s mostly commuter students, who appreciate not having to drive to the university solely for a counseling appointment.

“There are always some drawbacks with meeting virtually,” Tung said. “Convenience-wise, it’s been a great asset that we’ll continue to utilize once we’re back on campus.”

While GSU students present a wide range of ages and backgrounds to treat, Tung said the Counseling and Wellness Center staff of mostly GSU alumni are well acquainted with the population and the culture that exists at the university.

Also, he said, the basic tenets of effective counseling apply across a wide spectrum of people.

“Any good counselor or therapist is able to meet someone where they’re at,” Tung said. “In a lot of ways, it doesn't make a difference whether you’re 19 and it’s your first time away from home, or a 59-year-old person with life experience trying to navigate higher education for the first time in 30 years.”

This expertise he brings to Governors State comes from Tung’s own experiences. A licensed clinical psychologist, Tung worked as a university counselor for seven years and was promoted to the position of Assistant Director of Counseling at the Bourbonnais college before moving to GSU.

“I enjoy working with people,” Tung said. “I always saw myself in some sort of helping profession. This was the perfect avenue for me.”

A lifelong Chicago resident, Tung lives in the Lakeview neighborhood with his wife, Hannah, and the couple’s four young children.

While he went through his undergraduate program focused on Child Psychology, Tung’s counseling interests changed by the time he earned his Doctorate of Psychology.

“I had been working with kids for well over a decade, and I loved working it” he said. “But by the end of grad school I decided to take another route. My interests just changed and I ended up having an affinity for college counseling.”

He worked in community mental health right out of college, and used the connections he made to land a full-time position at a college that was 73 miles from his Lakeview home.

“GSU is still 45 miles one way. It’s not close, but I’m inching closer,” Tung said with a laugh.

All counseling services at the Counseling and Wellness Center are free and confidential to enrolled GSU students.