Practitioner of Distinction Honors Awarded to PAU’s Donna Sheperis, PhD

June 1, 2023
Donna Sheperis Ole Miss
Last month, Palo Alto University (PAU) Professor Donna Sheperis, PhD, won the 2023 Practitioner of Distinction Award from the University of Mississippi School of Education, where she earned her PhD in Counselor Education in 2005. This award inducts the winner into the University of Mississippi's Hall of Fame, and 2023 was the first year this annual award was given to a counselor educator. 
"As the first counselor to receive this award, I feel extremely honored," says Sheperis. 
The Practitioner of Distinction award recognizes alums who have incorporated the values of imagination, innovation, and inspiration into their professional work. In receiving this award, Sheperis was honored as a distinguished clinician, scholar, and professor who has embodied these three values in her daily work for more than 30 years.
Donna Sheperis Ole Miss
"My entire career, starting with my work in the regional mental health centers of Mississippi to becoming a Board Certified Telehealth Provider and director of PAU's eClinic, I have constantly sought to actualize imagination, innovation, and inspiration," says Sheperis. "Being inducted into the Ole Miss Hall of Fame is an incredible honor and validation of my commitment to excellence in the field."
Sheperis began her career as a community mental health agency counselor for ten years in Mississippi before entering academia. She earned her master's in counseling from Delta State University and holds counseling licenses in California, Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, and internationally. She is a Board Certified Counselor, a Board Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor, and an Approved Clinical Supervisor. She has held several leadership roles, including co-chair of the American Counseling Association (ACA) Ethics Committee, president of AARC, and serving on the boards of AHC, WACES, SACES, and the Mississippi Counseling Association. 
Although she has had an impressive career, Sheperis believes she was recognized for this award primarily because she developed the PAU eClinic, which opened in March 2020. "They saw the eClinic as an outstanding accomplishment and an example of innovation because we use digital therapeutics and a supervision platform supported by artificial intelligence," says Sheperis. "Since the counseling field has become increasingly virtual, our students need to be trained in cutting-edge technology, and the eClinic provides this training." 
Sheperis attributes her ambition for innovation to the excellent education and mentorship she received at the University of Mississippi. "My time at Ole Miss challenged me to think critically and to push beyond my comfort zone," she says. "This prepared me to strive for excellence in my field and the innovative work I have accomplished in my career."