08:27 AM

Young Grad Student Rises to Serve UST Community During COVID

Carlos Razuri Barandiaran ’15, Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling ’21, originally from Peru, knows how to connect with people and is driven to be of service. In summer 2020, the COVID lockdown would put his gifts to the test.

Forced Isolation in an Extraordinarily Difficult Time

At that time, people in Greater Houston (and the nation and world) were suffering through an isolation and uncertainty they had never known before. News reports documented the pandemic’s physical and psychological toll: sadness, withdrawal, anxiety, breakdowns, problems with sleeping and eating, low self-esteem, guilt and more.

The University of St. Thomas - Houston community was hit in similar ways.

Able to Foster a Sense of Connection

Working within his internship in the UST Career Services group, and supervised by Dr. Hillery Keith, adjunct faculty member in UST’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program, Razuri Barandiaran took to the phones to foster a sense of connection for students.

“His teamwork and professionalism were top-notch,” Keith said. “Starting that May, Carlos made around 400 phone calls throughout the summer, reaching out to students to see what needs they were having during lockdown.”

The graduate student intuitively saw the wisdom of the outreach effort and wanted to support a sense of belonging in his fellow Celts.

Razuri Barandiaran said, “As a student, it would mean a lot to me to see that my school cares so much that they are willing to call me to see how they can be of help. I would feel like I am cared for and that I am not alone in this situation.”

Using Technology for Outreach

In fall of the same year, he switched from phoning to making contact via tele-health.

“Working with students via tele-health feels more like being there in person, since I was able to see who I was talking to,” Razuri Barandiaran said. “And I moved into helping with some of their growing concerns about their majors, career choices and resumes.”

Helping Others While He Was Separated from Family

All of this support Razuri Barandiaran was providing while unable to see and help his loved ones in South America.

He said, “The year was especially challenging knowing that the situation with the pandemic was quite tough over there, even worse than here.”

Mind and Heart in Sync

Razuri Barandiaran says his outreach work was challenging and rewarding and that he learned and grew from it. As a Catholic, he appreciates UST’s focus on service and values its emphasis on the link between faith and reason.

The young man plans to get his LPC Associate License to continue supporting people with his compassionate professional skills and knowledge.

“I look forward to serving others through my profession and continuing to learn and contribute to the field. One day, I can see myself going back to school for my Ph.D.”

As for the preparation he gained from his entire experience at UST, Razuri Barandiaran said, “I highly recommend this university. I learned so much about myself and have achieved levels that I could not have anticipated. UST’s undergraduate and graduate experiences really did equip me well for my personal and professional future.”

About the Graduation Ceremony

Bishop Robert Barron, founder of the global ministry Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, will present the keynote address at the 2021 University of St. Thomas - Houston Commencement at 11 a.m., Sat., May 8, at the NRG Stadium, NRG Parkway, Houston, 77054. More than 700 undergraduate and graduate students will walk at Commencement.