Editor’s Note: This is a series of profiles celebrating Women’s History Month at New College.
By Kallie Delis
Dr. Anne Fisher, program director of the Counseling and Wellness Center, hails from outside of Buffalo, New York, and is an avid adventurer. Throughout her life, she has been daring and surprising – riding Harley motorcycles, racing sailboats, four wheeling, and performance car driving. This is all a testament to the way that she pioneered the counseling director position and built the CWC program from a singular, shared room to the essential office that it is today.
While she maintains action-packed hobbies, it has always been her passion to expand services for students at New College. She is a consistent presence at the college and has facilitated the creation of many different offices that aim to support students’ success.
Fisher began her higher education career as a pre-med student at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she discovered her interest and aptitude for psychology. Her intentions shifted from becoming a physician to pursuing clinical psychology. From there, she went on to graduate from the University of Iowa with a focus in psycho-physiology.
“During that time, I started to do clinic work because they had their own clinic at Iowa,” Fisher explained. “And so I started seeing people, and I found I really liked that. So that’s what I wanted to do.”
Her work soon led her to an internship at the University of Rochester, where she learned more about psychiatry. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship following her internship and delved into forensic psychology. She continued to work with the medical school during this time. She then accepted a job as a counselor for the wellness center at Hobart and William Smith College.
“Within a year, they promoted me to director,” Fisher recalled. And her achievements have not slowed down since then.
In addition to her duties as the director of the wellness center, Fisher also taught Abnormal Psychology and Human Development at Hobart. Fisher then fled the frigid New York winters and accepted the role of director of the underdeveloped wellness program at a small honors college attached to the University of South Florida.
New College broke off into its own entity shortly after Fisher’s arrival on campus. Fisher and New College would grow and change together for years to come.
“It’s been a journey in a lot of ways,” Fisher said. “When I got here, I had the one office with our physician. He had his exam bed in my counseling room. We had one room that we shared, so I threw a blanket over that examining table when I was seeing students. It was really different.”
She soon became an advocate for students’ mental health and success on campus, as well as for the CWC program itself. With the school’s limited funds, she had to be resourceful. Fisher was not only growing the CWC, but was also raising her son, caring for her mother, and running a private practice at the same time. It was a juggling act (and still can be), but Fisher is up to the task.
“I’ve ended up staying probably as much for my personal life as for the college. It’s a mix of both,” Fisher said. “One of the things I think that happens more for women than men, is that we end up folding in family responsibilities in ways that men often are not. I think that’s changing, to a degree now, but through the time I was here that’s sort of how it was.”
As she remained in Sarasota, she helped the CWC – and New College as a whole – progress. Staying was the best option for her family, and it ended up being a great option for the school, too. Dr. Fisher has been around to see the college through its ups and downs over the years, and to be a helping hand in steering it in the right direction.
“I think right now New College is searching a little bit for an identity, where it can grow. It has a strong identity, but I think it’s going to continue to change. I hope it does, because I don’t want it to be the same. I’m sure not the same person I was when I got here,” Fisher said.
Fisher still teaches part-time at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and continues her private practice on the side. Her hobbies keep her busy outside of work, and while she recognizes that they sound exciting and are attention grabbing, she still finds the most satisfaction in the work that she does as director.
“Anyway, that’s just stuff that I did along the way. The core of it has always been the counseling and trying to develop that. And trying to move things so that students can be successful,” Fisher reiterated. “But I’ve always liked that part, and in general I feel pretty happy with the way things have turned out.”
— Kallie Delis is an intern in the Office of Communications and Marketing.