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Dr. Mark Pope
Emerging Leader Program

ACSSW is excited to announce the Dr. Mark Pope Emerging Leaders for 2023-2024

This program has been named in honor of Dr. Pope, one of the first ACSSW Trustees, and early supporters of the mission and vision of ACSSW. In keeping with Dr. Pope's model of guiding emerging leaders, the ACSSW emerging leaders are provided with mentorship and opportunities within an evolving organization through the ACSSW Executive Council and committees. After their year as Emerging Leaders, our hope is that the ACSSW emerging leaders will continue to embody the mission of ACSSW within the organization as well as the broader counseling community.

Dr. Mark Pope Emerging Leaders recipients will have the opportunity to:

  • Choose an area of interest related to counseling sexology & sexual wellness and will receive mentoring from ACSSW leadership.

  • Provide a minimum of 25 hours of service to ACSSW.

  • Submit poster presentation proposal for the 2024 ACA Conference in New Orleans, LA.

  • Serve on one of the 4 ACSSW committees.


Dr. Mark Pope Emerging Leaders
2023 - 2024

Vanessa Center, LPCC, LPC

Doctoral Level Student

Vanessa Center is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Supervision at Oregon State University. Her dissertation will be an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis aiming to understand counselors' experiences as they acquire professional competency and navigate mononormative bias while working with consensually non-monogamous (CNM) clients. 

In addition to her academic pursuits, Vanessa holds licenses as a professional counselor in both California and Oregon. She owns and operates her private practice, Centered Therapy, which she established after gaining valuable experience as a school counselor and in clinical mental health settings. Vanessa identifies as a sex-positive therapist, an LGBTQIA+ ally, and is currently training to become a certified sex therapist. 

Driven by a passion for destigmatizing CNM and kink-based relationships, Vanessa's interest in sexology and sexual wellness is a core part of her professional identity. Vanessa is excited to be a Dr. Mark Pope Emerging Leader for ACSSW in hopes that her participation will serve to strengthen the intersections of counselor education, supervision, and sexual well-being. 

Lyric McNeil

Master Level Student

Lyric McNeil received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Forensic Psychology from Arizona State University and is a full-time student at the Graduate School at Hood College, where she is dedicatedly working towards attaining her Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is expecting to graduate in May 2024.

In the realm of academic exploration, her research pursuits are centered around several significant areas. She possesses a profound interest in the exploration of positive sexuality, aiming to shed light on this crucial aspect of human identity and its interconnectedness with mental well-being. She has a passion for supporting individuals experiencing miscarriage loss and pregnant individuals with mental health challenges, as well. Following graduation, she plans to work towards obtaining certification as a sex therapist.

As well as being a member of ACSSW, she is an active member of AASECT, ACA, SAIGE, and MCA. These affiliations serve as a testament to her commitment to staying informed, collaborating with fellow professionals, and contributing to the evolution of the mental health landscape.

Furthermore, Lyric has the privilege of being a part of Eta Chi, a distinguished chapter of Chi Sigma Iota. This esteemed honor society recognizes and celebrates academic excellence and dedication within the field of counseling. Through this membership, she has the opportunity to engage with like-minded individuals, share insights, and collaborate on initiatives that promote the advancement of the counseling profession.

2022-23 Emerging Leaders



Cody Helgesen (they/them/theirs) currently works as a full-time school based mental health counselor as well as an advanced clinician and assistant clinical coordinator at a private practice. They are currently pursuing the terminal degree in counselor education and supervision at Southern Connecticut State University where they also serve as a full-time graduate studies graduate assistant and teaching assistant, as well as starting their post-masters certificate in school counseling.


Mx. Helgesen earned their master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Southern Connecticut State University while working in both residential and inpatient settings. Mx. Helgesen’s research interests include queer studies, intersectionality, protected populations, and clinical applications in agency and school settings. 



Tanna Davis is in her 3rd year of her Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Central Methodist University. She is currently working as a Counseling Intern at Middle Path Counseling in Missouri where she is working primarily with young adult women.


Tanna has been a member of ACSSW through the duration of her graduate studies and is excited to be a part of the Emerging Leadership program. She is looking forward to working with ACSSW in this capacity and learning more about research and leadership from her peers and mentors.  

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