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Kennedy Conner ’22 (Mental Health Counseling, Art Therapy) and Remy: The Art Therapy Dream Team

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When Kennedy Conner began her studies in mental health counseling and art therapy, she had no idea that she would be practicing during a global pandemic. Thankfully, she’s not doing it alone.

During a study break one April afternoon, Kennedy sat scrolling through the local animal shelter’s adoption page when she came across a face she couldn’t turn away from. That furry face belonged to Remy.

“I came across her picture and immediately knew she was my dog. I dropped everything and drove over there to meet her… I remember sitting with her on the floor in the visitation room and just knowing she was the one.”

Since then, the two have been inseparable. Remy attends classes at UIndy and goes to work at the middle school where Kennedy provides art therapy to the young students.

Kennedy provides the art supplies and professional guidance.

Remy provides the nose licks and big, listening ears.

“Usually, the first question I get asked when a client shows up is, ‘Is Remy here today?’ Sometimes, they need to vent to Remy, as everyone knows dogs are the best listeners!”

Growing up the oldest of five children, with a licensed clinical addictions counselor as her mother, and a passion for fine arts, Kennedy’s path seemed clear from the start. After earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ball State University and her first Master of Fine Arts from Herron School of Art and Design, Kennedy chose to hit the trifecta and pursue a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling and Art Therapy at UIndy.

“UIndy has a great art therapy program with passionate and knowledgeable professors. I knew I wanted to be able to utilize my fine art degrees and love for creativity in a way that helped others. Art Therapy is such a specialized degree program and it’s very cool and unique that Indianapolis houses this program at UIndy.”

Kennedy’s favorite aspects of UIndy – aside from the beautiful, walkable campus – are the faculty and her fellow art therapy students.

During her first year at UIndy, Kennedy was selected to be a graduate assistant for Professor Michelle Itczak of the Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling program. Professor Itczak’s passion and knowledge left an incredible impression on Kennedy and she is grateful to have the opportunity to develop that relationship.

The feeling is mutual.

Itczak said, “[Kennedy’s] background as an artist with an MFA has provided a unique perspective to our students and has brought a new depth to her classmates’ understanding of the creative process. I’ve truly enjoyed working with her as a graduate assistant, in addition to having her in several of my courses over the last two years. Her contributions to class discussions enrich every class meeting and I always look forward to what she’s going to add to the dialogue. She has been a leader within her cohort and I believe this will translate nicely to her being a leader in the art therapy community in Indianapolis.”

In less than three months, Kennedy will graduate with her second Master of Fine Arts and plans to continue supporting the mental health of children and teenagers through art therapy. She is also considering returning to higher education to teach and mentor the next generation of art therapists.

Kennedy’s drive to help others interested in further education and mental health counseling is evident in her advice: “A graduate degree is 100% worth it if it is something you are truly passionate about and will allow you to do the work that you love. I would advise people to look at the campus, the faculty, and the nitty gritty details of the program. Graduate school is a huge investment but is worth it. It may seem scary but entering a program like UIndy provides the resources and support [you] need to be successful.”

And, of course, if you are inspired by Kennedy and Remy’s partnership, there are some amazing animals sitting in your local shelters, waiting to find their forever home.

“Looking back, I am not sure what I was thinking—adopting a puppy in the height of a graduate program—but it turns out that was the best decision of my life!”