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Austin Peay State University counseling grad student Melody Shipley earns National Award for 9/11 art therapy project

October 22, 2018 | Email This Post Print This Post

Austin Peay State University (APSU)

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Austin Peay State University (APSU) grad student Melody Shipley, a ceramics artist, planned to focus on her pottery full-time, but then in 2015, she went horseback riding.

It was something she did often on her family farm, but that afternoon Shipley ended up on ground, twisting her back and dislocated a rib.

APSU grad student Melody Shipley stands with plates made as part of her art therapy project.

APSU grad student Melody Shipley stands with plates made as part of her art therapy project.

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“It really affected my ability to make pottery because my back was so injured,” she said. “For a year, I couldn’t do things the way I used to, and I realized my plan of doing pottery full-time wasn’t going to happen.”

For the last few years, Shipley has taught pottery classes for Austin Peay State University’s Community School for the Arts, and she remembered her students saying her class felt like a form of therapy.

With her ceramics career on hold, she decided to delve deeper into this idea of combining art with therapy by enrolling in Austin Peay’s clinical mental health counselling graduate program.

Last September, Shipley and her husband, retired APSU art professor Ken Shipley, combined her two interests with a special community art project, “Honoring 9/11 through Art and Art Therapy.”

Through that program, veterans and families affected by the Sept. 11 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, created works of art honoring and remembering their family members. These works were later displayed at Austin Peay’s Woodward Library.

A year after that project, Shipley presented her work at the Association for Creativity in Counseling’s (ACC) Annual Conference in Clearwater, Florida. During the event’s award ceremony, she received the association’s national graduate student award.

That award, according to the ACC website, “recognizes an outstanding ACC graduate student member at the master’s or doctoral level who has participated in promoting creative, diverse, and relational approaches to counseling or whose scholarship promotes creative, diverse, and relational expression in counseling.”

Shipley, who works full time as an academic assistant in the Department of Mathematics, returned to campus last month with her new award, only to discover another bit of good news waiting for her. This November, The Clarksville Arts and Heritage Development Council will present Shipley and her husband, Ken, with that organization’s Lifetime Achievement in Art Award.

The Austin Peay grad student has fully recovered from her horseback riding injury, allowing her to pursue pottery once again, but she plans to continue incorporating her passion for art with her new love of counseling.

“In doing this graduate program, I have really seen how effective it can be incorporating art, or really any type of creative therapy, to help change people’s perceptions about where they are in their lives,” she said.

Information about Austin Peay’s Master of Science in Counseling degree is available online at

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