Ask an Antelope: David Hof serves community as a counselor and educator

David Hof was inspired to pursue a career in counseling and education by his father, who served as a school counselor for 15 years before becoming a dean of students.

“My father was my school counselor and I always appreciated what he did,” Hof said. “I also wanted to be able to help people. I felt like there were kids who didn’t have a voice, so I especially wanted to be able to work with high-risk kids.”

A native of Holyoke, Colorado, Hof earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Chadron State College, where he had the opportunity to teach psychology and statistics classes as a graduate assistant.

“At that time, I knew that I wanted to teach, but I also believed that I needed to do the work before I went on to teach,” he said.

After receiving his master’s degree, Hof worked as a therapist in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and supervised an adolescent sex offender treatment program in Minnesota before beginning his doctoral studies at the University of South Dakota.

With a doctorate in educational psychology and counseling, Hof joined the UNK faculty in 1999. Currently, he’s a professor in the Department of Counseling, School Psychology and Family Science and a practicing therapist at Michael Burke and Associates in Kearney.

Hof’s wife Kiphany is a mental health practitioner and associate director of counseling at UNK, and his brothers also followed similar career paths. His twin brother was a mental health counselor and is now a school psychologist, and his younger brother was a school counselor, then principal, before becoming a superintendent.

“My mother was a cosmetologist and she always said that she probably did more mental health work cutting hair than any of us,” Hof jokes.

What brought you to UNK?
A dear friend, Dr. Julie Dinsmore, and I went to the University of South Dakota together. When I was completing my degree, UNK had a visiting professor position open and Dr. Dinsmore called and asked if I would be interested in applying. Because of my connection with her, I said yes, and 25 years later I am still here.

I also said that when I started, I would be here for three years. There are no big mountains or lakes close, so I saw myself moving on after I gained some experience. Turns out, UNK is an outstanding place to be, with great people to work with at all levels, and Kearney was the place where I wanted to raise a family.

What classes do you teach?
I am privileged to be able to teach mostly clinical courses now. I teach internship, group and practicum most often, but have taught a number of other classes in the past. I really feel that I can make an impact in the clinical coursework classes with students, because this is the time when students are actually doing the work. To be able to help them figure out and learn how they will go on to help another human being is one of the most meaningful things I do.

Why is it important to continue working as a counselor while teaching?
I had too many professors in my programs of study who taught but had never practiced, and I did not want that to be me. That is one of the reasons why I continue to do a few sessions weekly – to stay fresh and relevant in the field. I also feel that I can still give back to the community as I continue to work with high-risk kids who are often hard to place in the field.

You used to take students on an annual trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Tell us about that:
This was an amazing experience, and I am so appreciative to both Bruce Dickenson for his willingness to guide this experience and Dallas Chief Eagle for allowing us to come to his home and be with him for several days. We were allowed to immerse ourselves in the Lakota culture and learn from these experiences. We participated in a Sun Dance and sweat lodge, toured Pine Ridge and met and talked with people across the reservation. I hope students gained a new understanding of the Lakota culture and also a better understanding of themselves and the diverse needs of the world we live in.

Unfortunately, we have not been back since COVID hit. I hope to plan a trip in the future, especially now that I have stepped down as chair of the department.

What sets this department apart from other colleges and universities?
With so many programs going completely online, we still require 40% of the coursework to be completed face-to-face. I understand with the changing needs of students that at some point this may need to change, but at this time our numbers in our clinical mental health program are incredibly strong, which allows us to continue to teach face-to-face. In addition, we have dedicated faculty who are committed to helping teach and mentor students’ growth and development.

What do you love most about UNK?
I was told by my mentor, Dr. Kent Estes, past chair of the counseling and school psychology department, that I need to find people in my life who I can connect with on campus and who help support and promote my growth and development. I have had and continue to have these people in my life, and that makes it a joy to come to campus and be able to do what I do. I also absolutely love to teach and be in front of students. Watching them grow and develop over time and then go into our communities and have success is so rewarding.

“Ask an Antelope” is a Q&A series highlighting UNK faculty and staff and their impact on the campus and community.