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Mary Christie Quarterly A publication of the Mary Christie Foundation

The Student Success Gap What colleges are doing to close it p. 15

Q&A with University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Dr. Freeman Hrabowski p. 04

Issue 12 | Winter 2019

Mary Christie Quarterly The Mary Christie Quarterly is a publication of the Mary Christie Foundation, a thought leadership and philanthropic organization dedicated to the health and wellness of young adults.

STAFF Publisher & President Editor & Executive Director Program Manager Art and Layout Director

Robert F. Meenan Marjorie Malpiede Dana Humphrey Ashira Morris


Robert Caret

Vice Chair

John P. Howe, III


Robert F. Meenan


Marjorie Malpiede


Maryellen Pease


Frederick Chicos


Zoe Ragouzeos

CONTE NTS 04 Q&A: Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of University of Maryland Baltimore County 08 Opinion: The Problem with Perfection 10 Diversity Grows Organically at Mizzou 13 Opinion: Maintaining the Mobility Engine 15 The Student Success Gap 26 Q&A: Dr. Erik Hoekstra, President of Dordt College 30 Happiness and Higher Education 33 A Healthier U 36 Experiential Learning in Higher Education 45 Science Summary Cover art by Jia Sung Spot illustrations by Fran Murphy

Q&A: Dr. Freeman Hrabowski The President of the University of Maryland Baltimore Country on how to achieve “inclusive excellence” Interviewed By Marjorie Malpiede

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski is the embodiment of what he instills in his students. An African American who was a child leader in the civil rights movement, the self-described “math nerd” went on to become the President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), an institution that leads the nation in sending students of color to doctoral degrees in the STEM fields. President since 2002, Hrabowski’s formula for success in science includes four pillars, now made famous by his 2013 TED Talk which gives clear and compelling direction for how higher education can apply academic innovation to achieve “inclusive excellence” (a term often used on campus). Amid examples of alumni successes, he argues that more women, more students of color and more students in general need to become better prepared for graduation and graduate school, particularly in the STEM fields. Not only is our society made better by it,


our global competitiveness relies on it. Hrabowski’s positive, aspirational message is both practical and philosophical. It’s also reciprocal. Students need to have high expectations and acknowledge that excellence takes hard work (pillar number 1); Higher education needs to pursue academic innovation to disrupt a system that keeps many from thriving (pillars 2 through 4). All parties need to abandon unhelpful notions like “math is too hard,” “the sciences are cut-throat,” and the idea that academic quality is defined by “how few can master certain subjects.” UMBC is a laboratory for all of this work. Begun in 1963 as the only institution in Maryland that accepted students of all races, it is proud of its ongoing diversity (about 50 percent white, 50 percent nonwhite), and its academic rigor. Signature programs, like the Meyerhoff Scholars, which was created as a pathway for African American undergraduates

to enter doctoral programs in STEM, are now being replicated in several schools across the country. From all accounts, students at UMBC like to work hard and do well. Their mascot, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, is called “True Grit,” which Hrabrowski says reflects the high-achieving, “underdog” spirit of the college. That spirit was on full display this past March during the NCAA basketball tournament when 16th seeded-UMBC Retrievers beat the Virginia Cavaliers, the number one team in the country. At every gathering of the Meyerhoff Scholars, Hrabowski reminds students of the importance of persistence, asking them to recite the Langston Hughes poem expressing that sentiment: Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.

Photo by Marlayna Demond for UMBC

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Here is an excerpt from our conversation. Mary Christie Quarterly: How would you define the challenge UMBC is aggressively addressing? Dr. Freeman Hrabowski: Most people don’t realize that almost half of the students who begin college don’t graduate. And when we talk about first-generation students, students of color, a much higher percentage never graduate.

And so it’s important to talk about not just access to higher education, but success at higher education. Certainly cost is an issue and I think that sometimes people don’t realize how different the cost will be across institutions. It is important we teach families how important it is to consider the cost, even after financial aid and scholarships, and in relationship to their budget.

But the other big issue has to do with reading and math skills and the fact is that so many students don’t have the strength of skills they need if they are to succeed. For minority students, if the students are from a low-income background, the fact is well over half will begin college in developmental math and reading. And the probability of a student graduating from college after beginning in developmental math is under 20


percent. We know that. So that says we need to find ways, in terms of creative strategies, to develop and support stronger math and reading skills, which are more important than ever.

rate of incompletion in these majors. It doesn’t surprise people that only 20 percent of Blacks and Hispanics who begin with a major in science will graduate in a six-year period with a major in science.

College completion is also the pathway to graduate degrees and I believe that we should be thinking right at the start about the percentage of students who will go on to graduate school. This is something we’ve worked very hard at here at UMBC and I am proud to say that 40 percent of our students in the sciences go immediately to graduate or professional schools.

What is surprising to most is that only 32 percent of whites and 40 percent of Asians who started out in these majors will stay in them, so we have a fundamental problem with the migration from STEM for students of all races.

MCQ: Why have you made that such a prominent goal?

Countries all over the world are recognizing how important these areas are and are investing heavily in technology education. We are just not producing the numbers we need. Women are far more involved in technology throughout the world than they are in this country. Thirty years ago,

MCQ: How are you addressing these issues at UMBC? FH: We are changing the culture of college success and of college science. We have this mindset in this country that only a few people can succeed in science and math and we tend to define quality in terms of exclusivity. We talk about these areas as “weed out courses.” If most people are not succeeding in these courses, we think, “Oh, that’s good. That means it’s really hard.”

At UMBC, we believe we need to have very high standards for the rigor of the work, but we also must have very high standards for the level of support that we give stucollege success – dents in order to reach that bar. That’s the difference.

FH: It’s really a national imperative. I had the privilege of chairing the National Academy’s Committee on Underrepre- We are changing the culture of sentation in and of college science. Science. What we found was that only about 5 peralmost 36 percent of all the cent of the Bachelors degrees majors in computer science in our country are in natu- were women. Today, we’re ral sciences and engineering, down to under 20 percent, so compared to about 11 percent we have half the population in Europe. At the same time, not functionally participating we know that a large percent- in the global market in terms age of the jobs being created of technology careers. will require strong technology backgrounds and other broad Women, people of color, STEM areas. low-income students and first generational students – these Part of the problem is the are all groups we have to en06

courage and support to go into science and technology, and to have more of them thinking about graduate programs in those areas.

So how do we achieve that? I talk quite a bit about the four “pillars of success”: 1) focusing on great expectations and acknowledging that you need to work hard; 2) building a sense of community among students so they can help one another; 3) evaluating what we’re doing; and 4) understanding that to produce people in science and technology, faculty

in the sciences have to take ownership of those students and pour that into the work. We have focused considerable time and resources on redesigning courses, particularly in the first two years of science and engineering, so we move from “weeding out” students to getting them to achieve their goals. The other point is we need to build community among students so that we get away from the idea of these “cut-throat” science and technology environments but rather understand that people can help each other grasp concepts, problem-solve and succeed. The Meyerhoff Scholars program is a great example of that. It was started by Robert and Jane Meyerhoff to provide financial assistance, mentoring, advising, and research experience to African American male undergraduate students committed to pursuing Ph.D degrees in math, science, and engineering. It is open to any highly-able student committed to that goal. Meyerhoff has a proven formula for success that involves an accelerated summer program, highly-collaborative learning groups, hands-on research experiences, and very involved faculty. We currently have over 300 graduates from the Meyerhoff program pursuing graduate and professional degrees in STEM fields. The





gram has encouraged other programs like the Sherman Scholars (which teaches education students how to inspire children to take up math and science) and the Center for women in IT. And we are very excited that we have been asked to replicate the model at other schools like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. MCQ: With such a strong focus on STEM, how do you ensure the “well-roundedness” of your students? And is that important? We have all sorts of majors here. At UMBC, we think it is very important not to separate the education of a student who is in STEM from education broadly. The most effective professionals will be those who are broadly educated, who are able to communicate effectively, to write well, to analyze problems and to work well with other people, and we need to make sure that all of our students are learning and practicing those skills. For example, the students in the Meyerhoff Scholars program are required to take courses in the humanities, the arts and the social science as well. Overall, we believe a healthy environment is one in which the development of a person is holistically viewed so as you’re developing skills in biochemistry, you are also teaching the person how to handle the challenges of life itself.

MCQ: What do you love about UMBC? FH: The people here are amazing. I love the faculty – the way they care deeply about the students. I love our culture. We have students from over 100 different countries and we are very proud of our domestic and international diversity. The notion of “inclusive excellence” is in our DNA – we bring people together from different backgrounds who help each other to excel. We are a campus of high achievers. Students are very serious about their work – whether it is biology or theater. We have a name for it here: We call it “grit.” I’ll give you an example. When we won that game against UVA, I was so proud of our students. We knew we were the underdog, and UVA is one of the most admired universities in the world. The best line of the night was when a reporter asked one of the players what his plans were, and he said, “I have to go back to my room and study for an exam.” You can’t say it any better than that! MCQ: What will you do next? FH: I plan to be right here. I’m not done. I’ve been married 47 years and I’m married to this place. It is my life.


Opinion: The Problem with Perfection How student empowerment can change the “mask” culture on campus By Jared Fenton

At a West Coast university, students have written about the “Duck Syndrome,” the phenomenon of appearing graceful on the surface like a duck, while, in actuality, one is struggling to stay afloat.

Jared Fenton Founder and President, The Reflect Organization

Today’s college students

are hiding in plain sight.

At one East Coast institution, students reference the “Penn Face,” describing the mask they wear to conceal any perceived imperfection. At another institution, the term “Columbia Face” is similarly used.


At one southern university, students have coined “The Undertow,” alluding to a force beneath the surface, unseen by others, which is dragging them down. College students are suffering from an intense fear of being perceived as anything but perfect. A debilitative campus culture exists in which students feel the need to mask themselves. Students are meticulously curating their outside images, attempting to meet an impossible ideal. This masking brings with it negative implications, not only for students’ mental wellness, but also, I contend, for the ability of colleges to foster

innovative students who will change the world. The Spring 2018 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment survey reveals that over 62 percent of college students report having felt “very lonely” within the past year. Students have described themselves as feeling like imposters in their own skins, hesitant to reveal anything beyond what they think others view as “ideal.” “Penn Face,” “Columbia Face,” “Duck Syndrome,” and “The Undertow” are not clinical terms. They come from their respective campus communities. While there is, no doubt, a bleak way to understand this—that masking one’s true self has become so ingrained within the culture of college campuses that students have literally branded the phenom-

enon to their wellness and particular in- The ability of students to be innovators is promoting ins t i t u t i o n s — hampered by a campus culture of loneliness, novation on there is also a campus. silver lining: isolation and masking. Jared Fenton if students is Founder are those who dents to be innovators is hamand President create campus culture, then students are also those with pered by a campus culture of The Reflect Organization, of loneliness, isolation, and a national nonprofit designed the power to transform it. masking. If we are serious to empower students to foster I often meet with college ad- about innovating society, how a culture of authenticity, selfministrators about this. While can it be good for colleges to love, and allyship on college there are, of course, vital have a culture in which stu- campuses. methods used to support stu- dents aim to conform to an While at the University of dents’ wellness along a vari- impossible ideal grounded in Pennsylvania, Jared produced ety of entry points, I urge that current societal norms? the first mixed-methods rewe not overlook the power Today’s colleges are packed search examining the phenomof a proactive approach that aims to change the underlying with students who have ideas enon of “Penn Face.” culture of college campuses. that could change the world. Jared has been honored by Doing this can produce a syn- The shame is when these stu- numerous mental health orgaergy that brings more com- dents, instead of becoming nizations, and he was awarded prehensive wellness support. empowered and inspired, feel the President’s Volunteer Serpressured to abandon their I also believe a proactive ap- innovative ideas, put on their vice Award by Barack Obama. proach can further students’ masks, and suffer silently. Jared graduated summa cum ability to innovate. A common laude from the University of But it does not have to be theme running through my Pennsylvania, with a BA in discussions with college ad- this way. By working collabo- Political Science and a certifministrators is their desire to ratively to empower students icate from the Civic Scholars foster innovators; they want to break down the standard Program for Social Action and their institutions to forge the which says, “you should be Civic Engagement. next generation of people who this” and replace it with the message that “you should be will change the world. you,” I believe we can usher In my view, the ability of stu- in a new chapter of cultivating 09

Diversity Grows Organically at Mizzou How the school’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources nurtures equity By Marjorie Malpiede The University of Missouri

admitted its first non-white student in 1950, beginning a difficult journey toward equity and inclusion that continues today, as the protests of 2016 remind us. But one program within the school has made promising gains in this area by virtue of its purpose: addressing world hunger. International development is a discipline within the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR). It brings together domestic and foreign students of all races and cultures toward strengthening communities around the world. The college has become one of the leading institutions in the country for applying multi-disciplinary research to help some of the poorest places on earth. It is also an example of how diversity can be achieved from goals and activities that transcend group boundaries. 10

Ken Schneeberger is an agricultural economist who is now the Director of International Programs at the college. He has been at CAFNR for nearly 50 years in various positions including researcher, professor, and administrator. His current job is to engage foreign students and governments in learning and transferring the skills that improve their country’s economy and governance. “I have seen this campus grow and think more broadly, developing deep national and international relationships,” he said. Schneeberger cites examples that date back to the school’s early work in establishing research capacity in Kenya; later providing technical assistance in Korea and Vietnam and more recently, working with farmers in the Ukraine to create new markets from their traditional land tenure system.

A large part of the work involves farming and food distribution but, according to Schneeberger, the people who get involved in international development are in it to make things better, whether it be trade, equity or health. Students at CAFNR are diverse in culture and academic focus—be it forestry, food safety, climate resistance, or genetic engineering. The school is actively recruiting students from a priority list of countries that includes China, Eastern Europe, Africa, India, and Vietnam. In any given year, CAFNR will have about 300 international students, the largest population within one college on the Columbia campus. Schneeberger says that the college works to help international students feel more included. One example is the “Africa Hub” organized by faculty of African descent and led by

African students who have a regular set of activities that they drive but invite the rest of the international development community to take part in. “It is important that these students feel recognized and supported, but not in a way that keeps them apart from other members of the community,” he said.

Maria Rodriguez-Alcalá agrees. An agricultural economist with a Ph.D in Rural Sociology, Rodriguez-Alcalá came to MU from her native county, Paraguay, and understands first-hand what it’s like to be an international student at an American University. “For international students to feel like they belong here they need more ‘bridging’

with American students, not more ‘clustering’ among their own groups,” she said. Rodriguez-Alcalá is the recently-retired Executive Director of the Deaton Institute for University Leadership in International Development, a program strongly supported by CAFNR. Named after another agricultural economist and MU Chancellor Emeri11

tus, Brady Deaton, the Deaton Institute supports inter-disciplinary research and its application on food security to address extreme poverty around the world. “Bridging” is what the Deaton Institute is all about. “We bridge what the researchers at the college are doing with the needs of global communities,” Rodriguez-Alcalá said. “We aren’t inventing new things every day; we are taking what we know works and putting it together.” Rather than “feeding the world,” the Institute takes more of a “teach-the-peopleto-fish” approach to food security, which involves a wide range of professions—from plant science to social science —the intersection of which is a key function of the Institute. An important by-product of this work has been the natural coming together of disparate people by virtue of a common purpose. A good example lies in the Deaton Scholars program. If the Institute is a model for 12

interdisciplinary collaboration, then the Deaton Scholars are its personification. The mentoring initiative within the Institute pairs students from different majors, racial backgrounds, ages and nationalities to work on research projects with specific end goals. The program gives students the opportunity to collaborate with others whom they likely would not have on their own. Rodriguez-Alcalá says the results have been invigorating. “I have never seen a program that brings together such a diverse group of people where diversity is never once discussed,” she said. Working together involves abandoning preconceived no-

tions about other groups. Rodriguez-Alcalá points to one pairing between a Nigerian woman and a woman from rural United States. The assumption, on the part of the Nigerian, was that the American was more advantaged and therefore, had more to learn from her about poverty and hardship. But the reality was the American student had been in foster care, was abused and struggled with poverty. Imparting her experiences became a surprisingly enriching lesson for both women who formed a strong bond. The pairings have produced high-impact outcomes which the Institute credits, in large part, to the relationships that have formed among students who share a passion—in this case, the elimination of poverty. Rodriguez-Alcalá believes it can be applied to anything. “It’s a model,” she said. “You identify a common interest that people are passionate about, bring them together, and that’s where the magic happens.”

Opinion: Maintaining Mobility Engine


The importance of public education goes beyond gaining knowledge By Katherine Newman

Katherine Newman, Interim Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Boston

The case for state support

of public universities has historically rested largely on their contribution to the labor force. And to be sure, that contribution is a valuable one. But there is growing recognition of the value provided by public higher education institutions as engines of upward mobility, producing middle-class taxpayers who contribute to states’ long-term financial wellbeing. The latest reflection of this

new understanding comes in the most recent rankings by US News and World Report, the holy grail of college and university rankings. In a little-noticed change in its method of assessing graduation, US News added greater weight to economic mobility by measuring the graduation rates of students who received federal Pell grants. Although these grants can go to students from families with incomes of up to $50,000, the lion’s share of them are in households with $40,000 or less in annual earnings. The Brookings Institution actually quantifies the upward mobility factor by comparing a theoretical post-college income based on family income, ethnicity, first generation status, gender, and academic preparedness, with the income that graduates actually achieve. The University of Massachusetts Boston is one example of the way in which this analyti-

cal trend captures an important measure of an institution’s value—to students and families, state finances and (in the case of UMass Boston since most of its graduates stay in Massachusetts) the regional economy. UMass Boston graduates the highest proportion of first-generation students in the UMass system and the most ethnically diverse student body, even though its students come from families with the lowest median incomes. Ten years after graduation, UMass Boston alumni make approximately the same as their Amherst and Lowell counterparts—$47,000 compared to about $50,000. In the new US News rankings, UMass Boston, which has the highest proportion of Pell recipient in the UMass system, climbed a dramatic 11 spots. Out of a possible 100 in the Brookings Institution’s scoring, UMass Boston earns a 78, placing it second among Massachusetts public universities, and tied with peers like 13

the University of Illinois at Chicago. This may be one reason why the freshman enrollment at UMass Boston surged this Fall, producing the largest first year class in the university’s history. Maintaining the nation’s engines of upward mobility depends on the support of state governments. Yet, across the country, state support for higher education is not keeping pace with its cost (or even

the low rate of inflation). Between fiscal 2017 and 2018, the growth of state support slowed to 1.6 percent, with 19 states reporting actual declines in support, according to the Grapevine survey conducted by Illinois State University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. When states step up, families are the big winners. But

so are the states themselves when graduates join the ranks of employees and taxpayers. This virtuous cycle is precisely why higher education is the best possible investment in the long-term prosperity of individuals, families and state governments. Katherine Newman is the Torrey Little Professor of Sociology and Interim Chancellor of UMass Boston.

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The Student Success Gap

Concern over disparities prompts new strategies for change By Marjorie Malpiede In December 2018, six U.S. Senators wrote a letter to U.S. News and World Report urging them to recognize schools that welcome underrepresented minorities as a measure for their prestigious college rankings. Their message was clear: if the federal government is going to subsidize higher education then institutions must reflect the longstanding goals behind financial aid, which include access, success and a pathway to economic participation. To its credit, US News and World Report had last year given greater weight to the graduation rates of Pell grant recipients in a new category on social mobility. But the fact that powerful voices are leveraging college rankings to wrest accountability for diversity says something about what’s going on within the system. It also raises concern about the dete-

rioration of a long-held American belief that higher education is the ladder to prosperity for all. Evidence tells us that a college degree is the key to a more comfortable standard of living, but data on disparities indicate that the promise is not realized across the board. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, while 60 percent of the wealthiest students complete their studies and graduate, only about 16 percent of low-income college students graduate. Among students who started in four-year public institutions, Black students had the lowest six-year completion rate (45.9 percent). Only 22 percent of Latino adults in the United States (25 or older) have an associate degree or higher. Equity is only part of the

problem. According to the University Innovation Alliance, by 2025, the American economy will be short 16 million college graduates needed to fill jobs in the fastest growing sectors. These numbers must be made up from a wider percentage of the population, including the fastest growing groups like Latino and first-generation Americans. The alarm over the graduate shortage and the achievement gap has mobilized a range of stakeholders. These include higher education consortia, as well as business and advocacy organizations, who are working aggressively on “Student Success” – the ubiquitous term for retention and completion. While similar efforts under previous names have been in place for decades, what seems different about these more recent efforts is the recognition


that waiting for students to adapt to a flawed system is never going to solve the problem. “There are a lot of stakeholders who are raising questions, even at very high performing institutions, about why their overall graduation rates may be 80 or 85 percent but for the Pell students they are 65 percent or 70 percent. What’s going on?,” said Timothy Renick, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Student Success at Georgia State University. “Why are students, based on demographics, either successful or not successful at this institution?” Agents of Change Georgia State is part of the University Innovation Alliance, a group of eleven presidents of large public research universities committed to increase 16

degree completion overall and among low-income students specifically by sharing their data and experiences across the participating universities. Their name reflects their perspective that unless colleges a n d universities innovate and become more student-centered, as well as collaborative, the gap between who graduates and who does not will grow wider.

“These presidents came together out of a sense of urgency that we are not doing a good enough job producing high-priority degrees at scale, and we were doing a terrible job when it comes to serving low-income, first generation students and students of color,” said Bridget Burns, Executive Director of the Alliance. “This is affecting the economic competitiveness of our country.” At odds with the extreme nationalism of the Trump administration is a growing recognition among U.S. employers and college administrators that collaboration between people of diverse cultures, incomes, races, and gender identities makes for richer ideas and outcomes. “We are not tapping

into the entirety of the talent, creativity, energy, drive and perspective of the entire population,” said Michael Crow, President of Arizona State and a member of the Alliance. “This greatly reduces our chances of success as a country unless we have unbelievable diversity in our educated population.” The Alliance was officially launched in 2014 with a goal to produce an additional 100,000 degrees by 2022-2023, half of those from low-income students. They are currently on track to produce 94,000 by 2022 and they have already increased their low-income degrees by 29 percent. Burns credits their success to a number of factors including sharing what’s work-

Success and Mental Health for Students of Color Mental health issues cause a large percentage of students to drop out of college every year. Recent studies have identified unique risk factors for behavioral health problems among students of color, including increased isolation on campus and less likelihood to seek help. How do these factors affect their persistence and completion? And, more important, how can colleges hoping to raise graduation rates for these student groups incorporate mental health into their strategies? According to the Steve Fund, a research

organization dedicated to the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color, first-year African American college students are more likely than their white peers to report feeling overwhelmed most or all of the time during their first term (51 percent vs. 40 percent). Students of color also experience discrimination, as well as higher levels of stigma which keep them from asking for help when a mental health problem occurs.

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ing among institutions, a rare occurrence in higher ed’s competitive environment. More than any other factor, Burns says, leadership is what it takes to move the needle on the achievement gap.

ministrators to one that places the student at the center.

nating barriers within the discipline; and high impact practices.

“That’s hard change,” she said. “But we’ve seen our institutions make that change over time.”

With a grant from the Lumina Foundation, NASH is now working specifically on High Impact Practices (HIP) for student success with four systems and 22 campuses over the course of two years.

“There’s a million decisions that a university makes on a daily basis, but when the CEO decides to connect to a specific North Star, that’s where real change takes place,” she said. “It’s not about the president making this a priority. It’s about him or her saying ‘this priority is more important than other priorities.’”

Another important initiative involving higher education innovation comes from the National Association of System Heads (NASH). A consortium of public higher education systems across the country, NASH has been helping its members share best practices in retention and completion with the initiative “Taking Student Success to Scale.”

Burns believes that large-scale student success takes a fundamental shift in the structure of institutions, moving from one designed around the faculty and ad-

The original program has three strands: predictive analytics, which trigger interventions for students who are struggling; math pathways aimed at elimi-


The initiative will examine and develop intentional mechanisms for equitable participation from low-income, first generation and underrepresented minority students – a key part of the organization’s mission. “By undertaking these efforts across a network of systems, rather than independent campuses, this project demonstrates that working at a system level and on a larger collaborative

scale is an effective way to promote student success as defined by educational quality and deeper learning,” said Claire Jacobson, Program Director. As higher education collaboratives push innovation, organizations that advocate for student population sub-groups are also trying new strategies. Excelencia in Education is a national resource and policy organization focused on increasing degree attainment for Latino students who, despite gains over the past five years, continue to lag behind their white peers in college completion. Excelencia’s President, Sarita Brown, and its CEO, Deborah Santiago, founded the non-profit in 2004 to support Hispan-

ic-serving institutions with evidence-based practice-sharing and data to promote excellence in Latino education. While they continue to engage a portfolio of institutions, they are adding an accelerator for change in the form of the “Seal of Excelencia” – an asset-based initiative that recognizes and educates institutions hoping to stand out in this area. “Our work has been effective for institutions who want to enroll more Latino students, but overall we feel the pace of change is too slow,” said Brown. “We want to move from a construct that is focused on enrollment to one that is really about mission to serve.” With plans to officially launch in the first quarter of 2019,

the Seal of Excelencia is a voluntary certification system based on a framework that reflects what the organization has learned about serving this population over time. Schools that sign on to the Seal will receive technical assistance to achieve excellence in three areas: Producing accurate data that show positive movement among six metrics including enrollment, retention and degree completion; engaging in evidence-based practices that have led to improvement in the six metric areas; and demonstrating leadership, including the execution of a strategic plan involving the president and board of trustees. “We’re looking for intentionality,” said Santiago, who devel-

The Steve Fund partnered with the JED Foundation to develop and disseminate the Equity in Mental Health Framework (EMHF), which provides colleges with expert recommendations on how to support and enhance the mental health of students of color. While the framework is aimed at producing a range of positive results, degree completion is certainly one. “We know students in general do worse academically if they are actively depressed and that students who experience discrimination have an increased risk of depression. So if you put these both together, it is easy to see how and why students of color and/ or first-generation

students have lower retention and graduation rates,” said Victor Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer at the JED Foundation. Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble agrees and says that if colleges are looking to better support the academic success of students of color, they need to focus on systemic changes that affect their mental health. Breland-Noble is an adolescent and child psychologist and clinical researcher who has spent the last twenty-one years studying mental health disparities in young people. She is the Senior Scientific Advisor to the Steve Fund and Associate

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oped the Seal. “We want to work with “student-ready” colleges. Not schools that are waiting for ‘college-ready students.’” 70 colleges have already asked to participate in the Seal of Excelencia initiative. According to Santiago, these are not just schools with high concentrations of Hispanic students; but rather, any school that wants to learn what it takes to admit, support and graduate these students at scale and then gain recognition for their efforts. She points to shifting demographics as a key motivator for the early adoption of the program. “The number of high


school graduates will drop significantly over the next fifteen years and when people look at who they are going to enroll it’s going to be Latino students if they want to stay in business,” she said. Boots Ground



The rankings, recognition and collaborations within higher education are all meant to inspire action where it matters the most – on individual campuses across the country.

institution, Georgia State University now graduates more African American students than any college in the country. Located in the “Sweet Auburn” section of Atlanta next to the Martin Luther King memorial and MLK’s famous Ebenezer church, Georgia State is a thriving, multi-racial academic community. Since 2012, Georgia State has raised its graduation rates overall by 23 points and no longer has an achievement gap. For each of the last four years, Black, Latino,

first generation and low-income students have all graduated at or above the rate of the student body overall. A member of the Alliance for University Innovation, as well as NASH, Georgia State President Mark Becker made increasing graduation rates for these population groups “the priority among priorities” over a decade ago when he put Tim Renick in charge of student success.

Renick is somewhat of a celebrity in stuOnce a segregated dent success circles and speaks frequent“It’s not about the president making this a prior- ly about his proven fority. It’s about him or her saying ‘This priority is mula at Geormore important than other priorities.’” gia State as a way to help —Bridget Burns, Executive Director, University other schools Innovation Alliance who are taking action in this area.

His purview at the school includes admissions, financial aid, first year programs, academic advising, international student services, and tutoring, among other areas.

that, for a variety of reasons, the university did a poor job of graduating. In an unprecedented move, the school held a mirror to itself and determined it was a big part of the problem.

Founded in the 1950s as a night business school for Georgia Tech, Georgia State began admitting a much larger share of students of color and low-income students over the decades. Today it has one of the largest low-income student populations in the country with 60 percent of its students Pell-eligible, and 71 percent of its student are non white.

“We recognized that a lot of the reason students were failing was not their fault but our fault as an institution. We saw really hard-working students who had complicated lives, who were very capable of achieving academically but who would be tripped up by the bureaucracy, tripped up by the lack of support.”

Renick, who has been at Georgia State throughout its transformation, says that year over year the school was enrolling more students from demographic groups

By the late 2000s, the school decided to do things very differently. It invested heavily in data and technology which are applied to each of its key improvement initiatives.

Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University. “We encourage schools to look at what the systemic issues are, outside of what’s going on within that young person, that contribute to the differences in graduation rates,” she said. “How can the system adjust to support that student so that the student has all the tools they need to progress academically?” One of the key action points of the EMHF is to help campuses understand that behavioral health may manifest itself differently in students of color, depending on the racial or cultural background of the student and the social context that he or she is functioning within.

Breland-Noble gives examples of what students of color experience in terms of campus climate. If the climate is not welcoming, she says, stress levels increase to the point where students ask themselves: ‘Why should I stay here?’ If there is an immediate feeling that ‘I don’t belong,’ that can lead to anxiety about preforming academically, so students of color think ‘I won’t raise my hand in class, I’ll just keep to myself.’” Students of color report not asking for academic help because they don’t want to be perceived as a racial or ethnic group that needs support to get out of college. The

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A new portal for incoming students now helps eliminate the frustrating barriers related to financial aid processing and other issues that result in a large percentage of admitted students never showing up, what is commonly called “summer melt.”

months after it was first introduced. The school reduced summer melt by 20 percent.

In addition to the portal, Georgia State became the first post-secondary school in the country to use an artificial intelligence chat bot to help students with the myriad of questions related to enrollment and onboarding.

To eliminate this trap, the school created meta-majors that have more flexibility. First year students join learning communities within their majors that provide a support system for navigating college for the first time. In addi-

Changing majors can negatively affect all students but it hurts low-income students the most when forced to take on extra classes.

tion, the school hires hundreds of high-performing work study students to be peer tutors and de facto role models. One of Georgia State’s most wellknown student success initiatives is its use of predictive analytics to identify and intervene with students who are at risk of dropping out. Using historical data from over 2.5 million student grades, Georgia State sought to discover identifiable behaviors that correlated in a statistically significant way

to students leaving school. They were able to identify 800 factors – e.g., getting a C on an early-semester Calculus exam – that are now tracked across the student population. If any of these behaviors are identified, an alert is sent to the advisory team which then intervenes with that student within 48 hours.

Renick says that last year, the school had over 55,000 oneon-one meetings between advisory staff and Georgia State students that were prompted by “We want to work with ‘student-ready’ colleges. alerts coming Not schools that are waiting for ‘college-ready from the data students.’” platform.

The app, called Pounce after the school mascot, answered over 2000,000 c o m m o n l y —Deborah Santiago, CEO, Excelensia in Education asked questions during the first three


Renick says these efforts are all geared towards not

leaving anything to chance, given what’s at stake for these students. But what may be most interesting about Georgia State’s success story is that it raised the graduation rates for low-income students and students of color without specifically targeting these groups. “By changing the system, we increased success for the entire student population,” he said. These changes benefitted the least advantaged students the most because these were the students getting tripped up the most by the old bureaucracy. That’s how we closed the achievement gap.” Colorado State University is a land grant university in Fort Collins, Colorado, a small city that regularly ranks among the

nicest places to live in America. It enrolls about 28,000 students, the majority of them instate. With a curriculum that leans toward STEM, the school has worked hard to increase its retention and graduation rates with a series of student success initiatives. As a member of NASH, it has shared its story with other schools. Rick Miranda, the school’s Provost and Executive Vice President, oversees the university’s initiatives. He says that over 12 years ago the school did an analysis of student need vs. services offered and came to the conclusion that students were not receiving consistent and reliable academic advice. “We knew we needed to do a better job

irony, according to Breland-Noble, is that the most advantaged students are the ones that have historically received the most help. “I try to tell students, ‘Guys, the wealthier students have gotten lots of help you never had in terms of tutors and test prep. Don’t be ashamed to ask for it,’” she said. Another issue that remains a barrier to support amidst certain cultures, including African Americans, Latino and Asian populations, is stigma. “Everyone, regardless of race, deals with the stigma attached to mental illness, said Breland-Noble. “In communities of color, the stigma is even

greater for a number of reasons – one is cultural conceptualization of what mental illness is. It’s everything other than a biological manifestation of some combination of heredity and environment.” The Equity in Mental Health Framework helps colleges adjust to population-specific barriers to mental wellness and academic success. It offers ten specific recommendations, including ways to reduce stigma and encourage more students of color to seek help for a mental health issue; how to discuss international and domestic events affecting students of color; recruitment

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at guiding first and entry-level profes- with first generation or whether a teacher second year students sionals with a bache- and low-income stu- was particularly inthrough their aca- lor’s degree in a major dents who can suffer fluential. demic path “When stuand intervendents reveal ing with them “By changing the system, we increased success those things before situations become for the entire student population. These changes through the critical,” he benefitted the least advantaged students the most. a p p l i c a t i o n process, we said. That’s how we closed the achievement gap.” know that One of their they’ve been first and —Tim Renick, Georgia State University self-reflective most effecand have a littive changes tle more conwas building fidence that closely related to the from the added stress a core of professional department they are of paying for college. they’re going to be advisors that would assigned to. successful here,” he be deployed within Given its effect on said. “If you don’t see academic departThey work closely student success, low any evidence of those ments to help stu- with faculty in identi- income is one marker cognitive markers, dents succeed. fying and supporting Colorado uses to as- then we start asking struggling students. sess whether incom- more questions.” The academic sucing students will need cess coordinators, as “This is not only good more support. At Colorado State, they are called, help academic design,” Mithe student success first and second year randa said. “It is also The others are: high journey involves a students with many a way to put a face on school academic per- variety of different of the same issues the institution; to give formance beyond approaches. Like Georgia State stu- students a person just test scores (i.e., Georgia State, Colodents experience – that is knowledgeable did they take math rado State also saw the pace and amount about the school and and English all four the value of learning of credits, choice of cares about them.” years?); and a catego- communities that major, and prioritizry on cognitive mark- bring students of simMiranda says the ers, like mentors and ilar interests together. ing required courses. program has been family relationships The coordinators are particularly effective Their “Key Academ24

ic Communities” include a co-curricular element where the 25 or so students of similar majors have at least two classes together and live together in the same residence hall. In addition to their academic advisors, students are assigned mentors through the Community for Excellence program. While they are sometimes faculty members, these mentors provide mostly non-academic support, such as connecting students to resources throughout the college and helping with health and wellness. “We have found, both in our research and from our own experience, students who have been able to attach themselves to some community on campus – whether it’s

academic or co-curricular – really benefit in terms of student success, particularly students who have some concerning elements in their profile,” said Miranda. Colorado State’s multi-pronged strategy has yielded good results thus far, taking their retention rate from the low 80 percent range to the high 80 percent range. For the first time in history, the school’s graduation rate increased to over 70 percent last year. Considering the school continues to enroll a higher percentage of low-income and first-generation students, this milestone suggests that their student success work is reaching those who need it the most.

strategies for faculty and administrators of color; and the critical role of leadership. To help with the adoption of the framework, the Steve Fund and JED are currently piloting the EMHF in schools across the country; 15 of which also participate in JED Campus, an onthe-ground strategic planning initiative designed to guide schools towards improved mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts. The Steve Fund and JED have also created an on-campus programs and services module to learn from the pilot schools what types of things they are already doing to serve their students of color. The goal is to build and enhance the good things

the pilot schools are already doing. To gauge impact, both organizations collaborated with the Healthy Minds Network at the University of Michigan to develop a diversity and inclusion module as part of its campus mental health survey that will be used in the EMHF pilot and with other schools who want this included in the widely-utilized survey. “Before and after the pilot, we will see some changes over about a two-year period,” said Breland-Noble. “Maybe not everything but in certain aspects of how the framework is being implemented, and, more importantly, the positive impact this is hopefully having on students.”


Q&A: Dr. Erik Hoekstra The President of Dordt College, the number one school in the country for student engagement, talks about God, purpose, and football. Interviewed By Marjorie Malpiede In September, the Student Success Forum at New York University began with the unveiling of the Wall Street Journal’s 2019 rankings of colleges and universities. While the usual suspects dominated the overall category, there were some outliers found within the cross tabs—one being Dordt College as first in the country for student engagement for the second year in a row. Dordt’s president, Erik Hoekstra, was among the panelists who shared best practices in this area. In addition to its WSJ ranking, Dordt was ranked number six in the country for “best regional colleges – Midwest” by the US News and World Report, which also named Dordt an “A-plus schools for B students.” Asked how a little-known Christian college in Sioux Center, Iowa gained such high-profile superlatives, Hoekstra credits the Founder’s Vision. He told the audience at NYU, and later the Mary Christie Foundation, that what differentiates Dordt from other schools, even oth-


er religious schools, is that it infuses the spirit and teaching of Christianity into all that it does. Hearing Hoekstra speak so openly about religion within so secular an arena seemed unusual at first, but it soon became clear that God is a key ingredient in Dordt’s “secret sauce.” Hoekstra says Dordt is transparent in its message to prospective students that Christianity plays a significant role in the culture and teachings of the school. Hoekstra believes this philosophical consistency allows everyone on campus to “pull in the same direction,” though he is quick to point out that not everyone is the same. He also believes having a higher purpose has an impact on students’ emotional and behavioral health. The WSJ ranking editors define student engagement as “the likelihood that students will recommend the college to others, the level of interaction that students have with faculty and other students while

on campus, and the number of subjects and accredited programs available”—Dordt appears to have it nailed, as reported by the students themselves. Here is what Hoekstra says are some of the reasons. Mary Christie Quarterly: Congratulations on your recent distinctions. In terms of student engagement, to what do you attribute your success? Erik Hoekstra: There is something special going on at Dordt and I believe it starts with the Founder’s Vision. Our first year of operation was 1955 and the founders set out a vision that is on all of our materials. I paraphrase it as, “Don’t be a Christian college that looks like a regular college with a little bit of bible study and a chapel thrown on top. Be a Christian college in that all of the students’ intellectual, imaginative and creative activities are permeated with the spirit and teaching of Christianity.”

People always say to me, “So you’re a religious school, you must teach a lot of religion courses,” but actually, there is only one religion class that’s required here, Core 150. In this course, our faculty consider the whole of scripture in context and show students the Bible is a single book, telling one story, written together in a fascinating way. The other way of answering that question is that every course at Dordt is a religion class. We have a document called the Educational Framework of Dordt College. It is guided by a framework of four questions which make their way into all of our syllabi. The first question uncovers our religious orientation and asks, “Who owns your heart?” The second question looks at the created world and asks, “How does this world hang together?” At Dordt, we understand that no matter what aspect of God’s good creation we’re studying, be it atoms in chemistry or family relationships in psychology, it all hangs together in and through Christ. The third question focuses on creational development— that is, “How did we get from God’s good original creation to the present? In this, we delve into the story and structures of civilizations and politics, commerce and health care. Here, we must pause to account for the brokenness of our world through human sin

—the brokenness of our climate, of disease, of our family structure. The last question we call, ‘contemporary response’ and guides our response to the previous three questions. It confronts students with the question, “What are we supposed to do about it?” The entire curriculum of Dordt College hangs on these four questions. We use the power of biblical storytelling in everything we do. If students turn in a paper that is really well done, we encourage them to say “May the glory of that great paper go to God.” It is as much of a worshipful activity as singing your heart out or listening intently to a sermon at church. Our Defender athletic teams talk about how to play football, run, dance, shoot, or step up to the plate to the glory of God.

for how well your students enjoy their campus experience and how connected they feel to their community. What are some examples of those experiences at Dordt? EH: Every freshman takes a common first-year, first-semester experience course in groups of 20. It’s called “Kingdom, Identity and Calling.” For students leaving home for the first time, kingdom is really about showing them the breadth of God’s kingdom and the needs of the world. We use Gallup’s Strength Finder tool to explore who God created them to be by using a shared language around their strengths and ask them to reflect on what they’ve found out about themselves through their high school experience. This points them to the story that God has crafted for them up to this point—their iden-

We know the answer to the question, “Why are we educating these students?”

These four questions find interesting answers in violent and beautiful competitions alike, but our coaches talk about it all the time and our athletes really pick up on it— we call it ‘the Defender Way.’ MCQ: “Student engagement” is, in some ways, code

tity is only found in Christ. Then we talk about “what your calling is,” which is very different from “getting a job.” This rich difference pulls in the idea of vocation or the collision of their skills and the needs of the world, and a bit of how they might address


this through their education at Dordt. This comes together in the first semester of the student experience and has helped our retention and graduation rates as well as what I see as the joy that students find in being here on campus.

Size is definitely an advantage here. We have 1,350 full time undergraduate students and one of my goals is that by the time they graduate and I sign their diplomas, I will

dreams. Relationship is one of the largest ingredients of the secret sauce.

We spend a lot of time supporting our students’ academic success, particularly students such as those in our Aspire program. These are wonderful students who would not have gotten These same into any othgroups of 20 er school, yet students particwe deliberately ipate in freshchoose to work men dinners with them ofthat my wife fering special and I host at our tutoring and exhouse every fall. tra classes. You We bring them know, it’s easy to in in groups of achieve strong 40 and set tables graduation of eight. We tell rates if you’re them to leave highly selective, one chair empty yet while Dordt at every table. is not highly seThis way, my lective, we do wife and I start a great job with Photo courtesy of Dordt College at one table for our students salad course, Dordt College President Dr. Erik Hoekstra. who come here. switch for enOne of the distrées, and again tinctions we received from for dessert and coffee, so by know their names. There’s the US News & World Report the end of the dinner, we’ve only 180 engineering stu- was an “A-plus schools for B had pretty substantive con- dents, so those professors will students” and this is the one I versations with 40 students. have a pretty good sense of think I’m most proud of. Afterwards, we offer 40 min- and mentoring relationships utes of “ask the President any- with those 180 students. In The other part of our student thing.” To be able to do that our nursing program, there engagement story involves in a fall semester with every are 130 students and four pro- the relationship with our freshman student is pretty re- fessors. By the time they are professors. Again, we’re very markable and could never be sophomores, they will know fortunate that most of our done at places like Ohio State those students—they will professors live in our college know their stories and they town of 7,500 people. They see due to scalability. will know their hardships and 28

their students as whole people and we hire them for their relational capabilities and emotional intelligence. There was one professor who I hired who told me he’d had a tough time making it to the next level in academia because he didn’t have a PhD. He was a journalist who had gotten a Masters in journalism and had been a junior high school teacher. He said he felt he always got passed over because he hadn’t gone right into a doctorate program. I told him, “The reason I want to hire you is because you were a junior high school teacher—you know how to teach, you love students, and you are driven by your curiosity.” We have more NIH funding than any small college in Iowa, and yet our brilliant professors are relational and desire to invest in our students—unfortunately, their combination of talent and passion is all-too-rare in higher education. Finally, I’d say religious colleges have an advantage at student engagement because we see the student not just as an evolved set of cells that is human, but within the context of a religiosity that has a God, a creation, a story—and there’s a direction to that story. We know the answer to the question, “Why are we educating these students?” MCQ: How do you think your culture here at Dordt impacts your students’

emotional and behavioral health? EH: Let me tell you a story. I got a call from our dining service director one day this fall who said one of our students was looking really despondent at his table. The dining director had gone over and checked in with him and it was clear he was struggling with a variety of things, academics in particular, so he called me and I called the dean of students. The dean of students walked over to the dining hall and sat with the student and began diagnosing the problem. He then walked the student over to the registrar’s office and resolved the student’s scheduling issues, just one of the problems that had emerged. The student needed tutoring, so they went downstairs (just two floors to the academic skills center) and scheduled tutoring sessions, but it was clear the student was still struggling, so they went across the hallway one more time to the counseling center and set up an appointment for the next week. All of this happened in less than two hours. So sure, size is part of it. Another factor that really helps students emotionally is that everyone lives on campus all four years. Think about freshmen and sophomores who are going through the hardest times amidst a rapid course to adulthood, yet they have upperclassmen (role models and

peers) walking around with them. They can look at them and think “Hey, they navigated all of this, maybe there’s hope for me, too.” And there is. Our Christian faith is significant. You have to understand, it’s not that Christians don’t have behavioral or psychological problems, we do. But I do believe that part of the crisis in our country is built around the fact that in post-modernism, we not only lack but shy away from objective truth. When our students believe there is objective truth, when they can look at the world through a creational lens where there’s something behind this thing, that sets a foundation for better emotional health. And, if your emotional health is off, you’ve got a place to stand to build it back up. The other thing is that, because we view our students as whole people, whether they are emotionally healthy or emotionally unhealthy, we are not in shock if they begin to struggle. The difference between healthy and emotionally unstable is a factor of degrees for all of us, so perhaps it’s just that we don’t put such a stigma on it. And if you believe in a purposeful world created by a loving God, we are able to work on those problems and challenges when we see them to the glory of a good God who loves us and calls us His own.


Happiness and Higher Education Sociologist Corey Keyes connects the dots By Marjorie Malpiede There’s an intellectual seven years, has become one curiosity taking hold on of the most sought-after classcampuses across the country and it’s all about how to be happy. From Yale’s “Psychology and the Good Life” to Harvard’s “Positive Psychology,” the science of happiness is proving so popular among students that classes max out minutes after they’re posted.

Skeptics may view this as a pop psych fad, or, simply students reacting to the unhappiness that often permeates the high-pressure climates at top performing schools. But according to Dr. Corey Keyes, professor of Sociology at Emory University, teaching well-being may be the most important transfer of knowledge colleges can offer. Keyes, regarded as a pioneer in this discipline, teaches his own seminar on happiness called “The Sociology of Happiness,” which, over the last 30

es at Emory. It is based on Keyes’ breakthrough work in social psychology and mental health, showing how the absence of mental illness does not translate into the presence of mental health. According to Keyes, we want students to be “flourishing”—a term he coined that means pursuing a life worth living, the opposite of which is “languishing.” Keyes’ theory dictates that just as illness can be prevented and/or treated, well-being can be taught and nurtured. The growing number of adherents to this philosophy, among them Georgetown President John DeGioia, are taking the students’ unprecedented desire for these teachings seriously. The big question for these big thinkers is what changes need to be made in higher education for “flourishing” to become more than just a course.

Happiness 101 Corey Keyes almost became a Catholic priest, but instead, he decided to channel his passion for serving others through science. His interest in health led him to graduate work and the shocking realization that health is largely perceived as the absence of illness, not a positive state unto itself. “I concluded that the world was stuck in a rut, trying to face death and just pushing it as far away as possible,” Keyes said. “I thought, ‘What if we reversed this thinking to truly examine what it means to live a life worth living?’ ” Keyes’ class is a mixture of science, philosophy, spirituality, and religion. The first half of the seminar goes over the science of happiness, and the second is focused on the various pursuits that have occurred in this arena, starting with ancient wisdom tradi-

tions like Buddhism, which he later contrasts with a week of cognitive behavioral therapy. Each week is devoted to a topic that students process through their journals, examining how it applies to their lives. One week, the topic may be happiness through non-violent resistance which, when internalized, is about “meaning as a facet of happiness,” or what Keyes calls “standing for something.” “Students are thinking about these big questions: What’s the point of life? How can I make a difference? What am I going to do to be a good person?” he said. In the Sociology of Happiness, Keyes talks to his students about authenticity, the absence of which is something Keyes believes is at the heart of much of the distress we see in today’s young people. “One week of the seminar is on vulnerability and its necessity to connection, and that cracks them wide open because they’re hiding lots of stuff in their pursuit of perfec-

Photo courtesy of Corey Keyes

Corey Keyes holds up a cake his students gave to him.

tion,” he said. “In one respect, they’re trying to avoid something that’s inevitably human. We’re all imperfect.” Keyes points to the literature telling students they cannot live a meaningful life without adversity–without “responding to the cracks and crevices of life and making sense of it.” To demonstrate these concepts, he shares his own stories, sometimes raw and upsetting, like the PTSD and addiction issues he suffered as a result of his abandonment at

birth and the abuse he experienced by his stepmother. He talks of a breakdown he went through mid-career that left him desolate at first, but ultimately redirected, focused, and more courageous. Purpose in Action It was around this time that Keyes says he began “teaching from the heart.” It is something he feels is missing in the way professors of higher education are taught to teach today. In fact, Keyes conclud31

ed then that higher education itself was part of the problem his course aims to correct. “Young people are breaking down earlier and earlier – losing their childhoods to preparation and resumes that will get them into the best schools in the country. I tell my students, ‘I’m a first-generation college student who went to a little school in Wisconsin. It doesn’t matter where you start. It’s what you’re going to do with your life.” Keyes believes when students come to college with a fixed mindset that failure is to be avoided, they will not grow. Grading systems that indicate degrees of success or failure, rather than points of time along a continuum of “getting there,” perpetuate the problem. He refers to the rigidity of curriculum as an example of how higher ed is ignoring what our economy is telling us. “We think we are giving students the tools and skills to succeed in the modern workforce, but the skills people re-


ally need to succeed are things like autonomy, mastery, purpose in life, passion, and finding a way to serve. Our young people need to flourish, and to flourish you need to have purpose in life, a sense that you’re contributing worth and value, that you belong here and have a community; that you’re accepting of yourself and others. If higher education, or education in general, doesn’t create students like that, then I don’t know what we’re doing.” Keyes considers a wide range of strategies for change: teaching young faculty how to better relate to students, tying courses of varying disciplines to students’ experiences in real life, and even developing a “happiness” major. Given the stress that emanates from the cost of college, he talks of creating an entirely new tier of higher ed that is less rigid, less expensive, and every bit as effective. This is part of a larger national conversation about how flourishing can scale on college campuses, driven in part by the student mental health

crisis. Innovative higher education leaders are talking with experts in mental health, public health, and sociology to examine how what’s taught in happiness courses can be applied broadly to the campus ecosystem. “In order to deal with the problem of mental disorder, we can’t treat our way out of the problem,” said Keyes. “We are going to have to prevent illness by promoting the very things that go into flourishing.” Keyes argues that, like depression, flourishing is heritable. And like other functions of the brain, it can be developed. He also notes that sadness and happiness can function in tandem, and that consistent flourishing is not the goal. “Fear and anxiety have their functions, and there will be periods when you will be sad and it will be alright,” he said. “You can’t always be happy in a world where so much is wrong.”

A Healthier U Schools that are making going to college good for your health By Dana Humphrey It is well documented that

That study also reported many other unhealthy behaviors among college students, including alcohol binge drinking and tobacco use.

A 2016 study found that over the course of four years in college, young adults gained about 10 pounds, which translated into a 78 percent increase in students who are overweight and obese (from 23 to 41 percent) between freshman and senior year.

The effects of these behaviors increase risk for a number of later-in-life consequences including diabetes, hypertension, psycho-social distress, and cancer.

college students are, on many measures, less healthy when they leave college than when they arrive.

This should come as no surprise when you consider that, according to the same study, only 15 percent of students got the recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week and most students did not meet recommended levels for fruit and vegetable consumption. In fact, one study found the percentage of students failing to eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables to be much higher, at 95 percent.

Meanwhile, healthy behaviors in college are linked to better mental wellbeing and academic outcomes (including GPA). Schools throughout the country are taking note of this trend and providing options to help their students be their most healthy, successful selves. Here are some examples: WearDuke Duke University Duke University researchers have launched a three-year smartwatch project in an effort to promote healthier habits. Students participating in

WearDuke will track their activity and sleep patterns using digital wearable devices. In this first year planning phase, researchers are developing a companion mobile health app that will allow students to track their own health, answer surveys and receive rewards. Once the planning phase is complete, WearDuke will conduct two pilot studies with small groups of freshmen before launching the initiative to the entire freshman class in the fall of 2021. The first pilot study, slated for the 2019-20 school year, is a feasibility study that will gauge interest and test whether students will wear the devices, answer survey questions, accumulate points and provide feedback. Students will wear devices that track sleep patterns and will be asked to answer surveys about their health, diet and other behaviors.


The second pilot study, in the third year, will not only track users’ health data, but also recommend personalized ways students can improve their health and wellness. They will also have the opportunity to learn about the risks associated with unhealthy behavior and discover ways to mitigate those risks. UCLA Healthy Campus University of California Los Angeles In 2013, University of California Los Angeles Chancellor Gene Block announced the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI), a campus-wide

effort to draw on the school’s research and teaching capabilities to find new and innovative ways to promote living well on campus. The initiative, which promised to foster a culture of physical, emotional, and social well-being, has had significant impact. The mission of HCI is to make the healthy choice the easy choice for UCLA students, faculty, staff, and visitors. It centralizes health-related innovation on campus, fostering synergies and coordination among myriad departments and programs that support and educate about well-being, and leveraging the strengths of individuals and institutions on and off campus. It’s seven thematic subcommittees work to create academic, experiential, and structural approaches to living well. The thematic working groups, called pods, are BEWell, BreatheWell, EatWell, EngageWell, MindWell, MoveWell, and ResearchWell and are led by campus experts in their respective fields. The work of these groups has resulted in improved walkability and bikeability on and around campus, plans for healthier


eating options, meetings that incorporate physical activity, the expansion of community gardens and urban farming on campus, and the creation of web-based mobile applications to track fitness progress. The initiative has also played key roles in enhancing student dining offerings, implementing a smoke-free campus program, and developing one of the nation’s first campus-wide diabetes prevention programs. Wellness Environment (WE) Program University of Vermont The well-regarded Wellness Environment (WE) program at the University of Vermont is a neuroscience-inspired behavioral-change program that uses incentives to encourage healthy behavior in participating students. The program has four pillars: fitness, nutrition, mindfulness, and relationships. The program has a mandatory neuroscience class, meditation sessions, daily yoga, and personal fitness and nutrition coaches. The Wellness Environment has a dormitory for participating students, which is drug

and alcohol-free, and an app where students track their own behaviors and collect points. The plan uses healthy habits to build healthy brains, which should lead to healthier decisions. The Wellness Environment has received interest from other colleges and universities across the country hoping to bring the concept to their schools. Year of Healthy U University of Pittsburgh In Spring 2017, University of Pittsburg Provost Patricia E. Beeson announced that the academic year 2017-2018 would be the Year of Healthy U, designed to help students reach their optimal state of wellness, integrating physical health with emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, and financial well-being. University of Pittsburg students and faculty embraced the Healthy U focus, submitting 107 proposals for matching funds for health initiatives to the Provosts Office. Of these proposals, 88 received matching funds in excess of $218,000. Other pro-

grams offered during the Year of Healthy U included: Exercise is Medicine on Campus-sponsored activities and educational sessions promoting physical activity for students, faculty, and staff including a Push Up Challenge; Blood Pressure Checks; Step Up, Sit and Reach; Jumping Jack Challenge; Body Composition; Sit-Up Challenge; and Plank Challenge. SHRS Edible Garden, created by The Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition, that helps the Nutrition program provide experiences that address the importance of diet and health in chronic disease prevention and management. The harvested herbs and vegetables will be used for education and food demonstrations within the classroom and in outreach programs on campus. Fitness U, a four-hour program, offering students the opportunity to ride CompuTrainer bikes which using gaming systems with virtual reality to bike along paths and trails through all types of terrain.

Pitt Moves consisted of adding physical activity breaks to courses at the Graduate School of Public Health and Center for Health Equity to help foster a culture of non-sedentarism. Snapchat Culinary Demos Princeton University In 2018, Princeton University Campus Dining received the National Association of College & University Food Services “2018 Most Innovation Nutrition and Wellness Program� award which recognizes colleges and universities that have implemented a unique and effective wellness or nutrition program. Princeton earned the award for a series of culinary demos broadcast on Snapchat. Recipes included vegan and vegetarian options, as well as sustainably sourced humane meat dishes. One story about a quick, nutritious breakfast generated 1,860 Snapchat views. Another, a live teaching demo with a chef, garnered nearly 2,100 views.


Experiential Learning in Higher Education Getting outside the classroom can be the best lesson By Nichole Bernier When Zack McCabe applied to college four years ago, he was looking to become the next Steven Spielberg or Spike Lee. The high school senior from North Andover, Massachusetts liked sports and social media, and had a knack for shooting videos and spinning a story. But he had trouble imagining that sort of career coming out of the traditional college route. His mother, an executive at Monster.com, was a huge believer in the value of accruing hands-on job experience on a resume before leaving college. So McCabe began rethinking his skill set in terms of more career-friendly goals—and visualizing a different way of going about college. Fast-forward to fall 2018, and McCabe’s fourth year at Northeastern University, a school known internationally as a leader in cooperative work programs and experi36

ential education. He has completed most of his coursework requirements toward a major in Media and Screen Studies and minor in Graphic Information Design. And thanks to the school’s co-op program, he also spent six months employed as part of the marketing team at New Balance, helping with content curation and executing the right voice for the company’s social channels. In early 2019 he’ll start his next co-op, digital sports marketing with a smaller lifestyle brand. When he graduates in 2020 and goes on job interviews, he’ll show up with more than the hungry hopefulness of an earnest grad. He’ll be able to articulate what he wants to do beyond college in realistic detail. And he’ll have the resume of someone who has already been there for several years. “My dream job at this point is to be able to execute a brand’s

storytelling through all kinds of media, creating content [for] people’s affinity [for] sports and lifestyle. It’s really about finding their empathy, and engaging it. I don’t feel like I’m working in sports—I feel like I’m working in people, and that’s where I want to be,” says McCabe. “At New Balance, I sit across the table from the kind of people I hope to work with in the future. There really is no replication of that educational experience aside from doing it.” This is the heart and soul of experiential education— learning by doing, incorporating the student’s own action and reflection as an integral part of the process. There are many ways to create experience, from independent fieldwork to collaborative projects, service learning, and vocational apprenticeships. And statistics bear out the effectiveness of the philosophy. Experiential learning, along

with faculty support, are the leading contributors to student preparedness after graduation, according to a 2014 Gallup-Purdue poll of 30,000 students across the country. Graduates who’ve taken part in this kind of approach during college, according to the poll, are twice as likely to be engaged at work in their future jobs. A subsequent poll in 2017 found that only one third of students believe they will graduate with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the job market and workplace. The missing scaffolding, educators and scientists say, is in the hands-on experience. It’s no wonder experiential learning is gaining traction.

passive absorption. The Association for Experiential Education (AEE) has been around since 1978, and in 1984, David Kolb developed his four-stage theory of experiential learning, which consists of having an experience, reflecting on it, making conclusions, and trying out what was learned. But in recent years, the ideology has jumped from philosophy circles to become a buzzword in a rapidly spreading circle of colleges and universities, as well as in corporate training, therapeutic settings, and adult learning.

“Neuroscience has sort of validated what we’ve seen in practice for decades, going back to the Outward Bound movement: Our brains retain information and build memory better if there’s a social component to the learning process, if there’s novelty in the learning, and challenge in the learning. All of those are central to the experiential approach,” says Smariga. “The approach has been in use for five decades, and has now affected enough individuals who have reached adulthood.”

Rob Smariga, CEO of the AEE, attributes its growing popularity to two factors: The growth of scientific discoveries illustrating the wiring of the brain, and the coming of age of a generation influenced by experiential programs.

Those early beneficiaries are now in positions of responsibility and authority in different educational settings, and can see the potential in a wide range of applications.

The philosophy itself isn’t “From service learning to new: In 1938, John Dewey environmental education and wrote about gap-year prothe need for grams, from student exinternships to perience to This is the heart and soul of experiential education co-ops, there’s be central in — learning by doing, incorporating the student’s a whole segthe education ment of exprocess—not own action and reflection as an integral part of p e r i e n t i a l just rote dis- the process. learning cipline and happening in 37

higher education connecting students with opportunities and exposure to different paths in life.” Northeastern’s co-op program was a pioneer of the field before it was a field. Soon after the university was founded in 1898, the practice of connecting students to work in their area of study was a practical one: earn while you learn. Students were quite literally working to earn money to pay tuition. The perception and practice has evolved significantly since then. “Over time, not surprisingly, it turned out the co-op experience would lead to employment—say, a student working at Raytheon while getting an engineering degree might get hired there after graduation. It really became about job placement,” said Michael Armini, senior vice president of external affairs for Northeastern. “More recently there’s been a focus on cognition, because clearly people retain knowledge by doing things rather than studying academically. We position


experiential learning as the most powerful way to learn. The issue of job placement hasn’t gone away, and it’s still a big selling point for us. But we don’t think that’s the whole purpose.” Northeastern has gone both broader and deeper in its commitment to learning by doing. It has taken a more intentional approach with the employers it goes after and opportunities it seeks to develop, and the way student coops—each student can take up to three—build upon the sequential acquisition of skills, knowledge, and direction. There are currently 3,000 companies participating, with 100 Northeastern co-op coordinators matching students with jobs and being a support network while they’re out in the field. “We invest heavily, because we have to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world of work. Student experience changes in the work force, and you see new job categories evolving on the spot,” said Maria Stein, associ-

ate vice president of employer engagement and career design. “Students were working in marketing co-ops when social media really started to grow as a job type, and as a result they were doing these job roles before they actually existed.” The school’s dedication to experiential learning continues to evolve, expanding its master’s degree co-op program with options for participating full-time, part-time, online, and in an online hybrid. And this fall, it further clinched its position as a thought leader in the area of experiential learning with the launch of the new magazine, EXPERIENCE. “We’re a magazine that shares stories about the power of experience to open minds, change lives, and transform culture. It’s about lived experience, things people have chosen to do and the experience they’ve had as a result of it,” explains editor-in-chief Joanna Weiss, a former reporter at the Boston Globe. “We’re very explicitly not about

Northeastern. But we’re promoting the same values, the same ideas that experience is the key to education, and that education is something that continues through your entire life, and is shared. “The students have the experience, they bring it back to the campus setting, process and reapply it. They don’t get self-contained in a cloistered college environment; It’s a continual feedback loop.” A feedback loop is an apt way of looking at the experiential learning process, because more often than not, the benefits go

in more than one direction, and circle back. At Williams College, the Center of Learning in Action was founded five years ago to centralize the school’s various interactive forms of curricular and extracurricular

education. Some majors now have an experiential course requirement, and the center helps students find a course to satisfy it. The center’s director Paula Consolini teaches a popular one, herself: a taxation class

Northeastern students benefit from experiential learning that goes beyond the school’s Boston campus.


about earned income tax credits and poverty policies. The course culminates in actual tax prep certification for the students, who then volunteer their services with low-income members of the surrounding community.

knowledge is usable and [to] be gratified to do something meaningful, particularly if they’re feeling angst about their place at the school and in the world,” she said.

affected by policies and decisions that limit their autonomy—say, citizens whose polling places had changed at the last minute, creating an obstacle to voting.

Another class Consolini teaches with a strong handson component is “Power to the People,” an entry-level political science course about popular sovereignty.

“The students were able to pose all kinds of questions to representatives and their staff. Why was this decision made? What are the best ways for our representative democracy to function? Can we get rid of the filibuster?” said Consolini.

The students interview politicians, staffers, NGOs, and lobbyists, as well as people

Many classes at Williams have experiential components built into the courses, often in

“They learn there isn’t a standard person in poverty out there—it’s complicated, with many factors contributing to people sitting in situations that are suboptimal. When people find them- Our brains retain information and build memory “In public selves facing a bunch of better if there’s a social component to the learning they have to be diplomatbad options, process. ic, but are far how do they more candid choose? Stuwith students dents get to with things see people’s The class travels with her for they’d never say on the restories through their numa long weekend to Washing- cord. First person experience bers, how they got where they ton, D.C. in conjunction with like this is in short supply. are,” said Consolini. the University of North Caro- There was the excitement of It’s an empowering experi- lina to research democracy in getting the answers and the ence for students who might action. They observe how, and knowledge, then bringing it feel helpless about elements to what extent, the will of the back to campus to build that of their own lives. people is carried out. wellspring of understanding.” “It puts in perspective being in a school environment so competitive, to see how the 40

the form of civic engagement and service learning that benefits the community. For example, there is an environmental planning course that gathers students in teams to investigate land use issues and grant-writing related to community gardens or bike trails. And a course investigating the science of sleep, with students working alongside a neuroscientist doing cutting-edge research that they are tasked with sharing with the community. And an extra-curricular group aimed at getting local high-risk teens excited about research as a way to keep them on track and out of the juvenile justice system.

hire someone else to do it, but you still have to know enough baseline knowledge to help make decisions,” said Consolini. “This is real life. Participatory action research—partnering in work with people you’re studying with—is one of the variants of experiential learning. “This stuff is not new, and we have to respect places that have been doing this for a long time. But now we seem to be at a time that’s coming around to appreciating that.”

Each of these courses involves sharing what they know, while collecting vital bits they don’t along the way: In a Habitat for Humanity program, advisors sometimes realize their first job is teaching students how to use a tape measure.

But with the rising profile of any trend comes contrarians, stalwarts guarding the ivory tower, concerned that studying theory will be devalued if traditional classroom lectures and tests are deemphasized.

“The basics of building things—we’ve lost some of that in education. You might

If students are learning to use a tape measure to build a Habitat for Humanity proj-

ect, are they spending enough time learning the classical history of engineering that led to contemporary building design? “The ivory tower, some people say that’s where our learning should be,” says Consolini. “But in any major, any field, there should be experiential opportunities all throughout life. It’s about incorporating them both.” At Northeastern, there’s a balance of “book” learning and practical active learning, consciously and by design. In a traditional four-year undergraduate program, students can do two sixmonth co-ops; with a five-year option, students can do up to three. That leaves students with at least three years of classroom time, depending upon how summers are used.


That—combined with the fact that 95 percent of students come to Northeastern expressly because of the co-op program—makes for little debate about whether traditional learning is getting short shrift. “Our focus on co-op is not in place of academic learning, it’s about both, and the integration of the two,” says Armini. “If you were taking engineering, there are lots of accreditation requirements. You can’t shortchange classroom instruction. Co-op is supplemental, a mix we see as most powerful.” Students at Northeastern recognize the two distinct aspects of their education. While they might prefer one over the other, most do see the value of both, says Paula Crea, a fifth-year undergraduate who is currently in Sweden for her third co-op. A double major studying 42

both the music industry and communications, Crea has loved her time spent working on marketing campaigns at Island Records and Universal Music Group. But she fully appreciates her classroom time and the perspective it brings to her co-op work. “You’re not having meetings in the real world about what kinds of communications theories people are exhibiting, and how to best interact with them in certain situations,” says Crea. “But knowing topics like that from classes influences how I see the world, and benefits me when I’m communicating with others at work.” At Kalamazoo College in Michigan, tactile life experience is woven into the fabric of classwork. Students step in and out of the campus gates routinely as part of their courses to test and apply what they learn, so

the question of practical versus theoretical is closer to moot. “We are very interested in the experiential learning opportunities as part of the academic experience, not as something parallel to it,” said Laura Furge, interim provost. In developmental psychology class, for example, students partner with a local elementary school to write a book with third graders, underscoring the importance of scaffolding in a community where 85 percent of elementary school kids are on a free or reduced lunch, according to Furge. In the sociology/anthropology department, a professor known for work in immigration designed a project enabling students to help Kalamazoo-area immigrants clinch vital government identification cards. “Classroom work ties students into who they want to be as learners and professionals. Life enhances work,” Furge says, “and work enhances life.”

gram, it would be a striking differentiator, explained Jay Barth, director of the Odyssey program and a professor of American politics. Students who matriculated the following year were the first to experience the Odyssey program: a requirement to complete three significant learning engagements across six categories. The sky is very nearly the limit, with students conceiving projects ranging from independent laboratory research with artistic expression to participation in a group project with ramifications on and off campus. Photo courtesy of Hendrix College

Hendrix College students learned about kidney transplants and disease in Nicaragua on the Hendrix Odyssey Program.

Hendrix College in Arkansas was named one of the nation’s most innovative schools in the 2019 rankings by U.S. News and World Report, and has had an interesting and very conscious route to get there. In 2004, the small school of

1,400 undergraduates was looking for a way to distinguish itself in the liberal arts landscape. The college felt hands-on learning had long been its forte, and that if there were a way to formalize that in a pro-

One recent project focused on wellness at Hendrix: under the guidance of a member of the psychology department, the group studied the stressors students face on campus, and examined ways to help students think more critically about techniques to reduce anxiety and promote health through nutrition, sleep, and a reduction of alcohol and smoking. Projects can also be pursued 43

off campus or abroad, and pull together a range of interests and skills.

search over the summer, and hopes to do her third project in Puerto Rico or Ghana.

This is what junior Rachel Lance did earlier this year, when she went to Haiti for a week to shadow a physician in the village of Cherident, a remote and underserved community in the mountains outside of Port Au Prince.

Projects that elaborate could be cost-prohibitive to some. But students whose Odyssey work involves travel and other expenses can apply Hendrix for funding. Barth estimates that the program has awarded $4 million to students since the program’s inception in 2005, not including the $25,000 a year Hendrix spends underwriting the faculty members supporting the students. The investment goes well beyond creating that differentiator the administration was looking for in 2004. It creates an indelible addition to each student’s profile as an individual.

Though she is a biochem and molecular biology major, she also loves playing the violin, and during her downtime gave lessons to local students. She’s planning to present her project in multimedia form, mostly using photography— another favorite interest. “The Odyssey has been a huge addition to my college experience, and a way to incorporate a lot of things I’m interested in into a cohesive project,” she said. “The trip got me really excited about pursuing a career in global medicine, working on researching accessibility to medical treatments in global crisis areas.” Lance has also done an Odyssey project in laboratory re44

“Often if the students are doing an Odyssey in an area that lends itself to future employment—say, public policy work, clinical work, campaign work — it morphs right into a job in the marketplace,” says Barth. “Their projects are laid out on their official academic transcript, with a 150-word description of each one. So po-

tential employers or graduate schools see an additional dimension of who the students are beyond their GPA.” But educators and students alike stress that experiential education isn’t just about landing a job, per se —it’s about the learning. And the payoff of handson learning, and self-driven learning, isn’t just measured in grades and job offers. Because what’s really gained lasts beyond those barometers of achievement — it’s the intangibles of confidence and inspiration. “I’ve learned that you have to make your own opportunities. That you have to take initiative, and if you use critical thinking and work hard, you’re going to be rewarded,” said Northwestern’s McCabe. “You can listen to lectures and ideate all you want, but in the end, you have to provide proof of your competence, and what you can come up with on your own. I feel like I can take the confidence Northeastern has given me and apply it to the stratosphere.”

Science Summary A recap of research worth noting. By Dana Humphrey


According to the 2018 College Prescription Drug Study, a multi-institutional survey of undergraduate, graduate and professional students that examined the non-medical use of prescription drugs led by researchers at The Ohio State University, almost 16 percent of college students say they misuse prescription stimulants, primarily to study or improve their grades. The survey of 19,539 US undergraduate, graduate and professional students from 25 institutions also found that more than 9 percent of students said they had misused pain medications which students use most often to get high or relieve pain. The percentage was roughly the same for students who reported non-medical use of sedatives, which survey respondents reported using most often for sleep or anxiety relief.

Non-Medical Use of Prescription Drugs Remains an Issue

A majority of students who misuse prescription drugs – including 79 percent of stimulant users, 57 percent of sedative users and 51 percent of pain medication users – said they obtained the drugs from friends. And the study found that 21 percent of students with a prescription for stimulant medication had given it to a friend or peer in the previous 12 months. Students report that prescription drugs are easy to obtain; 28 percent said it’s somewhat or very easy to obtain stimulants, and 20 percent said it’s somewhat or very easy to obtain sedatives.


New research found that racism, violence, and sexual assault are key contributors to Racism, Violence and Sexual mental health challenges for students. The Assault Contributing to researchers used text mining techniques to Mental Health Issues analyze 165 references published between 2010 and 2015 related to mental health among college students. The articles included peer-reviewed research literature, foundation reports, and media stories. The authors wrote, “Uncovering the most salient themes articulated in current news and literature reports can better enable higher education institutions to provide health services to its students.” Two themes revealed in the analysis - increasing demand for student services provided by campus counseling centers and the increased mental health risks faced by racial and ethnic minorities - dominated the discourse. The authors noted that while institutions are devoting more, innovative resources to respond to the growing number students who experience mental health concerns, there is a need to focus on proactive approaches to mitigate the causes, particularly violence and sexual assault. The research highlighted the need for additional mental health services and outlined some ways that mobile technologies may be able to help address these needs. 45


According to a new study published in the Journal of American College Health, university students in the US are showing Increasing Rates of Mental increasingly higher rates of diagnosis for Health Conditions a range of mental health conditions. Using data from the National College Health Assessment, consisting of more than 450,000 undergraduate students, researchers found a significant increase in the diagnosis and treatment for eight of the 12 mental health conditions examined between 2009 and 2015, with the largest increases in anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. Treatment and diagnosis of anxiety increased by 5.6 percent over the study period, closely followed by depression (3.2 percent) and panic attacks (2.8 percent). Anxiety is now the most common mental health concern among university students in the U.S., affecting almost 15 percent of students nationally. The study’s authors suggest that the increase in mental health diagnosis and treatment reflects a combination of deteriorating mental health and increased willingness to seek help, driven by reduced stigma surrounding mental health and greater awareness of campus services. According to the authors, “understanding and tracking counseling service utilization is important as students who have contact with counseling centers say that utilizing services helped their academic performance and that they were more likely to remain enrolled at the institution.” The study authors noted that universities should work to create a culture that is supportive of mental health and address contributing factors. To that end, the researchers suggest identifying mental health as a community problem that is shared by all members of the institution, educating and encouraging everyone in the community to recognize signs of students’ distress, and providing increased awareness about campus resources.


Many universities have adopted medAmnesty Policies Encourage ical amnesty policies, which protect Students to Seek Help in students seeking medical treatment for alcohol-related emergencies from disAlcohol-related Incidents ciplinary action, in order to encourage students and bystanders to seek emergency care. A new study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that these policies have been successful in prompting college students to call for help before they or their peers become seriously ill. After a medical amnesty policy was implemented at a University, the average daily number of alcohol-related calls to the school’s emergency medical services agency went up, and calls requiring advanced life support services fell by nearly 60 percent. In addition, calls for alcohol-related emergencies were made earlier in the evening, suggesting students were seeking help when the level of intoxication was less severe. The authors wrote that the amnesty program was also used by administrators “to identify at-risk students and engage them in behavioral therapy, which has been shown to decrease risky drinking behaviors.” In a separate study published this year, researchers found that implementing a medical amnesty policy did not increase drinking, overall alcohol consumption, or medical consequences.



According to new research, students who receive sexuality education, including refusal Sex Ed Reduces Risk of skills training, during high school are at lowSexual Assault er risk of experiencing sexual assault during college. The study, published in PLOS ONE, the publication from Columbia University’s Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT) project, showed that students who received refusal skills training also received other forms of sexual education, including instruction about methods of birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Students who received abstinence-only instruction did not show significantly reduced experiences of campus sexual assault. The researchers surveyed 1,671 students from Columbia University and Barnard College in the spring of 2016, and conducted in-depth interviews with 151 undergraduate students. They also found that multiple factors experienced prior to college were associated with students’ experience of penetrative sexual assault during college, including unwanted sexual contact before college (for women), adverse child experiences such as physical abuse, ‘hooking up’ in high school, and initiation of sex and alcohol or drug use before age 18. John Santelli, MD, the article’s lead author and pediatrician and professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, says that the protective impact of refusal skills-based sexuality education underlines the importance of complementing campus-based prevention efforts with earlier education. According to Santelli, “We need to start sexuality education earlier. It’s time for a life-course approach to sexual assault prevention, which means teaching young people - before they get to college - about healthy and unhealthy sexual relationships, how to say no to unwanted sex, and how to say yes to wanted sexual relationships.”


Profile for Mary Christie Quarterly

MCQ Issue 12 | Winter 2019  

The Mary Christie Quarterly is a publication of the Mary Christie Foundation, a thought leadership and philanthropic organization dedicated...

MCQ Issue 12 | Winter 2019  

The Mary Christie Quarterly is a publication of the Mary Christie Foundation, a thought leadership and philanthropic organization dedicated...