Mary Christie Quarterly A publication of the Mary Christie Foundation
Schools that prepare students for a meaningful life: President Clayton Spencer Bates College President Richard Miller Olin College of Engineering
Q & A with Kent Syverud Chancellor of Syracuse University p. 46
Issue 16 | Winter 2020
Mary Christie Quarterly The Mary Christie Quarterly is a publication of the Mary Christie Foundation, a thought leadership organization dedicated to the health and wellness of young adults.
STAFF President Editor & Executive Director Program Manager Art and Layout Director Editorial Assistant
John P. Howe III Marjorie Malpiede Dana Humphrey Ashira Morris Anna Goodwin
ARTISTS Cover Illustration
Daniel Chang Christensen
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chair
John P. Howe, III
Mary Jane England
Lisa Kelly Croswell
Sarah Ketchen Lipson
Robert F. Meenan
ello MCQ Readers:
Welcome to the Winter 2020 issue of the Mary Christie Quarterly, a publication of the Mary Christie Foundation. This double issue covers many important people and policies that impact the health and wellbeing of teens and young adults, particularly those involved in higher education. It also highlights some of the Foundation’s major initiatives of 2019, including the Presidents’ Convening on College Student Behavioral Health, held in partnership with Georgetown University, on September 23 and 24; The Parents’ Survey on college student behavioral health, released on September 24; and “Everything to Gain: Addressing College Drinking and Drug Use,” a forum on November 18 at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate in Boston, held in partnership with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). Our winter issue is larger than usual as we keep up with the expanding activity and attention being generated around college student emotional and behavioral health. Our cover article focuses on how finding purpose and meaning in college and career can benefit students for life. In it, we look at unique programs at Olin College of Engineering and Bates College that hold promise for addressing college student mental health issues and higher education overall. We hear from presidents and policymakers; student leaders and alumni; clinicians and technology experts, all working towards improving health and wellbeing for our next generation of leaders. As always, thank you for your support. Sincerely,
Marjorie Malpiede Editor
CONTE NTS 11 Everything to Gain
Ronald Daniels, President of Johns Hopkins University at “Everything to Gain: How Higher Ed Leadership Can Confront Substance Use.”
“The students, who are themselves so important in perpetuating these norms, have to have a sense of their central role in helping achieve this shift.”
21 Health and Wellbeing 2020
Pet therapy at The Barnes Center at The Arch, Syracuse University
“It used to be that if you needed counseling services, you had to walk down fraternity row to a yellow building at the edge of campus and everyone knew why you were going.”
CO NTE N TS 06 Q&A: John Silvanus Wilson 11 Everything to Gain 18 REACHing for Better Diabetes Health 21 Interesting People Doing Important Work 26 Finding Purpose 36 Well-Served 41 Op-Ed: Confronting Campus Substance Use 43 The Barnes Center at The Arch 46 Q&A: Kent Syverud 50 Young, Gifted & Advancing 53 Science Summary
Q&A: John Silvanus Wilson Discussing diversity and inclusion with the president of Harvard University’s senior adviser and strategist Interviewed By Marjorie Malpiede
This past October, Harvard University won a closely-watched lawsuit that kept at bay an effort to overturn affirmative action in higher education, making Harvard a standard bearer once again. As the leader in charge of the school’s diversity and inclusion agenda, Dr. John Silvanus Wilson is hoping to utilize Harvard’s precedent-setting abilities to create a national model for “sustainable inclusive excellence” – the term Harvard uses to describe a culture where each member of a diverse campus community is thriving, thus improving the whole. Wilson’s approach to creating a greater sense of inclusion and belonging at Harvard begins with his work to fulfill the recommendations of a Task Force appointed by former president Drew Faust. Those recommendations form the foundation of a larger inclusion and belonging agenda that has been eagerly
embraced by current president Larry Bacow. Hearing Wilson describe what it takes to achieve “sustainable inclusive excellence,” it is clear he gets it like few others can. As the former president of Morehouse College and an alum of the school, Wilson recounts a college environment of mutual respect and high expectations, absent the “othering” that can complicate or compromise the living and learning experiences of minority groups at majority institutions. As an African American scholar who also attended Harvard, Wilson has experienced the stress and distraction that comes from struggling to find a sense of belonging. Wilson sees this quest for authentic inclusion at Harvard as one of the greatest roles of his career. He calls Harvard’s seriousness about becoming a place of acceptance a “Dr. King moment,” alluding to King’s “Beloved Community.”
But Wilson is candid about the magnitude of achieving the full transformation of an institution that, until the late 20th century, was the epitome of white privilege. In September, the Mary Christie Foundation spoke with Dr. Wilson at his office in Harvard Square. Mary Christie Foundation: How did you come to this role? John Silvanus Wilson: When I left the president’s office at Morehouse, Drew Faust [then-president of Harvard] invited me to be a President in Residence at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where I had earned two degrees. While I was there in the fall 2017, busy writing a book about the future of black colleges, she asked me to review the report from the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging called “Pursuing Excellence on a Founda-
tion of Inclusion.” She hoped I’d lead the charge in implementing it, but the first thing I thought was, “this sounds like the standard approach to that stereotypical “diversity guy” on majority campuses… and that’s just not me!
faculty and staff of color—it’s about fundamentally changing and enriching the institutional culture so you can reap the full benefits of the diversity you are steadily building and stabilizing.
excellence by sampling from a small fraction of the human talent.” For years at Harvard there was a sameness. The people who sat in the classroom to learn looked the same as the people who stood in the classroom to teach, and largely the same as the people who worked to manage and improve the environment around the classrooms. That means for roughly 3.5 centuries Harvard sampled from a small fraction of the human talent.
I know what the diversity person in a predominantly white institution does and I never held any interest in being that person. But then I had several deeper conversations with her, and I read the report again I’ll put it in and I began terms of my to think, own story. Photo by John Gillooly “this is actuWhen I arally not that John Silvanus Wilson, former president of Morehouse College and rived at Harcookie-cutter current senior advisor on diversity and inclusion to Harvard Uni- vard for gradsyndrome— versity President Larry Bacow. uate school instead, it in 1979, the could be student body something really different That’s the key to “sustainable was less than 10% diverse. and powerful.” inclusive excellence.” The tenured faculty was 99% One line in the report really white male. And there was MCF: How does your work struck me—“The intellectuthis tiny, “wannabe” division here fit in with Harvard’s al fruits of diversity do not called the division of Afharvest themselves.” In other history in this area? What’s ro-American studies. different? words, this goes well beyond The Harvard I returned to, the conventional quantitative JSW: President Larry Bacow first as an Overseer and now dimension of these jobs—it is talks about “true excellence.” as a senior staff member, is not just about admitting more He says, “you can’t get true one where half of the deans students and hiring more 07
are of color, women, or both. And we just admitted the second incoming class that is predominantly minority. The tenured faculty is now 41% women or of color, and that tiny division with just a few courses has grown into the number one African and African-American studies department in the world! That is progress! Harvard is better because women are now here. Harvard is better because people of color are now here. Harvard is better because people from the LGBTQ community and other communities of difference can now be here and feel more and more like they belong, and that’s the key.
that we are well beyond the centuries-old sameness. MCF: That’s hard work. How are you going about it? JSW: It is hard work, and its pioneering work because no one—no college, university or company—has gotten this right. One of our initial goals was to get some hard, baseline data on how people are feeling about the Harvard experience—getting beyond the anecdotal testimonials, that is. Last spring, we issued the Pilot Pulse Survey on inclusion and belonging. “10 questions. 3 minutes. Your voice.” Since we knew not everyone was feeling included, we wanted to gather more precise data on the depth and nature of the challenge to fix it. (See “Pilot Pulse Survey” sidebar.)
The schools and units have also identified a point person who is accountable for steering their efforts, and each of them will be members of a new council to be regularly convened by the president’s office. We are also doing what Harvard does best—we’ve created a Harvard Culture Lab that incubates ideas on how to increase a sense of inclusion and belonging on campus. We just funded a new classroom innovation called “Teachly,” which we hope to eventually scale university-wide. It is a mix of technology and psychology, in that it gives professors a sense of their own bias, which is often hard for people to identify, understand or remedy.
The progress that was made on the quantitative side was great, but for years, Harvard only emphasized the quanIt can detect patterns of titative side of our required bias—like consistently callprogress. ing on single This report student proserves as files—before “(President) Larry Bacow says ‘You can’t get true a kind of these become blueprint excellence by sampling from a small fraction of the reputational for making problems. human talent.’” a shift from Another the quantiexample is a tative to the new technolqualitative. Beside the baseline data ogy called “This is How You coming from the community, Say My Name,” which adThe goal is to retain all the the president asked each of things Harvard is known dresses a seemingly small but the schools and major admin- enormously important issue for—excellence in all ways, istrative units to create and especially in teaching and which tends to complicate the submit a strategic plan for discovery— but to get much Harvard experiences of peohow they are going to pursue ple from different cultures. better at seeing what new excellence on a foundation of and exciting imagining and It is built into the Harvard inclusion. creativity can flourish, now 08
directory now and allows professors to hear the correct pronunciation of students’ first and last names. It is incredibly powerful. Think about it. When you say someone’s name correctly the first time, you exhibit respect and immediately remove a barrier, and maybe also send a not-so-subtle signal of belonging as well. MCF: What have been your own experiences with inclusion and belonging and how has that shaped your work at Harvard? JSW: The four years I spent as a student at Morehouse was so liberating for me, because I didn’t have all of the distractions that go along with being “othered.” That had been my high school experience in a predominantly white Philadelphia suburb, where I had to deal with the hassles of doubt, marginality, rejection and even hostility. We now call it the “bandwidth tax”—worrying about whether you belong, whether you are accepted socially, worrying about a teachers’ low expectations of you. These tend to draw down on the mental bandwidth we all have available to us to perform and succeed. At Morehouse, I had a name. I had an identity. The people who were looking at me believed in me. They didn’t have low expectations—they
Pulse Survey on Inclusion and Belonging In November 2019, Harvard University released the broad-based results of its Pilot Pulse Survey on Inclusion and Belonging, a first-of-its-kind, community-wide initiative that asked all faculty, academic personnel, staff, and students to answer 10 questions aimed at assessing the culture and feeling of inclusion and belonging across the University. “10 Questions. 3 Minutes. Your Voice,” was the campaign slogan for this survey, which solicited the most responses in Harvard’s history. According to administrators, the results contained points of promise and points of challenge. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they agree or strongly agree with a statement inquiring whether they feel they belong at Harvard. In addition, 25% said they “somewhat agree.” Students dissented most strongly with the statement “I believe Harvard leadership will take appropriate action in response to incidents of harassment and discrimination.” Thirtyfour percent of students disagreed with the statement, while 23% of staff did not agree. Overall, a little more than half of the Harvard students expressed basic or strong agreement with the statement, “I feel like I belong at Harvard,” and the rest either somewhat agree, or do not agree. “We must, as a university and a community, identify what actions we will take to help lift those who do not share the strongest levels of belonging,” said John Silvanus Wilson, senior adviser and strategist to the president of Harvard University on diversity and inclusion.
had sky-high expectations. I didn’t feel that way when I first came to Harvard. When the culture has been dominated by privilege, whiteness and maleness, there’s a lot of “othering” still going on. It is my dream to help ensure that Harvard becomes a place where people of whatever background or identity can thrive here just as I did at Morehouse. MCF: It sounds like a lot of this has to do with mental health. Is that a part of your agenda? JSW: Absolutely. The feeling of not belonging has enormous mental health consequences for students. In looking at the well-being of the community, you need to support the wellbeing of the individual, so at the heart of the report is a whole section on mental health. We have to understand and tend to the wellbeing of people of difference, and we need to make sure that our support services are equipped to do that. MCF: What about the affirmative action lawsuit? What does this mean for what we’ve been talking about today? JSW: In and of itself, this is a victory for Harvard, higher education and all of America. Putting together a class 10
is a difficult thing to do and we, like all educational institutions, are imperfect at it. But that said, not only did the judge rule that we passed constitutional muster, she saw the larger societal value of what we are trying to do here. The law allows us to have race and other personal considerations factored in and that is very important to us. In order to pursue excellence on a foundation of inclusion, you have to have first pursued it on a foundation of diversity. You have to have different people from different backgrounds in the environment in the first place before you can harvest that diversity. MCF: Do you see this as sort of a crescendo to your life’s work? (Not that you’re anywhere near retiring.) JSW: I believe if we get this right, or when we get this right, our approach to sustainable inclusive excellence will be a model, not just for colleges and universities but it will be a model for the nation and the world in which we live. The work really boils down to meeting the familiar chal-
lenge of moving toward the kind of beloved community emphasized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Like him, we are seeking ways to emphasize character over color and compassion over conflict, all while preserving and enhancing our trademark excellence. So, we have a King-like agenda here at Harvard. But more than a crescendo for my life’s work, we are looking for this to be a crescendo for the life and work of Harvard University. And consider that Harvard’s original Charter of 1650 called for “the education of the English and Indian [male] youth of this country,” a fact of history which means our current work to further plant and harvest diversity is a long-overdue quest to finally handle our unfinished business. So, like a “final frontier,” realizing sustainable inclusive excellence is pursuant to Harvard University’s full maturity as a first-rate institution, able to both reflect the world as we educate leaders to enhance it.
Everything to Gain Conference highlights leadership’s role in addressing campus substance use By Dana Humphrey Photos By Julia Zhogina
n November 2019, The Mary Christie Foundation and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) convened a group of higher education leaders, trustees, and clinical experts for an event focused on addressing college drinking and drug use. “Everything to Gain: How Higher Ed Leadership Can Confront Substance Use,” held at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston, featured presentations and panel discussions with national experts and researchers, presidents and trustees leading the fight to combat campus substance use and promote student success. Mary Grant, the President of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, and a former college president, welcomed the assembled guests to the Senate Chamber room at the Institute—an exact replica of the United States Senate Chamber in Washington, D.C.—framing the issue of student substance use as a collective responsibility.
“We can’t afford to lose a young, bright leader with future potential that will make a difference in our communities,” she said. “It’s not just the role of student health services to deal with this, it’s the role of faculty, it’s the role of peers, it’s the role of college presidents, of board members, of alumni, of community. It’s all of us, to help create and foster a healthy, productive, welcoming campus environment that allows students to do their very best work and thrive in these complicated times.”
growth. Campuses equipped for effective therapeutic intervention but even more important, campus communities where substance use has lost its allure.”
ACTA’s President, Michael Poliakoff, then set the tone for the day, underscoring the importance of finding solutions to the persistent issue with the lofty goal of entirely changing the culture of campus substance use.
The guide for trustees and administrators, co-authored by Dr. Amelia Arria, Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, and Greta Wagley, Research Associate and Editor at ACTA, called for a new level of awareness and collaborative action by presidents and trustees to address student alcohol and drug use and includes examples of successful, evidence-based programs implemented at institutions
“Our purpose today is to explore strategies that work to address the problem comprehensively,” he said. “It is our hope that today’s discussions will be the springboard to create campus cultures of vibrant learning and personal
The morning’s opening presentation explored the most up-to-date research surrounding college substance use, and presented findings from Addressing College Drinking and Drug Use, a report published by ACTA in partnership with the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
across the country. Dr. Arria led the audience through existing challenges, explained how substance use is connected to student success outcomes, discussed factors that contribute to the problem, and outlined the evidence-based strategies that can be used to interrupt those factors. Arria presented data on the
decreasing rates of binge drinking that, she says, prove that progress is possible. She also reported increases in marijuana use among college students, and the staggering increases in potency that pose serious threats to student mental health. Arria described the wide variety of consequences of college student alcohol use, including injuries, poison-
ings, assaults, and other costly health outcomes. She presented research that substance use interferes with young people’s ability to take full advantage of opportunities afforded during college. According to Arria, the neurocognitive deficits of substance use not only make it more difficult for students to absorb information, but disrupt a motivational pathway, so that learning is no longer meaningful. Arria told the audience that this can result in missed classes, falling grades, increased likelihood for dropout, and ultimately lack of readiness for employment and attenuation of goals. In addition to these direct effects, Arria expounded on the secondhand consequence of alcohol use, or the impact to individuals who don’t use alcohol. These include interruptions to studying or sleeping, property damage, or unwanted sexual advances. In order to make positive change, Arria said, “We have to understand what’s driving the problem and try to address the multiple factors that are responsible.”
Top: Ronald Daniels, LLM, JD, President, Johns Hopkins University and Shirley Collado, MA, PhD, President, Ithaca College. Bottom: Amelia Arria, PhD, Director, Center on Young Adult Health & Development, University of Maryland School of Public Health. 12
Arria listed several factors that drive substance use, including individual characteristics like genetics, risk-taking propensity, and preexisting mental health conditions. She stressed though, that a
student could have none of these and still become involved in drug use. Many environmental factors are at play as well, including the influence, both positive and negative, of peers, adults and caregivers.
The neurocognitive deficits of substance use not only make it more difficult for students to absorb information, but they disrupt a motivational pathway, so that learning is no longer meaningful.
Dr. Arria underlined the importance of using evidence-based strategies, and reaffirmed the report’s endorsement of a multilevel, multi-component approach to address the complexity of the problem. “I can’t emphasize enough that we don’t have a single program” she said. “We don’t have a silver bullet.” She did list several effective strategies, including policy enforcement, parental notifications of policy infractions, and engaging and training facilitators. Dr. Arria promoted intercampus working groups, sharing her experience with the Maryland Collaborative, a network of 17 colleges and universities across the state whose presidents have agreed to work together with community partners to reduce alcohol use on their campuses using evidencebased policies and practices. In 2015, the Collaborative was successful in changing state law - banning extreme-
strength alcohol after the Collaborative’s presidents worked together to put the measure in front of the state legislature. Arria praised the leadership of Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels and University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret, both in attendance, for their leadership in growing the collaborative from its original eight institutions to its current size. Dr. Arria ended with explaining the effect that strong leadership can have when addressing this issue. She challenged the notion that substance use is a rite of passage for college students. “College is an opportune time to address these issues that for some can become lifelong struggles” she said. “But by strengthening the academic mission of the university and promoting the idea that substance use is inconsistent with that mission -- that substance use is not a benign, inevitable rite of passage but can interfere with student potential, I think we can make some substantial progress.”
THE CAMPUS CHALLENGE OF SUBSTANCE USE The first panel of the day, The Campus Challenge of Substance Use: Facing the Problem and Overcoming Institutional Challenges, featured Dr. Joseph Lee, Medical Director for the Hazelden/ Betty Ford Foundation, Robert DuPont, President of the Institute for Behavior and Health, and two college presidents—Ronald Daniels of Johns Hopkins University and Shirley Collado of Ithaca College. The panel was moderated by Deirdre Fernandes, the higher education reporter for The Boston Globe. The panelists provided insight on the pervasiveness and impact of campus drug and alcohol use, debated ways to combat the problem and suggested ways to overcome institutional reluctance to addressment. When asked why students use alcohol and drugs, panelists attributed blame to an increasing sense of isolation and loneliness, decreased resilience, capitalistic mar-
kets preying on consumers, and a biological drive, among other factors. Dr. Lee explained that students reenact the cultural norms embedded in them by their parents, friends, and mainstream and social media. The panelists were concerned about the trend of intenstity alcohol and drug users. Dr. DuPont said that while there is an increase in the number of students who are not using any alcohol or drugs, another trend is emerging: a group of young people using much higher amounts of alcohol and drugs. High risk students congregate together, as do the lowest risk students, according to Dr. Lee. “Different substances have different harms, but it’s really about high-risk people.” And focusing attention on highrisk students is important, as those groups will “continue to foster maladaptive cultural norms on your campuses.” Dr. Dupont emphasized the need for prevention, “to de-normalize drug use” on campus. President Daniels explained how, at Johns Hopkins, they are “Trying to, at least right from the moment the students get on campus, signal the concerns that we have about the pernicious role that alcohol and drug use has on their performance.” Daniels
believes that students have a central role in changing the norms around campus substance use. He said, “The students, who are themselves so important in perpetuating these norms, have to have a sense of their central role in helping achieve this shift.” Dr. Lee named a number of evidence-based solutions, many of them low-cost environmental regulations on the price of alcohol and outlet density near campus. “Having pro-social activities is really important,” he said. “Having screening across the board is really important.” He also urged having mental health professionals trained to detect substance use disorders, and advocated for collegiate recovery communities. According to Dr. Lee, recovery communities “change the dialogue” around substance use and “create places where people do feel safe to go talk or find advocacy.” Panelists repeatedly stressed the impact of strong, clear leadership, from both college administration and trustees. President Collado commented that trustees, in particular, should expand their understanding of their fiduciary responsibility for risk management to include alcohol and drug prevention and student wellbeing. While student affairs topics
have not traditionally been included in the conversation for boards of trustees, Collado says expectations are shifting. In order for boards to have those conversations, Collado said, there is a “dire need for trustees to fundamentally be educated on the research and understand what’s going on.” She suggested shaping a strategic plan that “affirmatively states objectives and values around student wellness” that the board will adopt and endorse. President Daniels, too, expressed the importance of educating boards on the most current data. Their support is especially important when confronted with difficult policy decisions, such as those around Greek life or alumni expectations. “This is where, in some sense, the data really matter,” Daniels said. “That is having relatively clear, dispassionate discussions around the impact that alcohol and drug use are having on our campuses. Making that real to the board …the extent to which these behaviors are creating grave risk for the academic performance of the students. They’re creating grave risks for serious injury and death. They’re creating significant risks in terms of sexual assault.”
Presidents Collado and Daniels both promoted the virtues of collaboration, which, Daniels said, provides the opportunity to share best practices, compare across institutions and lobby for statewide policy changes. On his experience successfully lobbying for a ban on highproof alcohol with the Mary-
land Collaborative, President Daniels said, “This is a real benefit of having this institution in place, where you’ve got the academic leadership of the state that are convening regularly, you have the imprimatur of the data and the public health expertise. That gives us opportunities to influence the legislative out-
come, which has been very important for us in reducing the environmental risk for some of these really dysfunctional behaviors.” Dr. Lee captured the agreement of the panelists in underscoring the importance of strong, consistent leadership; the commitment to evidencebased solutions, and a plan to
Speakers • Amelia Arria, PhD
Director, Center on Young Adult Health & Development, University of Maryland School of Public Health
• Joseph Lee, MD ABAM
Medical Director, Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation
• Robert DuPont, MD • Ronald Daniels, LLM, JD • Shirley Collado, MA, PhD • Katherine Newman, PhD • Phil Hanlon, PhD • Damon Sims, JD • Nick Motu
President, Institute for Behavior and Health President, Johns Hopkins University President, Ithaca College Chancellor, University of Massachusetts—Boston President, Dartmouth College Vice President for Student Affairs, Penn State University VP and Chief External Affairs Officer, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
One of the panel discussions at Everything to Gain: How Higher Ed Leadership Can Confront Substance Use. 15
create real cultural change. He said, “More than ever, I think all of us leaders need a focused vision and a plan… informed by science and best practice to create the healthiest college culture possible.” STRATEGIES FOR STUDENT SUCCESS In the afternoon panel, Strategies for Student Success, four college leaders discussed their experience creating change on campus, and the role of campus leadership and the governing board. The panel, moderated by Brandon Busteed, president of Kaplan University Partners, formerly with Gallop Research, featured Phil Hanlon, the President of Dartmouth College, Damon Sims, Vice President for Student Affairs at Penn State University, Michael Poliakoff of ACTA, and the Mary Christie Foundation’s President, Dr. John Howe, III. The Power of Trustees and Alumni President Hanlon described his experience of allying his administration with trustees and alumni in the fight against substance use on campus. In January 2015, President Hanlon announced “Moving Dartmouth Forward,” an initiative aimed at eliminating high-risk behavior that would make large, structural changes to student life and hold students and
student organizations to a higher standard of behavior. Traditionally believed to be foes of any change that would affect the social scene at Dartmouth, the alumni embraced the changes. Hanlon found the trustees and alumni to be some of his strongest motivators and allies. “The alumni have been some of our strongest supporters in trying to reform the social scene at Dartmouth and reduce harmful behaviors,” Hanlon said. And many of them say, “I’m so sick of reading about Dartmouth in the news in a negative way. We’re ready for a change.” Hanlon said that trustees and alumni at Dartmouth have “been educating themselves about high risk behaviors, sexual assault and violence and high-risk drinking and substance abuse for some time.” When he began his tenure, Dartmouth’s reputation was in peril. “Our applications dropped 14%, we were under active investigation by the office of civil rights, all of this in the wake of a very damaging article that appeared in Rolling Stone about hazing at Dartmouth,” he said. “And basically, my first meeting with the trustees, they said ‘fix this, get this straightened out.’” As a student affairs administrator, Damon Sims said he
has experienced some pushback and resistance from the trustees when trying to make changes to Greek life, often stemming from their own fraternity experiences. However, Sims has witnessed at Penn State and at colleges across the country that political will to make change often rises out of moments of tragedy caused by alcohol or drug use. Sims estimates that half of trustees and alumni he encounters are supportive of policy changes around alcohol use; the other half are resistant. “It’s impossible, maybe it’s just the size and complexity of the place, but it’s impossible to think of any of those groups monolithically around these issues,” he said. “Except, in those moments when a tragedy strikes and suddenly people step back from their native impulses… and we’ve been able to pivot as an institution.” Sims said that it is partly due to the support in those moments of tragedy that they have been able to make changes at Penn. Dr. Howe, who is a member of the Board of Trustees at Boston University, urged institutions to share knowledge and solutions and called for more collaborative approaches among colleagues at all leadership levels, including governing boards. “Campuses can address these issues in a way that they
learn from each other and use models that can be implemented across more than one campus.” Dr. Poliakoff believes that while every trustee takes the wellbeing of the school seriously, moving from thought to action can be a real hurdle. Poliakoff said that well-meaning trustees are often willing to be quiet listeners rather than tough questioners, when they should be asking difficult questions of the institution they serve. “The great necessity now is for proactivity,” he said. “In other words… our plea to trustees all around the nation, don’t wait until you read about the tragedy.” Telling a Story with Data In engaging trustees and alumni on the necessity for change, President Hanlon uses data. And not just the prevalence data, or data on hard-alcohol consumption, medical transport numbers, and medical transports with high blood alcohol content. Hanlon also uses metrics to prove wrong the conventional wisdom that when you make changes to the alcohol and drug policy, it will hurt enrollment. Hanlon said that
when the school launched Moving Dartmouth Forward, “there was definitely a voice in the community that worried this was going to be a disaster. No one would want to come to Dartmouth. They like Dartmouth because it’s a heavy drinking place.” The data has shown it to be the opposite, with freshman yield increasing 50% to 64% over the last six years. The data effectively diffused the argument. Sims also said that he’s experienced similar concerns and what he says is “a persistent view that changes can’t be made without compromising enrollment, that you will give students the impression that the school is not a fun place to be, and students won’t show up.” Sims said in his experience, this is not the case. “You might well get a different quality of student looking for a different kind of experience,” Sims said. “And on top of that it’s the right thing to do.” Sims said that he has observed that leadership is increasingly making the connection between substance use issues and student success and retention which he calls “necessary” to persuade those who are worried about enrollment.
“It requires presidents who are genuinely committed to this cause; they don’t necessarily have to be the ones leading it, but they empower those who are really responsible for providing leadership to these kinds of initiatives to actually do so.” To fortify their leadership on these important issues, Dr. Poliakoff reiterated the need to keep trustees informed, and hoped for the continued sharing of knowledge among this group. “This conference cannot be a one and done, a one-shot affair,” he said. “We heard today wonderful ideas and emerging best practices,” he said. “It’s up to all of us to continue our work. Every one of the partnering organizations here is committed to that ongoing process.” Nick Motu, VP and Chief External Affairs Officer at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, closed the program and reiterated the promise for partners to continue to spread the word through similar forums and continued research. “We all come at this concern from different perspectives but with shared goals and a commitment to use evidence and best practices to light the pathway for improved outcomes for our students,” he said.
REACHing for Better Diabetes Health CDN REACH™ offers guidance for supporting students with type 1 diabetes and other chronic diseases By Dana Humphrey
he College Diabetes Network (CDN) has launched a new initiative to reduce the significant physical and mental health risks facing college students with type 1 diabetes (T1D). CDN REACH™ (Reduce risk through Education, Advocacy and Collaboration in Higher Education) will share information and resources to help campus professionals protect the safety, health, and productivity of all students with diabetes on their campus. With the CDN REACH initiative, CDN leverages almost 10 years of grassroots work on college campuses across the country as the only national non-profit that provides peer support and resources to college students with T1D. To date, CDN’s work has been focused on providing those students with the guidance they need to successfully manage the challenging transition to independence at college. 18
Christina Roth, the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of CDN, says that CDN REACH will now help campus professionals address the persistent barriers students with T1D face in reducing their mental and physical health risks. According to Roth, this starts with education and awareness about T1D as well as other chronic and invisible diseases. “We’ve found that the biggest barrier to supporting these students is a misunderstanding around the prevalence of diabetes, the prevalence of chronic and invisible diseases, and an understanding of what that entails,” she said. Roth says this means taking into account the unique emotional and behavioral needs of these students who are not only managing their diseases but advocating for themselves while away from home. Young adults with
diabetes make life or death medical decisions daily and managing these decisions while navigating campus life and academics can be overwhelming and lead to depression, anxiety and isolation. In a 2017 survey conducted by CDN, fifty-seven percent of young adults with T1D reported an increase in depression since starting college. CDN REACH is a multi-year initiative that was created out of conversations with college students about these barriers and issues. “We are a grassroots organic organization,” said Roth. “So all of our focus is on creating a community of young adults and identifying what barriers they’re facing to their care and their health. And one of the first that we identified was this constant need for self-advocacy on campus because of so much misunderstanding from faculty,
administration, and even the disability services office.” At the end of 2016, CDN started working to create educational resources for departments on campus to help them understand diabetes, and in 2018, CDN started piloting those resources at 22 campuses across the U.S. Working with administrators is new territory for CDN. As the organization has grown, they have been able to establish relationships with decision-making bodies.
diabetes, and why the lack of knowledge around it is a liability for them. Publishing resources is one part of the CDN REACH awareness campaign. For the CDN REACH launch, CDN is publishing three educational resources developed for campus professionals: Guides for Student Health Services, Student Disability Services and Student Counseling Services. The guides include basic information on diabetes and diabetes care, each stakeholder’s responsibility under the American Disabilities Act, how to talk about diabetes, and information specific to the office’s interactions with students with diabetes.
As an example, Roth points to a reluctance on the part of colleges to set a policy about intervention in the case of a severe hypoglycemic event or seizure. Where campus administrators have traditionally been concerned about the legal implications of intervening in these cases, CDN hopes to educate campus members about new therapeutic options that have made intervention much easier and safe.
Another issue for students is the restriction on the use of smartphones during classes “We’re marrying our bottom or exams—smartphones that up approach with this new store data from a continutop down approach,” Roth ous glucose monitor, or the said. “So that we’re not only system that tracks their blood focused on the individual sugar in real time. CDN hopes to convey the sincere need “We’re not only focused on the individual with diabetes, that students have access to but now we’re able to work with administrations to make their blood sugsure that they are actually better equipped to support any ar data housed on their phones individuals that come through their institution.” and clarify what a standard should look with diabetes, but now we’re Another early goal of the inilike. Roth believes that with able to work with admintiative is to create consensus increased awareness of these istrators to make sure that around some of the gaps in issues, campus stakeholders they are better equipped to understanding and care and will be motivated to address support any individuals that create policy standards for them. come through their institucaring for students with diation.” betes on campus. CDN REACH The last pillar of the CDN will provide expert clarificaREACH initiative is a multiTo have an impact at scale, sector coalition comprised of Roth says, CDN needs to docu- tion around topics of confusion that are causing conflicts leading diabetes and higher ment why campus adminon campus between students education organizations, with istrators should care about and their families and the the goal of harnessing the exsupporting students with college faculty and staff. pertise of thought leaders in 19
both the diabetes and higher education spaces. The coalition will develop resources for campus professionals, communicate best practice guidelines and standard protocols and collaborate on university-specific initiatives and programs. The Mary Christie Foundation is joining in the effort as a Coalition Partners, alongside American Diabetes Association (ADA), American College Health Association (ACHA), Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA), among others. Roth says that CDN has drawn lessons from campus
mental health activism over the past decade, and with CDN REACH, is hoping to use the framework of awareness and advocacy to push for better outcomes. The improvements in how mental health is addressed on college campuses has laid the groundwork for chronic disease advocacy, in part due to the high prevalence of comorbid conditions like depression, anxiety and eating disorders among students with T1D. As administrators have come to a better understanding of how to address mental health, CDN sees an opening to connect that to chronic ill-
ness, and the subset of individuals who are at high risk. Additionally, Roth believes that the CDN REACH initiative can set a precedent and provide valuable framework for addressing the needs of students with other chronic and invisible diseases. “Chronic disease as a whole is misunderstood within higher education, the work CDN is doing in diabetes creates a template and a framework which can be applied far beyond type one diabetes into conditions such as type two diabetes, colitis, crohn’s, or other such conditions.”
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Interesting People Doing Important Work By Marjorie Malpiede
r. Marcia Morris wears a lot of hats. A psychiatrist at the University of Florida, Morris is an author, a blogger, an administrator, a professor and a parent of two young adults. In addition to teaching at the University of Florida Medical School, she is the Associate Program Director for the Student Health Care Center Psychiatry where she works on improving care delivery and access for students with high acuity mental health problems. Morris’ work with high-risk patients frequently involves their parents, a stakeholder group she believes is a critical yet underutilized resource in college student mental health. “Parents can be lifesaving for students with mental illness,” she said, noting she asks all of her patients to sign a HIPPA release form allowing her to communicate directly with them about their student’s health. “They can intervene ahead of problems and can
Marcia Morris, MD
Photo courtesy of Marcia Morris
support follow-up after treatment.” Morris is the author of The Campus Cure: A Parent’s Guide to Mental Health and Wellness for College Students, She says she wrote the book to educate parents on how to help students prevent mental health issues before they occur as well as get the right treatment when they need it. Morris also writes a blog, which often appears in Psychology Today, called “Col-
lege Wellness: Promoting Happiness and Health in the College Years” with ongoing advice on a range of topics, including knowing what resources are available. “I advise every parent— whether their student has a mental health issue or not— to look into the mental health services of every school their student is applying to,” she said. Morris’ passion for helping students with mental illness 21
and their families stems from her days in medical school when she saw the potential for recovery in a young man with severe psychosis. “I saw great resiliency in this young person,” she said. “I saw how the combination of medication, individual therapy, and family therapy helped him work towards recovery.” Some of Morris’ current patients at University of Florida have been hospitalized or have attempted suicide. This high-risk cohort is often the subject of debate about an institution’s responsibility, as well as capacity, to care for these students either on campus or in the community. Morris believes that either way, it’s on the college, and all of us, to do so. “Three quarters of mental illness will develop by the time someone turns 24 which correlates directly with the college years,” she said. “My belief is schools need to provide treatment for young adults who are having mental health issues on campus, or connect them with affordable resources off campus. It’s something we, as a society, should be supportive of.” Morris points to the evi-
dence-based strategies utilized with high-risk students that involve teams of specialists such as a therapist, psychiatrist, and case worker. The psychiatry clinic at University of Florida has nurses who can prescribe and a case manager who follows up with students. She acknowledges that many schools lack the resources for this kind of specialized care but believes it is worth striving for, given that staying in school is most often the student’s preference. She says that campus providers, albeit in limited supply, are more experienced working with these students; and that disability offices, now present on most campuses, can fill in gaps. “The hope is that students with mental illness can stay in school, with their friends, where they can continue their academics while getting help for their diagnosis,” she said. Morris recently published a report called “Recovering in Place” which explored how colleges respond to students on campus with serious mental health problems—from encouraging or requiring them to take a leave of ab-
sence, to creating treatment programs and reducing course loads to treat students in place. The report highlights on-campus post-hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient groups, specialized treatment and other unique programs that enable high-risk college students to recover on campus. The report suggests that choosing the right path for students with mental illness—whether it is staying in school, transferring to a college closer to home, or taking a leave of absence—will be different in every case and, again, should involve the input of parents in all possible cases. The last chapter of Morris’ book is called “Heartbreak and Hope” which acknowledges the fear involved in seeing your child experience mental illness—and the promise that exists in finding the right treatment that will allow them to thrive. “I’ve seen wonderful stories of recovery,” she said. “In fact, I would say a large majority of my students are able to stay in school and graduate. I feel very hopeful about the work I do.”
Photo courtesy of Andrew Campbell
s Andrew Campbell points out, there is perhaps no item more personal to today’s college students than their smart phone. With them at all times, the device has become like an appendage—to the annoyance of many and the concern of mental health experts. But what if their phone’s perennial presence provided an opportunity to learn about student behaviors that could lead to the improvement of their mental health—or, at least, an indication of their wellbeing.
This was the question that prompted Campbell’s last ten years of study and the genesis of a global curiosity about using artificial intelligence in mental health outcomes. Campbell is the Albert Bradley 1915 Third Century professor in computer science at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on the development of mobile sensing technology in phones and wearables capable of accurately assessing mental health using machine learning and predictive analytics. “These devices give off a lot of information about be-
havior,” he said. “When you look at that from the life of a student—day to day, week to week, quarter to quarter— you can relate these behaviors to what’s being reported about depression and anxiety.” Campbell’s work in this area has created a new field of sensing research that has application across a range of industries. His focus, however, remains the mental health of college students for reasons both personal and professional A native of England, Campbell’s older brother experi23
enced a mental health crisis while at university and had to leave school.
—and the first ever to use passive and automatic sensing data from phones and wearables to assess mental health, academic performance and behavioral trends in college students.
and his team developed at Dartmouth were the precursors to the sensing technology now common in smartphone operating systems.)
As a professor, first at Columbia and then at Dartmouth, Campbell became aware of The students were given a the rising rates of anxiety and pre and post-trial survey that depression included among stuthe DSM-5 dents. In class, depression “We have to get something in the hands of students scale as well he observed patterns in as the lonethat can augment mental health services.” student behavliness and ior, like attenflourishing dance and atscales. tentativeness, based on the school calendar, Its aim was to help shed light With the use of “linear rei.e., mid-terms, finals, or maon important questions about gression analysis” the team determined relationships jor social weekends. student success such as why between what the phone desome students burnout or “I witnessed highly stressed tected and what the students drop out while others excel, students or students that fell reported. and what factors impact asleep in class or students those outcomes. In conductThe data indicated a wealth that just disappeared from ing the study, Campbell enof information about the immy class entirely and I first gaged 48 of his own students thought—‘is it my delivery?’” in a trial that lasted 10 weeks. pact of stress, partying, sleep, relationships and isolation. he said, jokingly. The team gave the students Campbell’s data even showed “But I started to track these an extended Android phone what factors led to changes in behaviors to what was going with an app that could detect anxiety levels over time, like on within the environment a number of factors includthe fact that student stress and I thought—if I can detering their level of activity, the levels significantly increased mine that as a lecturer, there number of face-to-face conmust be some way to get data versations they had and their two weeks prior to them returning to school after break. on these correlations.” sleep patterns. This kind of information, he In 2012, Campbell launched (The algorithms Campbell said, can prompt precise rehis first “Student Life Study”
sponses from administrators. In 2015, Campbell launched the Student Life Study 2.0 which focused more specifically on depression detection and prediction. Version 3.0, launched in 2017, involves 200 incoming students who will participate over four years. The study has already provided some interesting insights such as the drop-off in self-esteem from first to second year. Campbell acknowledges that using sensing data on student’s phones to detect and predict performance and mood can seem a little “creepy” but his hypothesis about how to use this work to improve college student mental health is certainly mind-opening.
phone reveals about students is where the real innovation comes in and where the sensing research field is going. By 2023, Campbell and his team hope for a breakthrough in using phones to not only detect and predict mental health issues in college students but to also address them. “If phones are able to predict reasonably accurate scores on depression and anxiety, then they can also be the source of interventions that can help a good number of students with these issues.”
“I am not in the game to expose students’ privacy but through this technology we can intervene in ways that keeps them healthy and in school,” he said.
Campbell points to the widely reported shortage of counselors on college campuses as a major motivation for moving forward with the technology and sees phone-based solutions like customized cognitive behavioral therapy apps as part of the future.
Campbell believes that providing personalized interventions based on what the
“We have to get something in the hands of students that can augment mental health
services,” he said. “There are simply not enough counselors to serve the need.” Campbell is well aware that technology solutions in college student mental health remain subject to skepticism with concerns that range from clinical quality to replacing staff to utilizing what many believe to be the source of the problem. For these reasons, he believes the adoption of these technologies will need to be highly personalized and developed through extensive trial and error. Regarding the student/phone relationship, Campbell is agnostic but also optimistic. “The smart phone literally changed everything and the genie is not going back into the bottle,” he said. “We need to consider the flip side of this and figure out how to use these devices as tools for good.”
Schools that prepare students for a meaningful life By Marjorie Malpiede
euroscience tells us that late adolescence is a period of intense personal development, making the college years among the most influential times of our lives. For institutions where students live and study, this can be either an undue burden or a remarkable opportunity. Bates College and Olin College of Engineering are two schools that are choosing the latter, and designing student experiences that intentionally promote identity, agency, and purpose. On paper, the colleges don’t appear to have much in common, except perhaps that they both play past their stereotypes. One is a liberal arts school that prioritizes preparing students for life and work; the other is an engineering school with a paradigm for learning borrowed from the arts.
The leaders of Bates and Olin—presidents Clayton Spencer and Richard Miller— see a connection between a student’s ability to find meaning, and his or her mental health and wellbeing. They see meaning as an alignment of self and purpose, and, as an extension, career. They see college as a period of self-discovery where that alignment can begin to form. Both presidents’ approaches appear deeply influenced by their own learning. The experts they cite range from Erik Eisenberg to Howard Gardner to Angela Duckworth. They, and a host of other like-minded leaders, are working together to scale their best ideas and share them with other institutions. At a time when young adult mental health has become a societal concern, their experiences are particularly relevant.
Bates College Bates President Clayton Spencer calls college a time of “deconstruction.” She tells her incoming students, “You’ve gotten through the eye of the needle into an excellent school. Now is the time to figure out who you are and how you want to move through the world.” According to Spencer, this involves “unmasking” norms and identities students come to college with. Higher education, she believes, needs to be imaginative enough to design opportunities for students to take risks in order to find themselves. When it comes to using the self-discovery process to improve mental health and wellness, Bates’ Dean of Students and Vice President of Campus Life, Joshua Mcintosh, is all in.
“One of the things we are seeing is that students are craving reflection, introspection, and connection,” he said.
poused by both Mcintosh and Spencer. “I have found in my time in higher ed that so much of our efforts in student mental health is spent in a reactionary mode,” Mcintosh said. “How are we paying attention to the front end of this where issues can be acknowledged and addressed early on?”
some of the pressure off of CAPS to serve students that could be helped in other ways.
McIntosh admits that having At Bates, there are many broadly defined ownership ways to connect based on a for wellness makes coorhealth and wellbeing strategy dination, communication, that offers multiple entry and collaboration a bit more points along eight dimensions challenging for some. With of wellness. Developed by the an enrollment of about 1,800, Substance Abuse and Mental the vast Health Sermajority of vices Adwhom live ministration on campus, (SAMHSA), “One of the things we are seeing is that students are Bates has an the wellness craving reflection, introspection, and connection.” advantage categories in terms of span areas scale and such as spirculture. itual, physical, and intellectual wellness, His boss agrees. Spencer Bates is experiencing the in addition to behavioral credits McIntosh with doing same increase in demand health. the hard work it takes to for mental health services as Bates tracks these dimensions most colleges and universities bring faculty and staff together around wellness goals, and to multiple campus resources but Mcintosh says the “sevbelieves Bates is the perfect including, but not limited to, eral points of entry” strategy environment to enable this counseling and psychological has kept at bay the onerous type of approach. services (CAPS). wait times most colleges are experiencing. “Liberal arts is all about conThe strategy intentionally necting,” she said. “Connectavoids limiting student health He worries, however, that ing the dots across different and wellness to any one this will come if more attenfields of knowledge, across department, and reflects the tion is not paid to the front differences among people, “upstream” approach esend which, for now, keeps
parents after the great recession of 200809 and in part because Spencer identified a philosophical bridge between the school’s holistic approach to student development Bates President Clayton Spencer. and one’s life work. across the dimensions of your She took the own experience and across SAMSHA dimension of occuyour lifetime. It is a mindset.” pational wellbeing to a whole new level when she created One thing the liberal arts “Purposeful Work.” has not been about is formal career development, which “I see career as a deep has traditionally been seen and powerful category for as sullying the purity of the building meaning, and I see pedagogy. Bates began to meaning as fundamental to differentiate itself in this happiness,” she said. regard beginning eight years Purposeful work is a purago, when it made thinking pose-focused student exseriously about work a key perience that combines pillar of its culture. curricular infusion models, This was in part to meet the practitioner-taught courses, expectations of students and internships, and job shad-
owing to allow students to identify the kind of work that brings them meaning. It begins on day one and continues until graduation and beyond, as it involves alumni returning to campus to teach and/or share their experiences. Spencer says purposeful work is about alignment— aligning your work with your interests, strengths, and values to identify what brings you meaning. The process is both philosophical and practical. She says that knowing yourself in your work gives you the agency you need to maneuver through increasingly fluid career scenarios where you may need to pivot to new jobs not yet imagined. “Given the velocity of change in work and the global competition for talent, careers will not be externally defined,” she said. “What you need is intel inside.” Spencer believes that Purposeful Work builds that capacity though experiences that give students the
self-awareness and the habits of mind to be agents of their own future. Students are encouraged to discover and develop their sense of self through trial and error involving strategies that break from, or at least push the limits of, traditional higher ed structures.
disciplines teach credit-bearing courses during Bates’ onemonth intensive “short term” in the spring. And Bates spends more than $350,000 per year funding summer internships so these are not limited to students with large family networks or the ability to subsidize them.
Through the Purposeful Work infusion project, faculty weave meaning, purpose, work, and careers into their classroom discussion and writing assignments. Practitioners in a wide variety of
Spencer, who is a lawyer and former policymaker, is quick to point to the evidence for such a program. She quotes philosophers who have long made the connection between purpose in work and life, and cites data such as Gallop’s wellbeing index that identifies work wellbeing as among “the currency of a life that matters.”
Photos by Phyllis Graber Jensen
Bates Dean of Students and Vice President of Campus Life, Joshua Mcintosh.
In 2018, Bates partnered with Gallop to conduct a
nationally representative poll, whose results affirmed the core principles of Purposeful Work and provided direction for other schools interested in following this path. The report, “Forging Pathways to Purposeful Work: The Role of Higher Education,” surveyed alumni from colleges and universities across the country and found that “graduates who align their work with interests, values, and strengths are roughly three times more likely to experience high purpose in work.” The study also found that graduates with high purpose in work are almost 10 times more likely to have high overall wellbeing. The report goes on to define the experiences in college that have the strongest relationship to graduates’ achieving these high levels of purpose: an internship that allowed them to apply what they learned in the classroom; someone who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams; and partic-
ipating in a class or program that helped them think about looking for meaning in their work. In addition to the data on Purposeful Work, Bates has real-life examples, such as alumna-Rebeccah Bassell. The 2016 Bates graduate was a Rhetoric and Composition major with a double minor in Philosophy and US History. After interning within the video games industry, she went on to become an Associate Producer at Nickelodeon for their mobile games and apps. “When I look back at my story, I can see clearly the path that I took to where I am now,” Bassell said. “I can look and say ‘because I did that, I was able to do that, and then that got me to here.’” Bassell says this was not always the case.
When she first came to Bates, she “panicked” because her longstanding passion for technology, which included an interest to work someday in video gaming, did not match up with the classes she was taking. “I wasn’t even a computer science major,” she said. The school was just starting Purposeful Work, and Rebeccah said it was perfect timing. She took a digital innovation class taught by a Bates alumni. When it was time to apply for a Purposeful Work internship, she had enough working knowledge of the industry to gain a spot at an educational game design firm in New York City. She returned to New York after graduation and has been at Nickelodeon for three and a half years. Bassell says it wasn’t necessarily the skill-building aspect
of Purposeful Work that got her where she is today, but the confidence she built from the self-reflection process. “Purposeful Work forces you to think about why you’re working on a skill set, which is a departure from the rhetoric most young people hear in their job search,” she said. “Instead of us always hearing ‘Do it this way—Get that job,’ we were asked, ‘What are your strengths? What do you struggle with?” Bassell says the process made her an empowered, knowledge-ready candidate, which she believes is what today’s employers are looking for in young people. “I found that my bosses weren’t really that concerned about having all the right skills,” she said. “It was more about ‘so how would you solve this problem?’” Bassell is ready to make her next career move, this time out west. The new job in Denver fulfills a number of her goals, including her interest to work more collaboratively
and her desire to be closer to nature, which she says is good for her mental health. “If I’m going to be doing something every day of my life, I want that activity to align with my own personal values—from the work that I’m doing to the environment that I’m in. If it is not, then I know there is another place that will.” Olin College of Engineering At Olin College of Engineering, building things that change the world is the aim of learning—not the result of it. Throughout its first 17 years, Olin president Richard (Rick) Miller molded the small school into an international model for engineering transforma-
tion long sought-after by both science and industry. The percentage of Olin alumni-founded start-ups surpasses its peers on both coasts, fueled by an approach to learning that has a strong emphasis on the arts, humanities, and social sciences, in addition to entrepreneurship and design. “Olin is different in so many dimensions,” said Miller, who will retire as president this spring.
Founded in 2002 by the Olin Foundation, the college was built from scratch in Needham, Massachusetts, a suburb outside of Boston. It was designed to be a clean slate for engineering innovation that was not realized by previous attempts to modernize the field. With an acknowledgement that traditional engineering’s rote learning methods aimed only at rightbrain students was limiting on many levels, Miller set out to forge a fresh start. Miller, an engineer, had been the Dean of the Engineering at the University of Iowa.
Photo by John Gillooly
Olin President Richard Miller.
He had his own hypothesis that what really matters in engineering is the breakthrough learning that comes from the trial and error
of building things—not the course work in math and science that is required years before that occurs.
literature and see what the inventor says about it. And, by the way, we’ve never built one so don’t ask us.’”
Before they opened the school, Miller and his team did what engineers do and conducted an experiment. They brought in 15 boys and 15 girls—recent high school graduates—who lived for a year in temporary dorms in the parking lot while the campus was being built.
The team anticipated the students would ultimately fail but believed it would be a good lesson in design thinking—what happens when you get it right, and what happens when you get it wrong— which now permeates the school’s teaching philosophy.
The students weren’t taking courses, they were learning how to learn. And so were Miller and his leadership team. They gave the students a challenge: to design, build, and demonstrate a pulse oximeter in the course of six weeks. As Miller recalls, “The students said, ‘Ok, what’s that?,’ So we explained to them that it is a medical instrument used to take pulse and oxygen content from a person without using a needle. They said, ‘Cool, how do we learn about that?’ We said, ‘Why don’t you take a look at the patent 32
Miller says what ended up happening surprised them all. “They actually built the thing,” he said. “We brought in the hospital model and put them side by side and they were identical. At that point, we said to ourselves, ‘Apparently you don’t need two years of calculus and physics to make stuff.’” What was most remarkable for Miller was the impact the experience had on the students themselves who, he said, “felt two feet taller.” “Suddenly, these teenagers were like, ‘Wow, if we can
get kids like us together, get some old people to help us once in a while, we can build anything. We can change the world.” The school has since worked off of the assumption that students are far more capable than educators think they are of learning on their own— and from each other. This realization became the foundation for Olin’s project-based “do-learn” model, where students work in teams to solve real-world problems. These tend to start with questions like, How is what I’m doing going to change someone’s life? To give students context for their learning, Olin humanizes the narrative of engineering and makes inventions more about people than patents. Professors of entirely different disciplines and degrees work in teams to bring multi-dimensional perspectives to the instruction. Students are encouraged to work across disciplines and to try out different curricula.
By the time Olin students graduate they have full repertoires of work, and some have even started businesses. Since 2010, nearly 900 schools from around the world have visited Olin to understand how to replicate the model.
host of problems in higher education, including the escalating rates of mental health issues in college students. While design learning provides students with the responsibility to create and design an outcome, intrinsic motivation—like in Spencer’s model—aligns their efforts with purpose.
this on social media and, as a technology person, feels the guilt of that.) Beyond the benefits of connection, taking responsibility for the condition of other people is incredibly empowering.
“I think our model could The interest validates what change everything,” he said. the F. W. Olin Foundation “Instead of feeling overset out to do in launching “Wellbeing has a lot to do whelmed and alone in the the experimental school, but with passion and perseverworld, being obsessed with Miller believes Olin’s secret ance, and fundamentally, how many likes you have, or sauce should be shared by you’re much more passionate whether you’re going to get a more than high-paying just STEM job, you can institutions. Its impact on The study also found that graduates with high say to yourself, ‘There students, he purpose in work are almost 10 times more likely are 20 groups says, can be of people to have high overall wellbeing. transformawhose lives I tional. have already According to changed Miller, Olin College’s grand and willing to persevere on through the work that I have experiment in engineering is things that you care about done here.’ That is amazing.” really not about engineering than you don’t,” Miller said. But to scale this approach at all—but rather about using Empathy also plays a big role. in the way Miller hopes, design thinking and intrinHuman connection, Miller institutions will have to be sic motivation to engender willing to disrupt the “sacred identity, agency, and purpose says, is critical to wellbeing, the absence of which he cows” of higher education, an in its students. believes is at the crux of the exercise he clearly believes Miller believes its approach young adult mental health is critical to the academy’s could be the antidote for a crisis. (He blames a lot of future. 33
On that score, the outgoing president has a blueprint for change that involves four principles of learning. “The first,” he said “is only learn things that matter, that matter to you, to someone you care about, or to society as a whole. Second, only learn things in context, so that it means something to you in the real world. The third is only learn in teams. And the fourth is, envision how to make a better world.” Miller admits that’s a lot of cows, from faculty tenure criteria to the structure of academic departments to the prerequisite of declaring majors. But Miller is hopeful that seeing the type of graduates Olin “builds” will convince other schools to change, or at least examine the value of their current approaches.
Charleen (Char) Laughlin is a great example. Currently a cyber policy analyst for the Department of Defense, the 2007 Olin graduate had previously worked as a systems engineer for the Missile Defense Agency, charged with protecting America and its allies against weapons of mass destruction, and United States Air Force. What she learned from her engineering education, particularly studying systems engineering, has prepared her to address, arguably, some of the biggest problems in the world. “Systems engineering is a discipline that allows you to take very complex problems and break them down into smaller components,” she said. “It includes a rigorous process where you define, design and then test requirements for whatever system
you’re trying to build whether it’s an iPhone or a complex weapons system.” Laughlin tracks the framework for this method back to what she learned at Olin in a class called “User Oriented Collaborative Design” where students spend time with users, understanding “pain points” and responding to specific challenges. Laughlin says it’s a method that transfers to any discipline. She describes herself as “an engineer turned policy analyst” and says Olin alumni pursue a variety of different professions, including, but not limited to, engineering. “When I was at Olin, many of my classmates wanted to be lawyers or doctors or various types of entrepreneurs,” she said. “I think what we all sought to do at the end of the day was to solve problems.” On to Something Miller’s vision to apply the experiences of Olin College to the transformation of higher
education brings him full circle, as the banner he put above Olin’s library reminds us: “Engineers envision what has never been done and do whatever it takes to make it happen.” Fueled by this spirit, Miller and Spencer are now working alongside other higher ed leaders to understand how institutions of different profiles can learn from and adopt some of these principles. Helping them develop the framework for this concept is Brandon Busteed, now president of Kaplan University Partners and the man behind The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report—the widely-recognized study of work/ life outcomes that showed it wasn’t where you went to college that impacted your career and wellbeing, but rather how you did. Created by researchers Busteed says are famous for measuring the hard-to-measure, the index was a way to understand graduates’ work and life satisfaction based on
the experiences they had in college. These included many of the components that now exist at schools like Bates and Olin. The index found that having a meaningful mentoring relationship and an internship where you applied what you were learning in the classroom doubled your odds of being engaged in your work and thriving later on. Busteed believes the groundbreaking work that Spencer, Miller, and others are doing on the student experience comes at a time when higher education is dealing with the confluence of two major threats: students who seem either in despair or unprepared; and public opinion questioning the value of a college degree. “What distinguishes the college experience from other options for young adults is that it can be absolutely magical when it works,” he said. “So we need to understand what makes it magical and work on those elements.”
Busteed says higher education overall is slow to respond to what we’re learning. “We know that mentoring relationships in college correlate to occupational wellbeing, but only two out of ten graduates report having had a mentor,” he said. “We know that internship experiences are valuable, but when does that happen, and for how many?” When asked if he believes colleges and universities can become life-transforming institutions, Busteed said they can, and must – if they want to back up what they claim. “On every college web site, in every president’s address, we get messages about developing meaning, purpose and life-long learning in students,” he said. “Schools need to be demonstrating how they’re doing this and that’s going to involve some big changes.”
Well-Served Campus dining services quite literally fuel student wellness, and the challenge of meeting dietary needs and requests calls for all kinds of innovation By Annie B. Copps
istorically, a meal in a college dining hall—like most institutional food service operations—meant a bland, calorie-laden journey of getting the mealtime job done. A dining hall was a place to gather and refuel, but little more. Menu items with nicknames like “mystery meat” were common, because when food is overcooked, over-sauced, and flavorless, it’s anyone’s guess what’s actually on the plate. But these days, college cuisine has taken a 180-degree turn for the better on most campuses, with more options, better taste, better presentation, and better nutrition. But there are still hurdles for the students making meal choices, and those who are charged with nourishing them. For many young adults beginning college, the experience
of making decisions about how they manage their day is a transition as they separate from familial routines and establish their independence. “Dining halls are a place where a lot of community happens. There is a level of humanity that has to happen here when you’re dealing with young people who are trying to find their way,” says Crista Martin, Director for Strategic Initiatives and Communications for Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS). Testing the waters, students are now able to do what they want, when they want, and with whom they please—and that includes what and how much they eat. For better or worse, parents and other concerned influencers are not available to provide guidance and set limits on their cravings and choices.
As concern for nutrition and sustainability continue to grow on campus, college food service operations must keep their whole student body in mind when it comes to meal planning. There is a wide range of dietary restrictions and choices informed by social, ethical, and religious mores, and a more diverse student body means feeding a population accustomed to diverse cuisines and foodways. Attention to allergens, ingredient intolerances, the special needs of athletes, and awareness of those with eating disorders are all part of the algebra of designing meals— and the equation must balance financially. In December 2019, U.S. News and World Report offered a list of “10 Colleges with Healthy Dining Options.” There were recurring themes among the standouts, including Cornell, Emory, Georgia
Institute of Technology, and Stanford: healthy options communicated well to students, more plant-based options, and programs in sustainability (which included on-campus farms and active waste reduction awareness). “Institutional food choices affect each student’s health — how they feel today, tomorrow, and in the future,” said Denise Ward, a spokesperson at Georgia Institute of Technology. “At Georgia Tech Dining Services, we understand that incorporating a variety of healthy options like plant-forward meals and whole fruits and vegetables, while taking into account food allergies and sensitivities, are key to a student’s overall health and well-being.” Across the US, college dining operations are raising the bar to improve student dietary life with innovative recipes, top-notch ingredients, and a deeper awareness of needs. Dining service directors and their staffs know what works, in part because they follow trends and solicit student input and communicate with colleagues at other schools. “We’re all sharing our best practices,” says Martin of HUDS. “We’re all fighting the same fight, which is that we care about the planet and we care about the student’s
health. And hospitality is all about yes.” Most successful dining services programs don’t rely on trends and statistics—they engage those they are serving, and encourage feedback via bulletin board, suggestion box, email, and student dining committees to encourage open exchange. HUDS recently implemented a texting service, so students can offer feedback instantly. “It lets us know right away and it gives the students a voice,” says Martin. Campuses with several dining locations do their best to cover as much culinary ground as possible, but sometimes choices can be overwhelming and temptations strong. “We asked students how important it is to them to eat healthy and an overwhelming percentage of them say it’s super important to them,” says Martin. “Yet, the most popular things we serve are things which no one would suggest to you are good for them, but they’re comforting.” David Davidson, Dining Director of HUDS adds, “We
put out very healthy options, but they don’t always make that choice. We tried labeling foods green, yellow, and red to indicate how healthy they were. We implemented the idea from a local hospital which had had success with the program. It didn’t go over well here. You know a whoopie pie isn’t the healthiest option. The red labels made a lot of students uncomfortable--it caused a big outcry related to eating disorders in particular.” There is also “preference” versus “need” to consider when feeding varied populations. Any group will have preferences about seasoning or prefer one ingredient over another, but some choose not to eat certain foods for social, cultural, or religious reasons. From online menus with nutrition-tracking capabilities to foods compatible with halal, gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian diets, colleges are taking steps to ensure students’ health and meet their dietary needs. Most campus dining outlets offer weekly menus online, so students can look at their options well before mealtime. 37
At Duke, that information includes nutritional and ingredient content. “We utilize the Cbord system for online nutrition and allergen content and display an allergen grid at each location,” explains Kirsten Marinko, Marketing Manager for Duke [University] Dining. “We also use PIDs [product identification tags] to label menu items and to display items that contain allergens and/or dietary preferences.”
Emory University and Reed College. Terri Brownlee, the Director of Food and Nutrition, found that with serious allergies, they couldn’t reliably label ingredients on a daily basis.
Within dining halls, the labeling of foods on the buffet line would seem pretty straight forward, but different campuses use different approaches. Like the failed “red, yellow, green,” system at HUDS, labeling can be tricky.
“We give big picture, descriptive ‘menu-ing,’” says Brownlee. “Such as ‘bread crumb crusted chicken breast with mozzarella in a creamy marinara sauce.’ The person that needs to consider wheat knows there is bread, the creamy indicates there is dairy. Brownie versus ‘walnut brownie’ gives them the indication that there are nuts. If they want to know at a sub-ingredient level what is in the food, we can pull a label and let them know right away.”
Bon Appétit Management Company, a California-based, on-site restaurant group working with corporations and other institutions, handles food services for more than 100 universities, from Johns Hopkins and M.I.T. to
HUDS has been using menu cards in their dining hall which offers the name of the dish “and as much as can fit on the card,” says Martin. “You’ve got to go to the website to see the rest of it.” As of early 2020, they’ll en-
sure labeling of the top eight allergens on the buffet tags, something they hadn’t done before. Depending on the population and campus size, some dining services can offer nut-free dining halls or vegetable-focused destinations. Most dining services label food as kosher or halal, and if there’s enough demand, dedicated locations for appliances. “We have a kosher kitchen at Hillel House which serves dinner six nights a week and lunch on Saturday. In each dining hall we have a kosher corner with a kosher microwave, toaster, and refrigerator.” It’s hard to miss the uptick in numbers of people being diagnosed with serious food allergies or ingredient intolerance issues. This population must be offered nutritionally sound, good-tasting meals without being stigmatized. “All the students get welcomed with various orienta-
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash
tions. They get lots of information, emails fly around, specifically for kids who have a food allergies,” says Martin. “For the most part students manage their own food choices, and they rely on the school to provide them with information necessary to make their decisions. We ask you to register any food allergy, particularly if you’re expecting any accommodation.”
“Sometimes we know and can keep an eye out,” says Martin. More often, eating disorders are hidden, and meals can be a stressful time. An “all you can eat” dining hall is fraught for a young person who is over- or under-eating, or needs to eat meals more than three times a day. If students opt to identify themselves, an accommodation can be made.
“We’re in the same population as the students and our staff knows when we haven’t seen someone for dinner three nights in a row,” says Davidson. “They’re like the eyes and ears. Especially when you’re talking about stress and eating disorders. If our team sees anything is peculiar, they’ll pass that information to the house staff, who takes it from there.”
Brownlee Campuses follows the using Bon Apsame course, “We really focus on fresh, whole ingredients, and “even if a petit encourage students student came looking at the local food system.” with diffito us, saying cult-to-man‘I need help,’ age disorders we would to file with connect them the college as having a dis“A student might need more, with a campus resource, I ability services issue. smaller meals throughout the would not engage them. It’s day be it an eating disorder not fair to them,” she says. “We encourage students to or a physical disability and do that. It makes things very At the University of Texas the dining hall is closed,” clear,” says Brownlee. “We Austin (UT), Dining Director notes Brownlee. “We can are very open and honest work with the student direct- Rene Rodriguez and his team about what we can do and feed the 7,400 students living ly if we know.” what we feel less comfortable in campus housing, as well about. There are cases where Some students develop eating as a portion of 51,000 total a student might be asking for disorders while in college student body and faculty an exception to a meal plan and others relapse because of who purchase separate meal and we work with the univer- the stress of new surroundplans. sity to help them make that ings, exams, and an inability “We’re one entity—housing decision.” to manage their conditions. and dining. When they sign Meeting the needs of students The beginning of new semes- up to live with us it comes with eating disorders can ters and exam periods are of- with a meal plan.” prove more difficult. Most ten triggers, and for athletes, In his effort to feed so many eating disorders stem from big games and playoffs can a balanced menu, he does his emotional or psychological be a difficult time. Because best to use parameters. origins, so it’s rarely a matter of privacy issues, the dining of offering a different menu services team can only do so “They’re paying us for their item. much. meal plan so we have to stay 39
within a budget. We have to make sure we maintain the quality of the food, the nutrition of the food, and can we do it sustainably.”
and Quality Control for Duke Dining. To meet that end, Duke Dining partners with the Duke Campus Farm, a working farm.
To meet quality standards, he has 16 trained chefs on staff and two registered dieticians to keep track of nutrition components in every meal. Like most universities, there is an Office of Sustainability and a sustainability coordinator who participates in dining services decisions that go beyond procuring ingredients.
“It is dedicated to catalyzing positive change in the ways we grow, eat, and think about food, by using sustainable methods to grow fruits and vegetables.”
Under the umbrella of sustainability falls recycling, food waste (in preparation and disposal), and energy use, and many schools have developed innovative ways to improve sustainability. “We no longer just cook and serve food,” says Rodriguez. “We’re educators, too.” UT operates two gardens and utilizes that produce in the kitchens, as well as running bi-weekly farm stands staffed with campus chefs and dieticians to provide professional information and guidance. At Duke, being sustainable means operating deliberately rather than doing what’s easy or convenient. “We think it is an essential part of our mission to honor our role as stewards of our community’s well-being,” says Marcus Carson, Assistant Director for Sustainability 40
Sustainable doesn’t just mean how it’s grown—it also means where. Keeping food sources as local as possible is a high priority. “We really focus on fresh, whole ingredients, and looking at the local food system,” says Brownlee of Bon Appétit. “We give our chefs a high level of ability to purchase locally and regionally and we commit 20 percent of our spending on local purchasing programs.” It’s natural for sustainable operations to focus on sourcing and waste management. But sometime a solution can be as simple as the size of the blank slate that handles your many options. Most campuses have done away with trays and have switched to smaller plates. “Smaller plates are part of our well-being commitment to help people manage portions. If they have a smaller plate they’re going to put less on it,” says Brownlee. Portion control means not just the health of the student—it means less waste. Bon Appé-
tit sites great success in waste reduction by placing tasting spoons at all their food stations. “They get to taste lots of different foods and If they don’t like it, they don’t put it on their plates.” Food services try to anticipate all the needs, and respond to those they haven’t foreseen, and meet as many preferences as possible. But at the end of the day—or three meals, each and every one of them— there’s only so much you can do. “We have more than 6,500 kids from more than 100 countries, from every state in the United States, from every diversity of economic experience and food experience, it’s a wild balance of whom you’re comforting,” says Crista Martin of HUDS. “On any given day somebody doesn’t feel comforted, and somebody does, or somebody doesn’t feel fed to their personal standard, but somebody else does.” In a community that’s extremely diverse, that’s even more amplified. “Of course we want all the students nourished and happy,” says David Davidson of HUDS. “But we aren’t the food police and we can’t be all things for everyone. We can try.” Annie B. Copps is a Bostonbased chef, cookbook author and food journalist.
Op-Ed: Confronting Campus Substance Use Leadership needs to look beyond the tragic headlines in order to avoid them in the future By Michael Poliakoff and John P. Howe III, MD American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) recently joined forces to create a roadmap for change. Their guide on Addressing College Drinking and Drug Use spotlights successful approaches and the pivotal research that leaders should align with while developing stronger policies to address student substance use.
ore than 1,500 college students die from alcohol-related incidents each year. Some of these tragedies make headlines when they are associated with hazing deaths, but they only represent the most visible part of a national crisis. Urgent action is needed from higher education leaders nationwide to combat the campus drinking and drug culture that interferes with studentsâ€™ success and hijacks their educational outcomes.
Families and taxpayers expect accountability from our colleges and universities, yet far too many institutions are geared for after-the-fact responses to campus tragedies that are a regular consequence of student substance use. Every member of a college governing board should be proactively engaged in matters of campus safety and student well-being. To capture their attention and spark action, the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the
The guide acknowledges that alcohol and drug education alone does not significantly deter students from dangerous substance use. Institutions need to broaden their message to make students aware that using alcohol and drugs can significantly lower their GPAs, impair their ability to focus on their studies, and drain enjoyment from their educational experience. Research shows that nearly one-third of full-time undergraduate college students in the U.S. drink excessively. Marijuana use is on the rise among college students,
perhaps due to a documented reduction in the perception of its risk, even as its THC levels have dramatically increased. Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants almost doubled between 2008 and 2013. Nearly 70% of students who misused stimulants were also excessive drinkers, and about 70% had used marijuana during the past month. Evidence shows that the addictive effects of alcohol and drugs alter the reward system of the brain. For college students who are particularly heavy users, this means becoming less interested in completing assignments, going to class, or engaging with professors. In one study of more than 40,000 students, those who drank heavily four or more times during a two-week period were 10 to 16 percentage points less likely to have an “A” average than those who did not drink. Historically viewed as a benign by-product of college life, drinking and drug use is now accurately understood to be a major barrier to academic success, a strong factor in sexual assault, and in some cases is a predictor of longterm addiction.
While trustees cannot directly control student drug and alcohol use, they can encourage and enforce policies geared toward getting high-risk students the help they need to change their behavior. One of the guide’s strongest recommendations is to become proactive in identifying high-risk students and steer them to appropriate interventions and treatment. Research shows that it is rare for students to seek help on their own, which is why colleges need to make the connection. Making screenings a routine part of campus health center visits, educating academic advisors and faculty about the correlation between substance use and academic performance, and encouraging their appropriate intervention are proven strategies for reducing the consequences of drinking and drug use. Prevention through changing campus culture is harder than addressing individual incidents, but it is essential. Fortunately, there are evidence-based practices with records of success that both strengthen the academic mission of the college and combat the “party culture.”
Institutions must avoid sending the message that educational standards come second to recreation. Those institutions that emphasize academic purpose, provide alternatives to pro-substance activities, and “re-norm” the perception that everyone is partying can begin to change what is valued and accepted on campus. At this moment, the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems, a network of campuses in Maryland, has coordinated with local and state government to address excessive student drinking with evidence-based strategies, including reducing the availability of extreme strength alcohol. Reducing substance use among college students is challenging but it has been done, and it is up to campus leadership, and the concerned adults in these young people’s lives, to make doing so an institutional priority. Michael Poliakoff, PhD is President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. John P. Howe III, MD is Chairman and President of the Mary Christie Foundation and a Trustee at Boston University.
The Barnes Center at The Arch A new model for health, wellness and recreation at Syracuse By Marjorie Malpiede
ust walking through the brand-new Barnes Center could make you feel better. The massive, multi-functional health, wellness and recreation facility at Syracuse University is all light, energy and strength—an epicenter of intermingling activities supporting university members of all needs and abilities in a myriad of ways. Young people carrying rolled mats pass the ADA-compliant aquatic center on their way to the yoga studio which is next to the mindfulness spa. The counseling center is close to the pharmacy and the health promotion office which just erected a “mental health awareness” exhibit in the lobby where kiosks will soon provide self-assessments for anyone who wants them. It is hard to identify what members are doing here or what draws them in, other
than to believe they are taking some action towards bettering their health and wellness. Turns out, this is by design. “It used to be that if you needed counseling services, you had to walk down fraternity row to a yellow building at the edge of campus and everyone knew why you were going,” said Syracuse senior Mackenzie Anne Mertikas, who is the President of the schools’ Student Association. “It’s hard enough to get the courage to go to counseling, let alone having to deal with that.” The Barnes Center at The Arch is the school’s effort to change all that. It opened in September of 2019 and had over a hundred thousand visitors in its first month, indicating early success for its strategy to offer anonymity as well as convenience .
The Center now acts as the hub for recreation, health care, counseling and health promotion all in one enormous facility. It is a 228,000 square foot demonstration of the school’s commitment to student wellbeing. If its health and wellness-related, the Barnes Center has it. It even has a state-of-theart E-gaming center that gets gamers out of their rooms and interacting with each other. Syracuse’s Senior Vice President for Enrollment and the Student Experience, Dolan Evanovich, says the Barnes Center was entirely studentdriven. “Our student leaders had been beating the drum on improving mental health services and, to their credit, they created a report about two years ago with information on how the university could
serve them better,” he said. “That was the impetus for the Barnes Center.” Evanovich sees the Center as part of Chancellor Kent Syverud’s larger effort to improve the student experience for all students, something he hopes becomes a Syracuse superlative. “We’re attracting students that maybe a traditional recreation center or a traditional health center might not attract,” he said, noting that the e-gaming club now has 600 members compared to about 290 last year.
“When you combine all of these resources together, you have an opportunity to think holistically across the student body and bring more people into the tent.” The fact that the Barnes Center has something for everyone takes on a slightly different meaning for Cory Wallack, PhD, the Center’s Executive Director. He sees the facility as a primary entry point for a variety of mental health service options matched to the acuity of the student coming through the door. “For me, a lot of our work is about understanding how we can support mental health and wellness
that’s not entirely therapistdependent and then how we get the right people to the right therapist,” he said. Wallack is utilizing what he calls a hybrid model of “stepped care” with the addition of “drop-in” counseling. Stepped care is described as “a system of delivering and monitoring mental health treatment so that the most effective, yet least resource intensive treatment, is delivered first, only “stepping up” to intensive/specialist services as required and depending on the level of patient distress or need.” Wallack believes that using stepped care can help address what he sees as a problem across the board in student mental health – the idea that students of varying need are offered the same therapeutic model. Wallack, like his colleagues in counseling centers
Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Syracuse University
Pet therapy at The Barnes Center. 44
Mackenzie Anne Mertikas, President of Syracuse’s Student Association, helped organize the school’s mental health week.
across the country, questions how much specialty work can be done in-house for students with very high needs. At the other end of the spectrum, Wallack says he is uncomfortable with how many students are directed into therapy when they might need something less intensive. “The data show that one third of the students that come into counseling only end up using one session, which is typically taken up by a traditional mental health intake. After 40 minutes of family history, the student may say, ‘I just really wanted to talk to someone about my breakup over the weekend,’” he said. To meet the needs of these students, the Barnes Center offers drop-in appointments, which he describes as part therapy-in-the-moment and part triage. In helping students sort out problems, therapists recommend resources like the mindfulness spa located down the hall at the Barnes Center. “The drop-in model is a point of entry. Once students come into the building, we can offer them a number of options right here,” he said. Those options range from meditation to recreation to education. The kiosk-based self-assessments in the lobby will direct
students to resources based on how they respond. Despite its ambition and promise, the evidence on the success of the Barnes Center will eventually come in the form of student outcomes. Mertikas calls the Center “awesome”—if only one part of addressing student mental health at Syracuse. She has made mental health the Student Association’s priority issue for the school year with a particular focus on reducing stigma. She and her peers spent the early fall preparing for mental health awareness week, held in October, where students, particularly firstyears, participated in a range of activities on campus with strong messages about seeking help and avoiding isolation. “Before I came to Syracuse, I didn’t even think about my mental health,” she said. “And then you arrive on campus and you’re thrown into a million things and you’re worried about academics and what’s going on at home and how you’re going to deal with all that being away for the first time.” Mertikas said she realized then that there must be many students who felt the same way. After finding help for herself, she made it her mission to make sure more students knew they were not alone.
“I thought there were probably so many people who didn’t even know that what they were going through could be helped by a lot of different resources on campus,” she said. In that regard, Mertikas is excited about the Barnes Center and believes the de-stressing strategies like massage chairs, yoga and pet therapy can help, as can the drop-in counseling sessions. It is clear, though, she is worried that students are still not receiving the kind of counseling they are seeking from counselors who, she says, “understand where they’re coming from.” “I think if you are having an ongoing issue and it’s something you’ve been struggling with for a while, we still don’t have as many solutions here as we need,” she said. Like university leaders, she, too, believes finding a community on campus is fundamental to students’ mental health, as well as their overall relationship with the school. “If you feel like you’re alone, then the chances of you staying here are a lot lower,” she said. “I think everyone needs to find their family—their group on campus—and the support systems and the resources that will make them happy while they’re here.”
Q&A: Kent Syverud Chancellor of Syracuse University
Interviewed By Marjorie Malpiede
Kent Syverud’s earnest participation at the Presidents’ Convening on College Student Behavioral Health in September of 2019 prompted a follow-up interview at the school’s central New York campus. It was clear from his remarks at the Convening that the subject was of personal importance to him. On a panel discussion, Syverud told the 30 or so presidents that were in the room that spending an entire day focused on student health and wellness was like “water in the desert.” Syracuse had just opened “The Barnes Center at The Arch,” which offers an integrated set of wellness, health, counseling and recreation services in a state-of-the-art facility at the center of campus. Syverud, who was asked to speak about the center, seemed less interested in touting the school’s latest achievement than in explaining that it was part of a larger strategy to create
community on a campus that, he says, values its increasing diversity.
the takeaways that you brought back to your work here?
The interview took place just weeks before Syracuse was the center of a widely-covered controversy over its reaction to a series of hate incidents on campus, including racist graffiti and verbal attacks on minority students. Protesters questioned the school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and called for a series of demands including Syverud’s resignation. Syverud met almost all of them but stopped short of resigning, saying he understands why students are angry and afraid and will work hard to help heal wounds.
KS: The first realization I had was that every president I talked with had been experiencing an extraordinary increase in demand for mental health services. The same is true at Syracuse so it gave me a sense that we are all trying to keep up with what is not necessarily obvious to us about what’s happening with this generation of students.
The following is a transcript from our interview. Mary Christie Foundation: You recently attended the Presidents’ Convening on College Student Behavioral Health and Wellbeing at Georgetown University. What were some of
The other thing I took away was this need to flip our attitudes about student health services from something you do for people who are sick to something that ensures people are well. We should talk about wellness and happiness as an effort we need to work on and teach instead of making people feel like they’re a failure if they are not happy and cheerful, like their social media profiles might suggest.
MCF: What has Syracuse been doing to address student mental health? KS: Our students have been telling us for five years that mental health and wellbeing is their number one concern. We have made it a huge part of improving our student experience, the most obvious example being The Barnes Center (see The Barnes Center at The Arch, p. 43)—a wonderful, centrally-located facility that is experiencing huge usage in just the first few months it has been open. The big challenge now is how do we meet that demand in a model that’s realistic, given both what students expect and what capacity exists. Our counseling services have expanded dramatically but we’re not able to provide one therapist per student for an hour a week and I don’t know of any institution that is able to. It’s still a work in progress and we’re struggling to match services and referrals to the increased demand.
saying, “Think about yoga once a year.” Now we have a whole host of offerings: mindfulness, relaxation, nutrition and sleep awareness, as well as yoga whenever you want it. MCF: Do you think the students are different today? KS: In a way, yes, but I think these issues they are experiencing—anxiety, loneliness —have always been there. It is the rate of seeking help around them that is escalating. We have a generation of students that is educated about their mental health and they have high expectations for us. I don’t see them as dramatically different or more needy. The needs were always there. They just weren’t being met. I am actually very hopeful about this generation. I see an extraordinary interest in them to live a meaningful life. For some, that’s expressed through religion and spirituality; for others, its social justice-focused, working in the community.
Being engaged in meaningful work helps produce that and makes students grateful for the humanity in all kinds of people. MCF: How does mental health tie into the overall student experience here? KS: Syracuse is a sprawling, amazing institution with all these niches that are the best of its kind in the country— our sports, our professional schools. School spirit is fairly extraordinary here. But it’s not enough to talk about our niche programs as being truly outstanding. The experience across the board has to be outstanding. When I got here, I spent a lot of time talking to students. I lived in the dorms, experiencing what it is like to be a first-year student taking five classes and trying to find your place. And I realized that the student experience wasn’t uniformly successful. It had to be better for all students.
The renovation of the Schine It’s a shared responsibility Student Center is a good for all of us. I think it’s easier example of here with one how we’re immajor center proving that. you can refer We have a generation of students that is educated It is located students to, but there are about their mental health and they have high on the main pedestrian many layers expectations for us. thoroughfare to this soluon campus tion. That’s but over the why wellness years, it became vulcanized initiatives are so important. Health and wellness is a into a lot of individual offices Wellness services used to be mind, body and soul balance. and it was closed at night. a poster next to a coffee pot 47
KS: Yes. One of the greatest strengths of a university is the diversity of its student body.
Photo by Ross Knight
Kent Syverud, Chancellor of Syracuse University.
With the renovation, we are creating more public spaces where different kinds of students interact, can run into each other; where there’s healthy spaces to be at night and on weekends. A big part of student health and wellness is what students do socially and who the social arbiters of that are. We are very concerned about that, which is why we’ve invested in initiatives like the Schine Center and the Barnes Center that offer a range of options for students with different interests. MCF: At Georgetown, we talked about student isolation and the antidote for that being creating a greater sense of community. Is that a part of what you are doing here?
A lot of universities talk about that, but I was just blown away by how much deeper and broader that is here.
Socioeconomically, it is a much more diverse university than almost all of our peers—a great, wide range of students from all kinds of backgrounds. The result of that, however, is that there are many communities within the student body, as in the world right now, that are becoming more segregated, not more inclusive. We have to worry about that because the world is a tense and fraught place right now. We have to make sure people have a sense of belonging and that requires a lot of work. This is a big, sprawling, urban campus with people from all over the world. Building a sense of belonging has to be a purposeful, planned activity.
MCF: Do you think the makeup of your students will continue to diversify? KS: Yes, and that is our intent. The number of traditional, 18-year-old, college-going students that universities have served is going to dramatically shrink. The institutions that will be successful are those that have anticipated a change and figured out how to deliver an education to a much wider range of people: people who are transferring from community college; people who have served in the military; people who are far afield from the traditional liberal arts student of the past. We still want to deliver the traditional classic college experience for those who want it, but not everybody is going to move to Syracuse for four years. We have 18 online degrees—an online Associates Degree and four online undergraduate degrees, which is very unusual for a university. MCF: Speaking of the military, tell us about the efforts that have been underway here for veterans. KS: This university has an extensive history of being more welcoming to veterans and those in the military than most. This started significantly after World War II when the university tripled in size in 18 months and accepted veterans that almost all our peers would not take.
We decided six years ago that we were going to be the best university in the country for veterans and military and we decided to do that because we thought it would make us a much better university— which it has—and because so many of our peers were falling woefully behind in what we perceived to be a moral obligation to serve those who have served. Through our Institute for Veterans and Military Families we do a lot of outward-facing services to military personnel to help them transition to civilian life and to provide research on them and their spouses. We have served more than 100,000 people in service who are not traditional students. That’s the oldest and most significant part of what we’re doing. Internal to the university, we’ve dramatically increased our enrollment of veterans which has dramatically increased our diversity and brought a range of views that have been very healthy for this campus. Right now, we’re at 5% veteran and military-connected students on campus. Most other top universities would be less than one-tenth of 1%. Interestingly, in fixing things for our veteran students, we backed into fixing things for the non-traditional students we have. It is true that a lot of our students from under-
represented groups are not 18 when they arrive here; many of them transfer from community college or have credits they’re bringing with them. Many of them are dealing with childcare. This cohort of veterans has forced us to address a lot of issues we needed to address for all our students.
KS: Having a campus that deeply values free speech and an unbelievably diverse student body means that all of us are more likely to be exposed to views we find uncomfortable.
MCF: You are a university known for its journalism school (Newhouse School of Communications). How is the issue of free speech on campus playing out here?
That said, in governing free speech and civil discourse, we need to clarify what those mean and make sure everybody knows what they’re supposed to do about them if we’re getting close to the line.
KS: You’ll notice that the First Amendment is written across the face of the Newhouse building. It has more than 1,000 extraordinary students who are systematically taught about free speech and what it means to the history of our country. That’s an asset here that many schools don’t have. We have a very robust press, a high-quality daily newspaper. We have multiple radio stations and students training to be investigative reporters. I think more than most schools, we’re a place where all students, faculty, and staff understand that free speech and exposure and public discussion of issues is highly valued. MCF: To be a diverse university so outwardly supportive of free speech must raise some challenges. How do you deal with that?
But our job as an institution is to learn things from people we disagree with.
I think we have to teach what the First Amendment means and what academic freedom means and what the history of academic inquiry has been because many people don’t know it or believe it. I try to remember what I was like at 19 and the truth is, the university years are years for discovering who you are. I won’t expect all students at the university to agree on anything right now, but I would like the vast majority to understand the reasons for certain norms and how the university works. I would certainly like them to embrace the notion of humanity and decency and entertain the possibility that you have something to learn from people you disagree with.
Young, Gifted & Advancing A Steve Fund event at Georgetown University By Marjorie Malpiede
he Steve Fund launched in 2014 as a national resource—and leading voice —on the mental health of college students of color. Since then, it has made significant contributions to both young adult mental health and higher education. From its ground-breaking research on the unique dynamics affecting students of color, to its Equity in Mental Health Framework, to its ongoing programming, the Steve Fund provides resources, critical data on and informed strategy to better serve the emotional and behavioral health of college students of color, now making up 42% of all enrolled students in America. One of the organization’s goals is to create and sustain a robust national dialogue about the mental health and emotional wellbeing of student of color today. Its Young, Gifted & @Risk series has succeeded in doing so with creative programs throughout the country that continue to remind stakeholders of the need for an 50
intentional strategy aimed at supporting this population group. On Nov. 1, 2019, the Steve Fund partnered with Georgetown University for a daylong series of presentations, panel discussions, and breakout sessions focused on creating successful learning environments for students of color. Young, Gifted & Advancing was the second of the 2019 three-part series that was launched at the University of Michigan and culminated at The City University of New York. Its goal was to explore the link between mental health and persistence. Steve Fund Board member Gordon Bell hosted the program and welcomed the 200 or so participants before introducing John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University. A nationally recognized leader in both social justice and student wellbeing, DeGioia said the school’s partnership with the Steve Fund was guided by their “shared commitment to
engender flourishing in all of our young people.” Flourishing—or thriving along multiple realms—is a frequently referenced concept at Georgetown and an appropriate description for what was a major theme of the event: that a person’s overall wellbeing takes on many forms and is intrinsically tied to the health or illness of his or her environment. “At college, young people are forming identity at vulnerable moments which can be even more difficult for students of color where challenges can be higher,” DeGioia said. He urged all institutions to guide this formation with resources and information that allow all students to become “their most authentic selves.” “Thanks to the Steve Fund, we are equipped with more data and information than we’ve ever had before,” he said. The Steve Fund’s Senior Medical Director, Dr. Annelle
Primm presented the organization’s latest work aimed at building knowledge and capacity among organizations serving young people of color. The Steve Fund’s workshops, curricula, training, and technical assistance support the research-backed recommendations set forth in the Equity in Mental Health Framework, a 10-dimension road map for colleges developed in conjunction with the JED Foundation. The Framework was developed in response to research the Steve Fund and JED Foundation reported in 2017, which found that “students of color report greater feelings of isolation and a significantly reduced likelihood of seeking professional care for mental health and emotional
wellbeing concerns than their white peers.” Primm touted new research underway led by the Steve Fund and involving partnerships with the JED Foundation and the Healthy Minds Network. Now being piloted at 17 colleges, the study looks at contributing factors for mental health and emotional wellbeing for students of color, now embedded into the widely-utilized Healthy Minds Survey. For the keynote session, Dr. Sherry Molock, associate professor of clinical psychology at The George Washington University, was joined on stage by Dr. David Rivera, associate professor of counselor education at Queens College-CUNY. The two experts spoke on “Macro and Micro
Climates: Challenges to and Protectors of Mental Health for Students of Color.” They began the discussion with the assertion that the mental health of college students should be viewed from an ecological perspective, taking into account the relationships between the student, the institution, the community and the public, with the public holding a large degree of influence. “We need to help de-pathologize the student by understanding they are the product of a larger sphere,” said Rivera. “In this scenario, it is the public sphere that is ill (with dynamics such as racism), not the student,” he continued. Molock agreed, saying that, “In higher education, we
Photo by Tisha Carter
Panelists at the Steve Fund’s Young, Gifted, & Advancing convening. 51
often believe we are a closed environment—as if the larger environment doesn’t impact students.” She pointed to polarizing political rhetoric that has many campus community members feeling afraid. These fears exacerbate stressors and vulnerabilities that already exist for students of color, including a lack of belonging. “Many members of marginalized communities feel as if they are not valued,” she said; “This is an invisible burden that they experience that is often not acknowledged.”
dent for Student Equity & Inclusion at Georgetown, panelists considered these messages from their own experiences. Dr. Daniel Phillip, from IntraSpectrum Counseling, says that external factors are definitely a problem for many of the students he sees. “I always ask my clients— ‘how did you get to college?’” he said. Phillips believes campus community members have a role to play in helping all students thrive. He encourages faculty and staff to put students in
level, at an administrative level and at a teaching level. Who is accountable for making sure we are living this?” The third panelist, Jay Wang, is the Chairman of the Steve Fund’s Youth Advisory Board. He said that there are many ways that institutions can demonstrate inclusion, from academic changes that eliminate “weed out” courses to responding authentically to what happens on the physical site.
“When there is a racist incident on campus, the reaction from the school can’t just be ‘well racist acts do occur,’” he said; “When school says that, we “When there is a racist incident on campus, the reaction the feel it is being complicfrom the school can’t just be ‘well racist acts do occur.’ it. We don’t feel we can When the school says that, we feel it is being complicit. trust them.”
We don’t feel we can trust them.” Both Molock and Rivera believe that to help overcome these invisible burdens, schools need to recognize they exist for students. Not doing so only makes schools complicit in the ongoing isolation these students feel. “Colleges have to change in order to welcome the students who they ask to come here,” said Rivera. During the response panel moderated by Dr. Adanna Johnson, associate vice presi-
the center instead of worrying about lack of training. “You are a human being,” he said. “You don’t have to be a mental health expert to help someone.” On the response panel, Tawara Goode, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics at Georgetown, said “Schools need to ask themselves— ‘Is this campus welcoming or rejecting of students of color?’ Values have to align with what actually happens on campus at a policy-making
These plenary discussions provided the foundation for a series of expert-led break-out sessions that allowed audience members to take a deeper dive into a range of related topics such as: The community college climate; the classroom experience and impact on learning; the role of faculty; religion, spirituality and intersectionality. These 60-minute sessions provided practical learning opportunities for the conference attendees, leaving them with both food for thought and best practices to follow.
Science Summary A recap of research worth noting. By Dana Humphrey
AAU Campus Climate Survey Update
An extensive report on campus sexual violence found significant levels of sexual misconduct and disparities in the prevalence of sexual misconduct among different categories of students. The report is the second iteration of a major effort by the Association of American Universities (AAU), which represents research universities across the country, to examine the prevalence of sexual assault and misconduct, and the related campus climate, at colleges and universities. The survey was the largest of its kind, with 181,752 student respondents out of a sample size of 830,936. This yearâ€™s report, along with the 2015 version, confirms a controversial talking point that one in four undergraduate women are sexually assaulted during their time on campus. Overall, about 13% of students of all genders had sexual contact without their permission. Undergraduate female and TGQN (transgender, gender queer, non-conforming) students reported having the highest rates of
sexual misconduct. More than 20% of undergraduate students with an alternative gender identity said they had experienced sexual violence. Among undergraduate TGQN students, 65.1 percent reported experiencing harassing behavior since enrolling at the school, 21.5 percent with partners reported intimate partner violence (IPV) and 15.2 percent stalking. Among undergraduate women, 59.2, 14.1 and 10.0 percent experienced harassing behavior, intimate partner violence and stalking, respectively. For the schools that participated in both the 2015 and 2019 surveys, the rate of nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent increased by 3 percentage points for undergraduate women and 1.4 percentage points for undergraduate men. There was also a significant increase in student reports of their knowledge about school definitions and procedures related to sexual assault and misconduct.
Mental Health of High Achieving Students
The National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Active Minds released new data on the mental health of high-achieving college students as well as recommendations for how universities can help students facing mental health challenges. The national survey of 9,319 college students with a grade point average of 3.4 or above found that 91% have felt overwhelmed by the number of responsibilities they hold. About two thirds reported a need for mental health services in the last year. Despite facing significant challenges, high-achieving students have positive attitudes about mental health services and are likely to seek help, according to the report. 73% reported seeking help from someone in the last 12 months. Respondents cited stigma toward mental health, a lack of financial
The organizations encouraged faculty to include contact information for mental health services on their syllabi or provide a list of these resources to individual students who come to them for help, practice self-care themselves, include well-being skills in their curriculum, and ask administrators to provide more resources and training surrounding mental health issues.
Concussions More Common than Previously Thought
New research from the University of Colorado at Boulder reveals that college students in the US suffer concussions twice as often as previously believed, and that they are significantly more likely to occur off the playing field than on. According to the three-year study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, among roughly 30,000 public university undergraduates, about 340 concussions are diagnosed annually - an incidence rate of about one in 75 students per year. When varsity athletes weren’t included in the analysis, 64% of concussions were non-sport-related. Falls accounted for 38% of concussions, hits to the head accounted for 8.5% and motor vehicle accidents accounted for 6.5%. Researchers also found that 41% of students diagnosed with concussion said they had already had 54
resources, or a preference for dealing with issues on their own, as reasons they had not sought help. Aside from the counseling center and close friends, high-achieving students reported a preference for seeking help from an academic advisor or professor. However, more than two-thirds reported that they do not feel comfortable doing so.
between one and three concussions; 5% reported four or more. The report, which looked at student health data from the University of Colorado Boulder, also noted that concussion incidence is slightly higher among females. Study co-author Dr. John Breck, lead physician at CU Boulder Medical Services, said that while it’s uncertain why females seem to be more susceptible, it could be due to differences in hormones, neck strength and head mass. “There is a widely held perception that most concussions are sport-related. Our study shows it can happen to anyone, male or female, engaged in a variety of activities,” said co-author Matt McQueen, an integrative physiology professor and project director of the Pac-12 Concussion coordinating Unit.
International Students Enrollment
According to annual data released by the Institute of International Education, new international student enrollment dropped for the third-straight year in the 2018-19 academic year, though the 1-percent decline was not as steep as the nearly 7-percent drop the previous year. Open Doors, a survey of international exchange activity sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, showed that fewer foreign students came to the U.S. for undergraduate and non-degree education, with those groups declining year-over-year by 1.5% and 5.7%, respectively. Despite those trends, the number of international students in the U.S. reached a record high of 1.1 million in 2018-19, a year-overyear increase of 0.5%. The report also showed
that while half of colleges included in the snapshot reported that new international enrollments have declined again this fall, 41 percent of colleges reported an uptick in firsttime foreign students, and 11 universities enroll more than 10,000 international students. According to a recent survey by World Education Services, a nonprofit international-education research company, concerns about the threat of gun violence are growing among international students. The survey of about 2,000 current or recent international students at American colleges found that nearly two in five are worried about gun violence.
According to recent research conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sleep quality, duration, and consistency are directly and strongly related to college student academic performance. For the study, published in the journal Science of Learning, one hundred students from the MIT chemistry class received Fitbits for an entire semester, which are devices worn on the hand and provide information about a personâ€™s activities. The Fitbits measured the duration and quality of sleep using a combination of movements and heart-rate during bed-time. During the semester, the students completed several quizzes and midterms,
and one final exam. Students with a greater amount and quality of sleep had higher grades. Another recent sleep study showed health benefits for students who get more sleep. Researchers also found that when told to extend their sleep for the study, students were able to get, on average, an extra 43 minutes of sleep. This resulted in less sleepiness during the day and lower blood pressure. Anne-Marie Chang, assistant professor of biobehavioral health and nursing at Penn State says that the findings suggest that getting more sleep is a feasible and attainable goal for most college students.