Mary Christie Quarterly A publication of the Mary Christie Foundation
The Outlook Issue
Perspectives on student success and wellbeing from presidents, policymakers, students and stakeholders
Issue 17 | Spring 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. The Mary Christie Foundation is funded, in part, by Christie Campus Health.
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
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chair
John P. Howe, III
Mary Jane England
Lisa Kelly Croswell
Sarah Ketchen Lipson
Robert F. Meenan
Editor’s Desk Dear Friends, Like the world itself, the content in this issue of the Mary Christie Quarterly can be separated into “before” and “after” the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The three presidents’ interviews were conducted before the Coronavirus had upended American life and disrupted the seemingly impenetrable regularity of higher education. Our second leadership convening of college student behavioral health, reported on in this issue, was held just days before schools across the country closed down. With campuses cleared out and students at home (or in whatever shelter is available to them), the pandemic is now the lens through which every higher education policy issue will, for the time being, be viewed. Student behavioral health and wellbeing, already a top priority for higher ed leadership, has become an even greater concern, as is reflected in a number of higher education leadership surveys and the anxious voices of students themselves. In this issue, a student leader reflects on her own experience with the disruption and loss brought on by COVID-19, and another talks of the importance of friendships in getting through frightening times such as these. Adam Powell analyzes school responses to the virus and Sarah Ketchen Lipson describes new research that will inform decision-making going forward. This “Outlook” issue is skewed toward opinion and interviews, both pre and post-COVID-19. Within it is news and information that reminds us of the important gains being made in the field of student health and wellbeing, and all the work that lies ahead. As always, thank you for reading.
Marjorie Malpiede Editor
CONTE NTS 17 Q&A: Mackenzie Mertikas, Student Association President, Syracuse University “I think a lot of us are having anxiety about jobs, about not really getting to finish what we expected to finish and having it end in such an abrupt way.” — Mackenzie Mertikas
21 Higher Education Leadership Convening on College Student Behavioral Health “Our gathering today brings us together to respond to the question, how should we understand our responsibilities in addressing the challenges of our young people in this moment?” — John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University.
CONTE NTS 06 Dr. Michael Drake, President of the Ohio State University
31 Q&A: Marion Ross Fedrick, President of Albany State University
09 The Need for Data: Mental Health During Unprecedented Times
36 Interesting People Doing Important Work
11 Q&A: Philip Glotzbach, President of Skidmore College 15 Rep. Joe Kennedy Crafting Mental Health Legislation 17 Q&A: Mackenzie Mertikas, Student Association President, Syracuse University 21 Leadership Convening on Student Behavioral Health 27 The Jed Foundation to Launch Program for High School
39 Proms, Parties and the Power of Social Norms in Preventing Event-Specific Alcohol Use in High School 43 I Belong 45 Analysis: One Crisis with Varied Responses 49 Science Summary
Q&A: Dr. Michael Drake, President of The Ohio State University Interviewed By Marjorie Malpiede With over 68,000 students, The Ohio State University is one of the largest institutions in the country. When asked if it is more challenging to preside over such a big school, its president, Dr. Michael Drake, likened it to swimming in an ocean as opposed to a pool. “There’s a lot more underneath, but you still have to take good strokes and breathe.” Drake, who is a physician, came to the Columbus campus from the University of California, Irvine and brought with him many of the successes he experienced there with the hope that excellence can be achieved at any scale. Progress has certainly been made in the nearly six years Drake has been president, particularly in the areas he most hoped to influence. Soon to transition from his current role, Drake has focused on greater access to an affordable Ohio State education, having committed $200
million in aid and tuition strategies for middle- and lower-income students. He is proud of the fact that the year he leaves features the most diverse and academically talented class in Ohio State’s history. In improving access, Drake uses value as the metric, noting that an affordable education is not valuable if it is only marginal. On the excellence score, Ohio State under Drake has many milestones to tout, including record highs in graduation rates, retention rates, and donor support; as well as increases in research grants and faculty awards. Drake has become a national figure in higher education leadership, having chaired some of the most prestigious and influential associations in the country. As Ohio State’s president, he has used these networks to work through many of the tough issues facing higher ed today – including the emotional and behavioral
health of college students, an area that has become an ongoing priority and a challenge for schools throughout the country. We spoke by phone in early March. Mary Christie Quarterly: Did you have a vision for what you wanted to have happen at Ohio State? Do you feel like you’ve accomplished what you came here to do? Michael Drake: I had a vision of what might be accomplished here, and it was based on things we had done in a high-quality way at the University of California, Irvine. My interest was whether we could see similar progress at an institution as large and impactful as The Ohio State University. I was very much interested in access, affordability and excellence. By that, I mean making the university more broadly and easily accessible
to a wide variety of students who were outstanding in a wide variety of ways – and then seeing if we could do it more affordably. I, like many of us, am concerned about the high cost of higher education. We wondered if we could make the university experience more affordable to more people. One of the ways we would achieve that is by blunting the rise in debt that college students are graduating with and seeing what we could do to contain the cost to make it a more affordable institution. At the same time, I was focused on making meaningful progress on a variety of measures of excellence that all of us in higher education use to help determine the quality of variance that impacts our tuition. These measures include excellence in research, in patient care and patient experience, in student outcomes, community relations – looking at these areas and asking if we can be better. And then the goal would be to be better in as many areas as were practical and be the exemplars of best practices in ways that would help engage, inspire and empower others to do those things as well. MCQ: What has been the result? MD: We’re thrilled with the way the numbers have gone. We have the most diverse incoming class we’ve ever had and the best academical-
ly prepared class we’ve ever had. Our retention levels are at an all-time high, and our graduation rates are substantially higher than they’ve ever been. When you look at debt, more students are graduating debt-free than several years ago, and those who have debt have less than they had a few years ago. So that’s Photo courtesy of The Ohio State University better access, better Dr. Michael Drake, President of The Ohio State Uniaffordability versity. and better established history with a excellence. mental health provider. They Those are the kinds of meacome to us with experiences sures we want to see moving they expect us to replicate, in the right direction. and we do our best to meet MCQ: What has been your those challenges. Our apexperiences here in terms proach really has been to do of student emotional and two things: one is to step up behavioral health? to levels that help meet the actual demand, and the other MD: There has been a change is to think of novel approachnationally in that we’re es of supporting student seeing many more students mental health in ways that go arriving here who have an 7
beyond therapy to a broader menu of interventions. We just developed an app that helps students navigate the range of opportunities that the university offers. In some cases, the app itself is interactive and can address issues. In other cases, it’s a road map to services that are available. It’s been highly utilized. MCQ: Do you think challenges like this are harder in such a large institution? Does the role of the president change?
I was very much interested in access, affordability and excellence. . . We’re thrilled with the way the numbers have gone.
MD: There’s no doubt that the size of the enterprise impacts the distance that I have between a decision and its effect. But to me, it’s pretty much the same. Sometimes I can’t touch people directly, or individually, like I once could, which means you have to communicate things in a way that makes sense. We try to start with good ideas and good policy, and then we think a lot about how to communicate that. MCQ: You’ve had many leadership roles in higher education associations. How are these efforts beneficial to the kinds of issues you deal with on campus? MD: I’ve chaired the APLU (Association of Public and Land-grant Universities), the AAU (Association of Ameri-
can Universities), the Association of Academic Health Centers and others, so I’ve worked a lot of hours with my colleagues on a lot of issues. I would say it is very gratifying and humbling, and I hope effective, to work with president and chancellor peers on the big issues that we face. Two of the most important aspects of that participation are that everyone has unique experiences they can bring to the table, and there are many overlapping concerns and opportunities we can address together. MCQ: Will you continue working in some capacity even after you retire as president? MD: Sure. I’m still teaching, and I’ll be doing more writing as I did early on in my career. I still work with higher education associations, and I am on a few boards. I am a member of the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and I’m a pretty active member. I have a few musical groups that I still play with. They’re all better than I am, I promise. MCQ: Will you stay involved in issues around affordability and access for underserved communities and students that are non-traditional? MD: Absolutely.
The Need for Data: Mental Health During Unprecedented Times By Sarah Ketchen Lipson, Ph.D.
In recent weeks this word has risen to prominence in our collective lexicon. We are living in unprecedented times. Nothing is as it was before. Now more than ever, we need data and evidence to guide our decisions and inform policies and programs. This is true at all levels, including in higher education. Colleges and universities will need data in order to meet the needs of their students moving forward. But what will those needs be? Pre-COVID, there were high and rising prevalence rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicidality in college student populations. Many referred to this as a campus mental health â€œcrisis.â€? Data have and will continue to be essential in informing campus investments in student mental health.
When campus closures began in March, my colleagues and I began thinking about how the pandemic will impact student mental health. As is the new norm, we had only questions, no answers. We quickly realized the opportunity to collect new data to measure the impact of the pandemic in college student populations, which include about 60% of all U.S. adolescents and young adults. One of the most wonderful things about working in the field of college student mental health research is the partnerships and collaborations that my Healthy Minds colleagues and I have with other organizations across the country. As we began developing new COVID-19 survey questions to add to the national Healthy Minds Study, we partnered with the American College Health Association, which will also be adding this set of questions to its National 9
College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA III).
Ultimately the new questions fall into three categories:
â€œmoduleâ€? focused on COVID19.
Together, we came up with a set of about 10 new survey questions that will be added to the existing surveys for campuses that participate in the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.
1. the personal impact (symptoms/infection, economic, living situation, discrimination)
With these new questions, we focused on measuring unique experiences related to the pandemic and campus closures, narrowing in on factors likely to vary significantly across students.
3. perceived supportiveness of campus stakeholders.
For fall 2020, we plan to offer a Healthy Minds survey module (about 25-30 questions) related to COVID-19, which campuses will be able to opt into. We welcome feedback and suggestions for this new survey module.
2. preventive behaviors and attitudes; and
The process of writing questions for immediate implementation into Healthy Minds and ACHA-NCHA III also resulted in the initial drafting of a longer survey
Sarah Ketchen Lipson is an Assistant Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and co-Principal Investigator of the national Healthy Minds Study: http:// healthymindsnetwork.org/.
If you have ideas for research priorities related to mental health in college student populations during these unprecedented times, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q&A: Philip Glotzbach, President of Skidmore College Interviewed By Marjorie Malpiede
Philip Glotzbach has been president of Skidmore College for the last 17 years, a period in which the idyllic school in upstate New York has changed significantly – as has higher education overall. Founded in the early 20th century as an institution for women hoping to gain self-sustaining professional and personal skills, Skidmore has held onto its social justice roots through its co-ed transition in 1971 and its rise to prominence as a prestigious, liberal arts college in one of the most beautiful college towns in America. Skidmore now has 2,500 students from 40 states and 70 countries on its residential campus located just outside of the main thoroughfare of the resort town of Saratoga Springs. Newsweek called Skidmore “A New Ivy,” others have included it among the Hidden Ivies. Glotzbach may prefer to think of it as a college of the
future, set on continuing its path to greater diversity and preparing students for careers not yet imagined. While acknowledging a general shift toward job-specific degrees and transactional compacts between students and institutions, Glotzbach is a fierce defender of the higher purpose of higher education – to produce thoughtful participants in civic life. When it comes to student behavioral health and wellbeing, Glotzbach has much to offer by way of both observation and experience. Like many schools, Skidmore is trying new models in mental health service delivery in order to keep up with student demand. But Glotzbach believes service innovation represents only one approach to a much larger issue of young-adult wellbeing influenced by societal trends, family dynamics, and pressures springing from the rapid changes of the new century.
Glotzbach is retiring in June, moving on from Skidmore to pursue writing projects dealing with higher education’s impact on democracy and the role of “citizen intellectuals.” He deflects talk of his legacy, saying humbly that “college presidents are often credited with the accomplishments of others.” Still, he has plenty of insight about the role of leadership in helping students navigate a changing, complex world. We talked by phone in January of 2020. Mary Christie Quarterly: When you look back at your time at Skidmore, what are some of the biggest changes that have occurred on campus? Philip Glotzbach: When I first came to Skidmore, I was very attracted by our motto, “Creative Thought Matters.” I think that phrase epitomizes so much of what was true of Skidmore in the past and I hope is even more so today. 11
The most obvious, and I would say positive, change is that we are a much more diverse college. Students of color now make up around 25% of our population; international students number approximately 11%. We also have increased our socio-economic diversity, which is reflected in our most recent entering class – about 17% first-generation and about the same number Pell grant-eligible students.
the history of the college – our Center for Integrated Sciences that will bring together all of the departments and programs in the physical and life sciences. I’m very pleased about that (you know presidents love to build things).
The other major change I would say is in our governance structure. There are a lot of silos in higher ed that are Photo courtesy of Skidmore College just not productive. At the beginning Philip Glotzbach, President of Skidmore College. of every semester, we bring together taught by full-time faculty So, our incoming the chairs of major classes are increasingly more members of all disciplines. committees and members These professors become the diverse and also better acof the Presidents’ Cabinet, students’ mentors and acaademically prepared – the and we just talk through our demic advisors, typically for result is we have a stronger, agendas for the coming term. the first year, sometimes for more vital, and more interestWhen you do that, everyone the first two years, sometimes has the benefit of knowing ing student body. But it’s not forever. We expect our firstjust the students. We have what everyone else is doing, year faculty members to get created what has become a and it reduces the number to know their students and national model in faculty hirof surprises that can lead to ing for increased diversity. In to work with them on their misunderstanding, friction, academic choices – not just fact, we have made strides in and resentment. picking their next semester’s diversifying our whole comMCQ: How much of your munity, which has benefitted classes, but thinking about us in so many ways, including their values, their goals, what governance work involves they want to achieve and, if setting the right tone as our competitiveness. they hit roadblocks, what represident? sources are available to them. One big change that we imPG: I try to bring my best plemented, which has helped Physically, our campus also self to these conversations. I all our students succeed, is has changed dramatically don’t always succeed, but I do our first-year seminar prosince I arrived. We are workthink there is a value in being gram. Every first-year stuing right now on the largest consistent over time in trydent enrolls in a first-year single building project in ing to lead from a place that seminar – classes that are
reflects the better angels of our nature. MCQ: What has been your experience at Skidmore in terms of student behavioral health? PG: Like all of the institutions I’ve spoken with, we’re experiencing an increase in both the issues we see in students and in the demands for service that they request. There are more students reporting anxiety; more reporting depression. MCQ: What has been your response? PG: We certainly have added staff to our Counseling Center and in other areas as well. But in regards to capacity for meeting the increased demand, I do not believe it is possible to build your way out of the current demand. An analogy is the congested freeways of Los Angeles. The response there has been to build another lane. And as soon as it’s open, the freeway is just as congested as before, with even more cars on the road. I think that’s what we’ve been seeing on college campuses with respect to counseling centers. The first call has been to add more counselors to increase capacity, and then that enhanced capacity is very quickly exhausted. I think the answer in the long run has to be in exploring
different models for meeting students’ needs. We are working with a new model we call our ‘step system’, which really tries to change what happens when students first come to the Counseling Center. Instead of the counselor automatically saying, “let’s set you up with a series of appointments,” they sit down with the student and come to a mutual understanding of what that student is dealing with and then review the resources that are available to them. The expected outcome of that first meeting is a plan the student will execute over the next few days or weeks. The underlying understanding here is that, number one, students have to take responsibility for their own health and wellness and, number two, where we can provide resources, we need to do it in more than just one place. In fact, we’re looking at engaging all members of the campus community in addressing student behavioral health. For example, our Director of Campus Spiritual Life is very involved in mindfulness work. We have a program called Peer Health Educators in which about 80 students work out of an office in the student center helping other students access resources and live in healthier ways. We’re also working closely with faculty members, help-
ing them understand when they need to refer a student to the counseling center and when they don’t. Faculty legitimately worry about legal obligations and self-protection, so we end up having people over-referring students to the counseling center. We’re not trying to turn our faculty members into counselors, but they do need to understand that just because a student is upset about something doesn’t mean that they need to go to counseling. MCQ: Do you think students are different today? PG: I do think students are different in many ways, and much of this comes from the milieu with which they were educated. College admission is much more competitive than it was fifteen years ago, so students became very high achieving in high school and put a lot of pressure on themselves to do as many things as possible. Parents are different today as well, and there are a lot of reasons for that. They are very focused on positioning their student for success in the job market. The 2007 and 2008 recession really shook everybody up, and it convinced students and parents that there’s no guarantee to economic success after you graduate from college, even though you’ve just invested $250,000 or more in your college education. Students
ly focused your preparation, the shorter its shelf life – because if the field changes, you will not be prepared to change with it. The argument for the liberal arts has always been that a liberal education prepares you for the most important factor you are going to face in your life and that is change.
We need more informed, responsible citizens today than ever before, and the only way we’re going to do that is to educate more people about their responsibility as citizens. Part of our responsibility as a college is to help students understand that this education is not just for your personal benefit – it’s also for the benefit of the polity: your city, state, and country.
This reality puts a premium on the capacity to continue to learn, to think, to write, and to express yourself clearly. Increasingly with the issues that we’re facing in both our professional and political lives, you will need to be able to think across disciplinary boundaries. The big problems we face collectively as humanity – be it climate change or the coming industrial revolution based on AI, or the divisions in our political life – are not going to be solved by one specific disciplinary perspective. And, more than ever, creativity matters.
I have a concept that I’m exploring about educating citizen intellectuals – not necessarily someone in the world of letters but people who will draw upon what they have learned in college to approach their life thoughtfully, to understand that their opinions matter and that they should express them, and to think about making our civic life better.
The underlying understanding here is that, number one, students have to take responsibility for their own health and wellness and, number two, where we can provide resources, we need to do it in more than just one place. have high expectations for themselves as a result. They can feel under enormous pressure. MCQ: Do you think college and universities are feeling the pressure to justify their link to the job market? PG: I think every institution today acknowledges an obligation to justify itself relative to employment after college, and it’s a fair expectation. But at the same time, I think it’s very, very important for us, particularly for college presidents and people in leadership positions, to make it clear that the value of a liberal education in particular, and a college education in general, is not just about that first job. I worry about the economic and social pressures parents and students feel to take a more narrow course of study that very directly prepares them for a particular job. Sometimes, the more narrow14
The other thing I would say is that, as colleges and universities justify themselves and what they are asking students and parents to pay, we have to get away from defining higher education as just a private good. It should be an articulated part of the mission of every college and university to prepare its graduates to participate effectively as citizens in a democracy.
MCQ: What are you looking forward to working on now that you are close to retiring? PG: I’ve spent over 40 years in higher education, and I think when one retires from a position like this it’s important to retire to something. I have a number of writing projects I’m working on – one is a book about higher education and democracy: What are the things that colleges and universities can do to be more intentional about educating those informed, responsible citizens I was referring to?
Rep. Joe Kennedy Crafting Mental Health Legislation By Marjorie Malpiede
f it were not already top of mind for those worried about mental health amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, Congressman Joe Kennedy, III, D- Massachusetts, is crafting legislation that he says will be the “North Star” for a mental health system that many believe is off course. “For far too long, mental illness has been underresearched, undertreated, and over stigmatized,” said Kennedy who is currently running for one of Massachusetts’ U.S. Senate seats. “As a result, our mental health system is reactive instead of proactive; treating patients when they are in crisis instead of incorporating services and screenings earlier in the continuum of care. This has led to high demand and insufficient services.” In early 2020, Kennedy began a listening tour across the state where he and his policy team visited different patient care sites to gain a better understanding of the current
gaps and barriers that exist in the mental health system. He said that the visits helped identify the need for both widespread system reform and system improvements. “With the lessons we learned in mind, we have been crafting legislation to provide a comprehensive solution to our mental health system. This bill is meant to be an all-inclusive bill to address all the challenges faced throughout the system.” One of the stops on the tour was with experts in teen and young adult behavioral health, an area of focus in the upcoming legislation. The event, hosted by Christie Campus Health, a behavioral health services company, was held on February 18, 2020 in Boston and included a number of Massachusetts mental health and education experts, including those in clinical services, public schools, community organizations and college and universities.
Following an introduction from University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan, Kennedy asked the experts what reforms out of Washington can help address the mental health crisis for teens and young adults, including college students. Kennedy said he wants to fix mental health the right way through a holistic, integrated public health approach to restructure government and publicly-funded systems so that they effectively serve the behavioral health needs of all Americans. Participants agreed that the current systems in place are not sufficient to meet the unprecedented need. Topics of discussion included a number of issues including: the need for life skills training, lack of meaningful connection among young adults; the wide-spread work force shortages in mental health; lack of equity in terms of mental health resource access; complex and unique 15
For far too long, mental illness has been underresearched, undertreated, and over stigmatized
challenges some face at the intersection of diversity, inclusion, and mental health; and the overlap of young adults who struggle with homelessness, food insecurity, and mental health concerns
Kennedy said that stigma and misperception continues to mar progress in the detection and early addressment of mental health issues. â€œWhen we put the mental health crisis in the spotlight,
it is almost always associated with tragic school shootings or acts of violence. This association simply does not exist and serves to further stigmatize mental and behavioral health conditions that many are experiencing. â€œWe need to finally address all the barriers and challenges in our mental health system, make historic financial investments, and acknowledge that mental and behavioral health care is a priority in health care.â€?
Photo by John Gillooly
Congressman Kennedy with University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan.
Q&A: Mackenzie Mertikas, Student Association President, Syracuse University Interviewed By Dana Humphrey In the wake of nationwide college closures due to the coronavirus crisis, many students, suddenly at home with their parents and siblings, are struggling to adjust to their new normal. Somewhere in between the adults, they are soon expected to become and the children they once were, students at home grapple with the emotional toll of being pulled away from friendships and relationships, and college seniors mourn the loss of graduation rituals and traditions, all while battling for WiFi with their parents and siblings. We were able to sit down (virtually) with one of those students for a chat about her experience with these unexpected life changes. Mackenzie Mertikas is a senior at Syracuse University where she serves as Student Association President. She is a dual Political Science and Public Relations major in the
College of Arts and Sciences. She is currently “distance-learning” from her family’s home in New Jersey. Mary Christie Quarterly: What has your experience been like over the last few weeks? Mackenzie Mertikas: I’m still struggling to wrap my head around how to feel. As a college senior especially, it has been hard to process and understand. I was very much looking forward to the last few months at school. I have people on campus that I’ve known for four years that I probably won’t see again. To not be able to say goodbye to those people is something that seniors across the country are struggling with right now. This year, especially at Syracuse, has been very challenging. We’ve faced a lot of changes in our campus climate.
We found out that we won’t have an on-campus graduation in May. We’ll all miss out on walking across the stage and getting that closure. You don’t get to say all of your goodbyes. You don’t get to recognize everything that you and your class have accomplished over the past four years. Getting to take a picture in a cap and gown is something that I really wish that we could be doing in a few weeks. And then to be entering the “real world” at a time where everything is so uncertain, is very challenging. MCQ: You have recently transitioned to remote classes. How are your online courses going? MM: So far, it really depends on the class. I have some classes that are not meeting; lectures are being recorded and posted on the Blackboard system, or PowerPoints are posted. I have other classes where I’m on a conference 17
people trying to do different things throughout the day. I have heard from so many students that the WiFi connection at home is an issue, with so many people using it at once. I think it’s really hard to find a space that works. It took me a few days to figure out what works for me. The first day of classes I sat all day and was trying to operate that way. As a student that is constantly going all the time when I’m at school, running to class and in and out of meetings, sitting idle in a bed and just staring at my computer does not work for me.
Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Mertikas
Mackenzie Mertikas, Student Association President, Syracuse University.
call with 50 students, and in those spaces it’s definitely a challenge. It’s weird to be learning via conference call. It’s difficult to ask questions, discuss and be engaged when everyone’s in a different location. I don’t think we’re getting the same type of education that we would in-person. People are definitely still struggling with that The level of learning is different. The level of engagement is very different. For students that learn well in classroom settings, in a space that they 18
can talk and ask questions, I think being in an online setting hinders their ability to learn. MCQ: How have you carved out a space to be a university student at home? MM: It’s definitely hard. I have a younger sister who’s in high school, so she’s also trying to do online classes, communicating with her classmates and teachers. My mom is also working from home. There are three
So now I found a space in my house. I set up a little office, spread out all of my things. I feel like I’m processing things better. MCQ: You made mental health one of the main tenants of your platform as Student Association President. Coronavirus and college closures have affected many students’ mental health. Have you found any strategies to cope with the emotional toll? MM: One of the hardest things right now is social media and the news. It’s around all the time, whether it’s on the TV in my house, or opening up my phone and going to any form of social media. I’ll either see a sad post of a senior trying to wrap up their
four years and put it all into words, or stories about what’s happening in the world. One way that I’m trying to combat that is by not paying as much attention to social media, taking a break and distancing myself from it. I think that just causes a lot more anxiety. I think a lot of us are having anxiety about jobs, about not really getting to finish what we expected to finish and having it end in such an abrupt way. There is also anxiety in living with our parents, grandparents or elderly people that could be severely affected by COVID-19, and fears that we could be silent carriers. A lot of students are scared of making their parents or loved ones sick. That’s something that a lot of us are trying to cope with and to understand. Making sure that you are social distancing, listening to all of the protocols. On top of that, it’s setting boundaries for yourself. Don’t stay on social media for a long time, make sure that you’re doing your classwork; find a quiet, private place in your home. Also, make sure that you’re getting out of the house. That’s something that has definitely helped me a lot over the past few days. In between classes or meetings,
going on a walk or going on a drive and making sure that I’m breathing in fresh air and seeing sunlight and blue skies. It really makes me feel better. And staying connected with my friends and people that I go to school with, video chatting to be able to see people’s faces. As soon as I see their face it sort of makes me feel better. MCQ: Are there any university or student-led initiatives to help students cope emotionally? MM: The university is continuing is its counseling appointments if they had been made previously to the closure. Those will be taking place via phone. I think it is really awesome that students are still able to get that help. Right now, a lot of us are trying to rally around remembering all of the great times that we’ve had, highlighting why it has been so great to be “orange” for the past four years and everything that we’ve gained out of this experience.
I think a lot of us are having anxiety about jobs, about not really getting to finish what we expected to finish and having it end in such an abrupt way.
We’re trying to make the best out of what has happened. All of the students, everything that I see, is just so supportive. Everyone’s willing to lean on each other and just be there.
MCQ: How do you think this might impact college student mental health longterm? Or the mental health of people in your generation? MM: This is such an unprecedented situation and it’s something that brings out a lot of anxiety and depression. Regardless of what is happening around the world, sitting in our houses for a long, undefined time period is definitely going to have a long-term effect, especially on our generation. The anxiety and the stress about the future will have an impact. It’s going to be a strange time to be entering the real world and learning how to navigate that, potentially in an economy that is going into another recession. Many students will be navigating that with student debt, wanting to get on their feet, but being hindered from doing so. I think long-term it’s just going to be something that stays with us, especially for seniors that are not having commencement. That is such a monumental moment in your college career, in your entire life, and for it to end 20
the way that it did is going to have lasting effects. MCQ: Many students cannot return home, whether they don’t have another home to return to, or they are international students that may not be able to return to their home countries. What is Syracuse doing for vulnerable students? MM: The university is allowing those students to stay on campus. I think there are over 700 students still on campus - international students that can’t go home - and the university plans on supporting them in any way that they can. The dining halls are offering to-go options so students can go and pick those meals up throughout the day. They set up shuttles so students can get to places like Walgreens and a local grocery store. The school is providing options for students that have to stay on campus, and they recognize that that could be throughout the summer, and they’re going to, from what I understand, continue to support those students and provide them with any resources that they may need.
MCQ: Have any faculty or advisors offered any useful advice or comments on maintaining mental health and wellbeing during this time? MM: Many professors have offered themselves up as resources if we want to talk about anything. In a lot of my classes, professors know that we’re all seniors and recognize how hard and challenging this is. Both of my classes that have met so far have provided a time for us to talk about what’s going on. They have offered up the opportunity to meet with them one-on-one to talk about how we’re feeling so that they can be a resource if we need anything. They have made themselves available as someone who will listen. The same thing goes for advisors. They’re recognizing how hard this is and trying to be there to listen to our concerns and offer suggestions and encouragement. I think that’s the most important part. The recognition of this challenge, and their willingness to work with us as much as they can.
Leadership Convening on Student Behavioral Health By Dana Humphrey Photos By Phil Humnicky, Georgetown University
n March 2 and 3, student and academic affairs professionals, experts, and researchers from around the country gathered at Georgetown University for the second in a two-part convening series focused on college student behavioral health and wellness. The gathering of administrative leaders from these two areas was an attempt to bring the “two sides of the house” together towards common student wellness goals. The meeting followed a September forum where college and university presidents met to build a deeper understanding of the role higher education plays in maintaining student well-being. The Higher Education Leadership Convening on College Student Behavioral Health brought leadership teams from many of the same institutions present in September to find institutional solutions to better students’ overall well-being and academic success.
The event began with a dinner on the 2nd, featuring a joint presentation by Alan Schlechter, MD, and Dan Lerner, MA, co-authors of U Thrive: How To Succeed In College (and Life) and coteachers of the course “The Science of Happiness” at New York University. Part lecture/ part standup, the presentation reflected the same humor and humility the pair brings to one of the most popular courses at NYU. Georgetown President Jack DeGioia opened Tuesday’s events with a reminder of the distinctive responsibility of higher education in supporting the development and formation of young people. “Our gathering today brings us together to respond to the question, how should those of us in higher learning and each of our individual roles as provosts, deans, as vice presidents, as heads of student and academic affairs, and as institutions, how should we understand our
responsibilities in addressing the challenges of our young people in this moment?” he began. Acknowledging the group of dedicated leaders, he said “We all seek to provide a context for our students to become their most authentic selves, to live in accord with their most deeply held values, to realize their full promise, to understand the depth and breadth of what they’re capable of contributing to our world.” And with a nod towards the gravity of the task ahead, he closed, “It’s urgent that we recommit ourselves to this distinctive responsibility.” Zoe Ragouzeos, PhD, Executive Director of the Counseling and Wellness Services at New York University, and a Mary Christie Foundation board member, provided a bridge from the Presidents’ Convening in September and set the stage for the day’s discussion. Dr. Ragouzeos acknowledged that student 21
health and wellbeing and student success are inextricably linked, saying “If our students are not well, physically and mentally, they cannot possibly progress or excel academically or even be retained in college at all.” Building on President DeGioia’s remarks, Zoe asked how to define “flourishing,” how to achieve it for all students. “Who will help us to achieve student flourishing? Whose job is it to ensure that our students are happy and fulfilled? We established back in September that this work cannot possibly begin and end with the counseling centers,” she said, sparking what would become a major theme of the day: opening support communities to all campus partners – especially for the faculty. She asked, “How can we make it possible, and in fact, desirable, for the faculty to build a culture of wellness in their classrooms?” Concluding, she challenged the
audience by saying that inaction is “no longer an option, and that creative solutions is our only frontier.” Behavioral Health and Student Success The first panel of the day, moderated by Georgetown Provost Robert Groves, PhD, focused on the connection between wellbeing and student success, and the work of building better outcomes for students. Participating in the panel were Amelia Arria, PhD, Professor of Behavioral and Community Health and Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health; Daniel Eisenberg, PhD, Professor and Director of the Healthy Minds Network at the University of Michigan School of Public Health; and Adanna J. Johnson, MA, PhD, Associate Vice President for Student Equity and Inclusion at Georgetown
University. In a brief presentation at the top of the panel, Dr. Eisenberg presented the Healthy Minds Network’s “economic case for investing in mental health,” which directly links mental health with student success, and demonstrates a return on investment for schools that invest in campus mental health services and programs. The Healthy Minds Survey data show that students with depression are about twice as likely to drop out of college. According to Dr. Eisenberg, “If we can reduce depression, then we can retain students, we can help them remain in college and that could translate to potential tuition revenue… as well as probably more importantly, economic productivity for the young people because they will have more years of college education.” Eisenberg also provided recommendations for university
Georgetown President Jack DeGioia opened the Higher Education Leadership Convening on College Student Behavioral Health at Georgetown University. 22
leadership and administrators, arguing against putting more resources behind old approaches that don’t work. He called for investment into proactive integrated approaches that cut across campus settings, financial aid, academic services, and health services, citing curriculumbased approaches similar to the one presented the previous evening. Dr. Arria stressed the importance of taking all dimensions of health and wellness into account, including psychiatric status, substance use and physical health, acknowledging that all of them need different levels and types of intervention. While some students will need help from the counseling center, Arria also touted the need to invest in wellbeing initiatives that can increase health literacy and give students a better understanding of the problems that they may be experiencing. For substance use prevention particularly, Dr. Arria explained the need to use both individual strategies such as improving access and availability of clinical monitoring and services, as well as environmental strategies to limit access and availability and refine and enforce our policies. Much of Dr. Arria’s research has focused on the relationship between behavioral health and academic per-
formance. Emphasizing that behavioral health is one of the critical elements to academic functioning, she acknowledged the common (but improving) division between academic and student affairs, calling it a “missed opportunity” to improve their common goal, student success. “It’s all about promoting student success in the end,” she said. And “working together rather than in separate divisions.” Dr. Adanna Johnson spoke to the effects that equity and inclusion issues can have on both mental well-being and student success, expressing concern for the student experience both inside and outside the classroom. “We know that the experiences that they have can be a detriment to or enhance their overall mental health and wellbeing,” she said. “So, when I think about students’ success, I certainly consider their academic achievement and performance, but also their fulfillment and the sense of self efficacy that they have to engage in those pursuits.” For this reason, Dr. Johnson promotes a “whole institution approach” to the work of equity and inclusion. Georgetown’s Office of Student Equity and Inclusion, under Dr. Johnson’s leadership, engages all aspects of the university. Their council on student equity and inclusion
represents academic deans offices, student engagement, the academic research center, and all centers that support specific student populations, like the LGBTQ resource center. In taking this approach, Dr. Johnson examines the structures and processes that shape student experience and wellbeing. She looks for barriers to success in places like admissions policies and advising practices across the institution. “What is the landscape of our institution?” she asks. “What do we do well? Where do we have gaps? What do our peer institutions do well? Where can we learn from them? And what are the best practices?” The Practitioner’s Panel In the second panel of the day, titled “Innovation in Practice,” administrators discussed their own approaches to student wellbeing. Moderated by Todd Olson, PhD, Vice President for Student Affairs at Georgetown University, the panel featured one administrative team from Rollins College, Leon Hayner, MEd, MBA, Associate Dean of Students and Susan Singer, PhD, Provost, as well as Brown University’s Director of Counseling & Psychological Services, Will Meek, PhD. Dr. Olson opened by calling to mind some of the cre-
ative tensions involved in the pursuit of student wellbeing, including the focus on proactive versus preventative measures, the focus on change and growth for the individual versus the change and support of culture, and the reliance on tried and true, evidence-based methods versus trying bold, new experiments. Dr. Meek’s widely praised changes at Brown’s counseling center exemplify how to use evidence and experimentation towards better outcomes. Looking for a creative solution to the problem of long wait times and other systemic problems within the counseling center, Dr. Meek started to experiment with different formats for treatment, creating what he calls the “flexible-care model.” The model includes same-day access for an appointment, variable session lengths, and the removal of assessments at the beginning of appointments, in order to begin treatment right away. “We assess what the issue is and consider safety, of course,” he said. “But then we’re really spending all the time focusing on what they want help with.” Despite leaning into experimental strategies, Dr. Meek said he relies on the “common factors,” or the core components of counseling that make treatment effective. “That’s something 24
I think about a lot,” he said, “making sure all of these common factors are still in place no matter what format we’re working in. Meek’s changes reduced wait times down to about two to three days and resulted in 90% of students remaining on campus for care. He noted that overall, it has “made a huge difference in the identity and the whole feeling of the center.” Leon Hayner, from Rollins College, spoke to the importance of relationships, and specifically the mentoring relationships between faculty, staff, and students that he called “the foundation of the ethos at Rollins.” Hayner cited a Gallup-Purdue Index that measured higher education outcomes and showed the long-term impact of having mentors who believe in students and get them excited
about learning. In agreement was Dr. Susan Singer, his colleague, who cited the strong evidence for a sense of belonging on campus. Coming from an academic affairs perspective, she shed light on the significance of a “meaningful” education, which she said is particularly true for groups that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education. Singer referenced a strong evidence base for providing an education that will move students towards a meaningful life in service of a community. Seeing an increased interest in social entrepreneurship in their business classes, Hayner says, “Students want to use their education, want to use their talents, their skills, their strengths, to go out and actually change the world.” Dr. Singer concluded the
panel with a call to action for her colleagues in the room. “Don’t accept the system as it is,” she said, “think about ways that you can move forward and the levers you can pull.” One Caring Person The luncheon speaker was Jared Fenton, founder of The Reflect Organization, a national mental wellness
nonprofit that works with college students. Fenton underscored the reality of what many young people are facing today as they struggle with their mental health while pretending to be okay, worried the world will see through the perfect, curated image of themselves. Fenton, a recent college graduate himself, started the Reflect Organization to provide a space for students to find genuine connection and engage in “allied, authentic, self-loving conversations.” Fenton promoted the idea that every college student needs
“one caring person,” someone who is invested in their wellbeing and success. This idea is adapted from a study by Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child that shows that children who do well despite serious hardship have had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult. The idea clearly resonated with the panelists and audience, who returned to it throughout the afternoon. Curriculum and Wellbeing The last presentation of the day was a panel discussion focused on institutions taking new directions in the space of integrating academics and well-being, featuring Richard Miller, the President of Olin College of Engineering; Dr. James Hudziak, the Director of the University of Vermont’s Wellness Environment; and
Left: Laurie Santos, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Yale University and creator of Yale’s most popular class, Psychology and the Good Life. Top right: Will Meek, Ph.D., Director of Counseling & Psychological Services at Brown University. Bottom right: Robert Groves, Provost at Georgetown University. 25
Laurie Santos, PhD, a Professor of Psychology at Yale University. The panel was moderated by Marjorie Malpiede, MPA, Executive Director of the Mary Christie Foundation. Dr. Santos is the creator of Yale’s most popular class ever, “Psychology and the Good Life,” which she created after witnessing students struggle with stress, anxiety and depression as the Head of Silliman College, one of Yale’s residential colleges. Just under one in every four Yale students enrolled in that first class, which teaches students how to lead a happier and more satisfying life. The frame of the class is to show students that often, their preconceived notions about what drives happiness are incorrect. “When you teach a class about the science of happiness, students walk in with strong intuitions from their culture, their background about the kinds of things that matter,” she says. “Many of those intuitions, at least according to the data, seem to be wrong. It doesn’t seem to be money once you’re beyond the poverty line. It doesn’t seem to be material possessions.” To convince driven, highachieving Yale 26
students that good grades do not matter to their happiness, providing evidence is critical. Dr. Hudziak is the founder and Director of UVM’s Wellness Environment, an incentive-based behavior change eco-system that motivates students to engage in healthier behavior. WE, which has its own dormitory, offers fitness classes and trainers, mindfulness mentors, a nutritionist, music lessons and mentoring. The students (and their parents) sign a contract promising not to have drugs or alcohol in the dorm. Students are required to take the course, “Healthy Brains Healthy Bodies,” which explores wellbeing from a neuroscience perspective. According to Hudziak, “It’s time for the world to rally around the point that brain health and building healthy brains during childhood and adolescence” is the path to overall health and wellbeing. The lesson of the curriculum-based programs is that demand for them is extraordinarily high, and expanding them should be a priority, whether making them campus-wide, expanding to other schools, or putting them on-
line to make them nationally available. Dr. Miller described the institutional experiment that was – and is – Olin College of Engineering, an innovative model in engineering learning and education overall that makes purpose and wellbeing part of what you learn upon graduation. He said one of the challenges of this approach is to encourage faculty to educate more than students’ minds. “It’s not just about teaching their head,” he said, “it’s about teaching their heart at the same time.” To do this, faculty must be willing to be vulnerable with their students. Dr. Santos agreed, urging the need for institutional support for faculty. She says this work requires an elimination of some of the “sacred cows” of higher education. It was a theme which stitched together the entire convening: the responsibility for student success and wellbeing to be shared. Not only between the counseling center and student and academic affairs, but also among faculty, leadership, and students themselves. In his closing remarks, Dr. Miller encouraged his colleagues in the room to “reach across the aisle and shake hands with the folks” from different parts of the university to achieve this common goal.
The Jed Foundation to Launch Program for High Schools By Marjorie Malpiede
or the last 20 years, the Jed Foundation (JED) has helped hundreds of colleges and universities strengthen their approaches to protecting their students’ emotional and behavioral health. They will soon offer similar support for high schools in a move that reflects both the importance and the need to address emotional wellbeing much earlier.
significant demand for even more support. “Schools were asking if we can help them in the same way we help colleges – by helping to assess and strengthen the policies, program and systems that can promote students’ mental health and reduce risks for suicide.”
“We’ve always thought that it makes sense to start earlier than college in developing things like resilience, social and emotional skills and mental health literacy, which is why we developed “Set to Go,” said JED CEO John MacPhee, referring to the high school-focused program that helps students and their parents prepare emotionally for the transition to college and adult living.
According to a 2017 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services, 31 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 28, according to the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
MacPhee says that when working with high schools on the “Set to Go” resources, the organization was met with
“Teachers, counselors, and psychologists are reporting an increase in social-emotional challenges and dif-
High schools were asking if we could help them in the same way we help colleges.
ficulty regulating attention, concentration and executive functioning with students,” said Dr. Liz Donalds, a licensed clinical psychologist who works with public school systems. “Increased academic pressures, along with 24/7 social media access can exacerbate already existing mental health issues and vulnerabilities.” As experts confront the increase in mental health issues, JED is working on offering high schools a framework for action and prevention. “Our premise is that schools need to have a strategic plan – a comprehensive plan based upon a needs assessment and resulting recommendation to address identified gaps – so they are intentional about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and how it all fits together,” said MacPhee.
MacPhee said that many of the resources that guide schools in planning for mental health support already exist but need to be aggregated and deployed accordingly. To give high schools the same type of strategic planning framework it offers to colleges, JED is revising its signature JED Comprehensive Approach for Colleges and Universities and its JED Campus assessment on which a school’s campus plan is based. To help do so, they have partnered with Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, Director of the College Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital, to create a Comprehensive Approach for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for High Schools. Pinder-Amaker said she and her team are working with JED to synthesize the research literature to develop
an evidence-based model for high schools, highlighting the need for strategic planning, equity and the integration of multi-culturally informed considerations across every domain (e.g., for promoting social and emotional learning and academic skills, a safe environment, help-seeking behavior, school connectedness, etc.). “We wouldn’t wait until the first year of college to begin teaching study skills and critical thinking. The same is true for mental health, said Pinder-Amaker, who notes that trends in college student mental health have been directing the field precisely toward these “upstream” strategies. “Secondary schools, teachers, staff, parents and community members are uniquely positioned to work together to seamlessly promote critical mental health skills, but
they need support,” she said. “The new model and technical support will help guide these efforts.” To get insight into high school students’ perspectives on their own mental health, help-seeking behaviors and awareness of supports, JED has enlisted the help of Drs. Daniel Eisenberg and Sarah Ketchen Lipson and their team at the Healthy Minds Network to develop a high school version of the Healthy Minds Survey, the widely used annual survey study examining students’ attitudes, awareness and behaviors on mental health among undergraduate and graduate students. Off and Running
“With secondary schools, parents and families become a very Photo by Javier Trueba via Unsplash important comWith the comprehensive ponent framework and survey nearto the ecosystem. Students ing completion, MacPhee (mostly) live at home and in says JED will be working with communities, so when you between 5 to 10 schools by think about things like identithe end of the year. While he fying someone who might be hesitates calling these “pilot struggling, and then intervenschools,” he said that part of tions or systems you can put serving these first schools is in place, it can be more comto learn and make potential plicated.” adjustments to the model, MacPhee says the concept particularly given the many of recognition and referdifferences that exist between college and high school ral to care is key, which, for populations, starting with the high schools, will require a fact that high school students heavier reliance on finding and working with providers are not adults. in the community. Participation in the Healthy Another major difference is Minds survey, therefore, will in the numbers. require parental permission. 29
Through its JED Campus program, JED currently services 310 of the country’s 3,000 or so non-profit colleges and universities, whereas there are some 40,000 high schools in the United States. For MacPhee, this raises questions about how to best scale the program and resources. “What level of assistance will be most beneficial for districts and individual high schools? What is that lowest effective dose of technical assistance and support to help schools create a comprehensive plan for strengthening mental health supports and reducing risks for suicide? “Given the number of high schools in the country and the potential for significant interest in the program, what will the sources of revenue be to help us scale up to meet that demand? These are the kinds of questions we are working through.” 30
JED Campus is offered to colleges at a subsidized cost that covers a four-year period. While there will be a price to the new high school program, the JED High School launch has to date been funded by generous grants from the Morgan Stanley Foundation, Jolene McCaw Family Foundation, Saks Foundation and other funders. As they refine their framework and work through their scaling model, the JED High School program will likely benefit from a national trend in which states are requiring K-12 school districts to provide mental health education and to have a mental health and suicide prevention planning process. California now requires suicide prevention protocols and plans for all high schools; and legislation is pending in other states, including New York calling for comprehensive
mental health planning and training. These trends reflect the growing concern of the public that we not leave the mental health of teens and young adults to chance – an assertion that underlies JED’s work in both high schools and higher ed. “Our goal is to create a movement, and an understanding among all the stakeholders, that schools represent a tremendous opportunity to protect the mental health of young people and, accordingly, schools should have a thoughtful, comprehensive and inter-disciplinary plan to promote mental health and reduce risks for substance misuse and suicide that becomes standard practice. We’re here to help, but our long-term vision is that we are not needed because the vision becomes the norm.”
Q&A: Marion Ross Fedrick, President of Albany State University Interviewed By Marjorie Malpiede In talking with President Fedrick, you can’t help but feel that she is the right person for the right job at the right time because of her passion, tenacity, and experience. At a minimum, you are cheering her on, given all Fedrick hopes to accomplish at Albany State University (ASU), a historically black university (HBCU) in rural Georgia. Fedrick calls herself an unlikely president who came to the leadership position from her role overseeing the transition of former president Dr. Art Dunning. ASU had also just completed a consolidation with Darton State College, a two-year institution in the same area. As a former vice chancellor for the University System of Georgia, Fedrick’s background is in administration and negotiations, skills that are transferrable to her role as president. It is her belief in ASU’s potential that inspired her to go from “interim” to “perma-
nent” president in 2018. “I fell in love with Albany State,” she said as she talked about the school’s “access mission” and its dedicated and determined students. The institution now enrolls approximately 6,000 students – 65% of whom are Pell Grant-eligible – who pursue associate (two-year), bachelor (four-year), and professional degrees. A Pell Grant recipient herself, Fedrick worked two full-time jobs while earning her degrees at the University of Georgia – an outcome assumed in a family with high expectations. Her experiences drive her leadership of the school’s student success initiatives, which acknowledge the challenges faced and overcome by first-generation students and students from low-income communities while providing a successful pathway to graduation. When asked about the most significant barriers to success in college, Fedrick puts main-
taining robust mental health right up there with financial factors. She is tackling student mental health head-on, both at Albany State and as a leader in the University System of Georgia’s system-wide task force that is examining the issue across all 26 state institutions. Fedrick worries about the enormity of the problem for her students and is candid about not having all the answers – or the resources. It is clear from our conversation that she is aggressively pursuing both. We spoke by phone in February. Mary Christie Quarterly: You’ve been president of Albany State for two years. How did you come to this position? Marion Ross Fedrick: I genuinely believe it was destiny. My exposure to and love for Albany State began during my interaction with it, and the other 25 institutions, in my position as the Vice Chan31
cellor of Human Resources for the University System of Georgia. While there, I was intricately involved with every campus, every president, and most of the decisions that impacted the University System. As vice chancellor, I often assisted ASU with organizational, strategic, and governance support. Two years ago, when the former president, Dr. Art Dunning, decided to retire, I was asked to lead the transition team, which was both a challenging and rewarding endeavor. Albany State University and Darton State College had recently become one university through a consolidation effort, and now the faculty, staff, and students were beginning to connect as one school. After the president’s transition, I intended to return to the university system, but there was a different plan on the horizon. I accepted the role of the interim president, which eventually led to the position of president. Every step of my career was bringing me closer to the university and the university closer to my vision of an institution that would thrive after the consolidation, increase enrollment and graduation rates, and improve the student experience. The students, faculty, and staff are phenomenal. I felt a connection to Albany State and all that it has to offer. When you engage with
our scholars and experience the kind of desire that they have to be successful, you just want to be part of it; it’s contagious!
our way to figuring out who we want to be in the future. We are now positioned to take the next step forward in our journey of discovery.
MCQ: How has the consolidation changed Albany State?
One of the most significant benefits of consolidation is our ability to identify, support and create, an early pathway for students who start as part of the two-year track with the desire to obtain a four-year degree. Our “Pathways to Success” program helps them successfully make the transition.
MRF: The consolidation was another turning point in the story of the institution’s 100+ year evolution. The consolidation has brought about positive changes, including an increase in enrollment, an expansion of our academic portfolio, and we now offer a broader spectrum of degrees, including associates, bachelors, masters, and a specialist degree. Also, the changes have earned us a spot as one of the largest HBCU’s in the country, and the ability to honor both ASU’s and the former Darton’s missions under one roof. The consolidation also brought to the forefront the same challenges that other consolidations in the University System highlighted. There is that phase where the two institutions still want to work under their old policies, and individuals are positioning themselves for leading positions. Everyone is trying to figure out where they fit in this construct of a new institution. Change is difficult and often unwelcome. Even today, our institution is still learning who we are under this new university, but we are well on
Additionally, as one institution, the disconnect between the former university (ASU) and the college (Darton) is less apparent. The two schools, just physically 4.5 miles apart, tended to function separately and not in support of the transferring students or the community. As a result, there was a disconnect in the support for students. Students historically transferred from Darton to ASU, but without the needed support to be successful, which impacted the students’ ability to obtain a four-year degree. That’s what we’re doing here. That no longer is an issue. We now want to attract those students who come to us under the two-year umbrella and immediately let them know, “If you want a four-degree, here is your pathway.” MCQ: What kind of support goes into that?
MRF: We are continually reevaluating our student success program to support the academic and social success of our students. Approximately two-thirds of our student population is Pell Grant eligible students, and many are first-generation scholars. We also have an access mission, which means we provide extra support for these students to ensure they have the resources to be successful in their freshman year, which improves retention and graduation. Albany State University is a university where you can be comfortable with who you are, and you don’t have to make excuses for what you have or don’t have. You can unapologetically be you. We eagerly accept students to our access programs – meaning their standardized test scores are lower than the prerequisite – and admit them to general associate degrees and invite them to participate in our “Summer Success Academy.” The Academy immediately indoctrinates them into how and what it means to be a college student. They get individualized study skills and learning style assessments. We want to know how each student learns so that we can provide support for their learning styles. We want them to be very clear about what motivates them. We have academic skills workshops – that include but are not limited to time manage-
Photo courtesy of Albany State University
Albany State University President Marion Ross Fedrick.
ment, note-taking skills, how to engage with your professors, how to have difficult conversations. We want them to also begin considering their career options as soon as they start working towards their degree. MCQ: How important do you think mentoring programs are for your students? MRF: Mentoring is essential and, indeed, has been a big part of my success. As a president and African American female, I have benefited from strong mentoring relationships that have supported, coached, and sponsored me throughout my professional journey. Because I know the benefits of mentorship, it is a top priority for me to bring those same experiences to
our students. We all bring a different lens to this conversation that deserves a voice. I look at it this way: without mentoring, you can easily get tripped up; you need people who can coach you, sponsor you – it can make or break students. Mentors can provide examples of how to be successful in the board room and how to use networking to build professional relationships effectively. Mentors can explain to students the criticality of managing social media; students must understand that what you do today will be out there years from now, so be careful. We certainly do our part in the classroom to stress that point, but mentors have the ability to make such messaging resonate.
Mentoring also impacts what happens in the mental health space with students. Mentors give encouragement and act as sounding boards for our students. I want every student to have a mentor. MCQ: What do you think are the most significant barriers to student success? MRF: The majority of our students are academically strong, but they may struggle financially. This burden is ever-present before, during, and after they matriculate through college. I also consider the mental and emotional health of our students as a challenge for many. We are addressing this challenge by increasing Albany State University student programming, is a place where you can encouraging students to be comfortable with who get involved in different organizations, and supyou are, and you don’t porting our counseling have to make excuses for and disability services what you have or don’t programs.
We also encourage students to take a fresh approach to support their mental health and we are starting to see a difference. MCQ: What has been your experience here with addressing student mental health? MRF: Student mental health is a pervasive problem nationwide, and working together with the entire Univer-
sity System, we are engaged in problem-solving. The students’ needs for mental health are quickly outpacing our ability to train and or hire counselors. It has forced us to be more creative and implement other solutions like partnering with community organizations, using technology, and group settings. Institutions will never buy their way to success in this area. We have to engage students and professionals to come up with a collective engaging answer to the problem. We are also taking a holistic approach to ensure the entire campus – students, faculty, and staff – is healthy. We are new in the process of evaluating its effectiveness, but the engagement is promising. The buy-in from the students has been high. We are seeing students who want to help each other, and we have to model the behavior by providing the techniques to help them be successful. Sometimes, it is simple things like when I ask, “How’s your suitemate? Are they attending classes and engaging in campus activities? If so, how did they look?” I want our students to know that it is okay to be intentional with your concerns for others. It is critical to check on each other. MCQ: How is addressing mental health different at a school like Albany State?
MRF: There is a stigma in our community about mental health and asking for help, and the impact of stress is real. For that reason, the stigma is more prevalent among our students, which means the resources required to service them have to be more advanced and intense than in other institutions. For example, in the black community, people are expected to work out their problems without engaging others. It is part of the culture. Some don’t fully trust the healthcare systems. Because of the cost of healthcare, even with multiple incomes, families can’t afford to purchase adequate coverage, so students do not have experience with using insurance. Sometimes, the emergency room becomes the safety net for health care. Instead of preventive care, some students are trained to wait until there is an emergency to seek help. The other dynamic is that we have a lot of first-generation students at ASU. Often, these students stress about disappointing their families or other relatives who have invested in their college education. Some students question their worthiness while others remain tethered to home for support or other reasons. ASU enhances the student’s support system at home, and in the absence of support systems at home, we become
their support system. It isn’t always finances that the student needs, sometimes it is an encouraging word, reminding them they are worthy, and we are here to support them regardless of the challenges they are facing. We owe them the opportunity to succeed. MCQ: What is the president’s role in addressing student mental health? MRF: As the president, working with the faculty and staff, you set the tone and priorities for the campus. I have laid the foundation, but there is still much more work to do. I often remind students of the importance of self-care via social media with a tweet about self-care and peer care such as: “Take care of yourself and others.” I know once that message is there, others will become engaged. One challenge is having the resources ready and the plan in place for everyone to participate. MCQ: What do you hope comes out of the Task Force work? MRF: First of all, I am grateful that the Chancellor’s office and the Board of Regents decided to apply a holistic approach to student mental health and have made mental health a priority. In the absence of that level of commitment, every campus would continue to struggle without resources or support.
It also opens the door to how we can collectively find solutions that would help our entire student population. Our focus has been on the students. Our goal is to have a final report in May. We will be making a host of recommendations to our University System. Among the advice may be to extend the task force timeline because there is much work to do. There is a baseline of support that I believe the University System of Georgia should have in place being the fourth largest university system in the country – some basic things we should make sure everyone in our institution has access to and is required to do. MCQ: Where do you want Albany State to be in five years? MRF: I have big goals and dreams for Albany State: enrollment will continue to improve; student success (retention and graduation) to be high; faculty and staff to remain engaged with the university that they have helped to frame; to be the healthiest campus in the nation both physically and mentally. To achieve these goals, we must be strategic, tenacious, and intentional in our actions. Now more than ever, with the ever-changing landscape of higher education.
Interesting People Doing Important Work By Marjorie Malpiede
Most in the field of college mental health will remember that the American Council on Education (ACE) conducted a survey last year indicating that eight out of 10 college presidents saw student mental health as a rising priority. They might also remember that an ACE brief written by the Healthy Minds Network showed the impact of untreated mental health issues on GPA and retention and advocated for mental health investments as part of an ROI strategy. The person behind these efforts is Hollie Chessman, PhD, whose roles at ACE grew from post-doc to research fellow to her current position as Associate Director for Research. Chessman says her focus at ACE is a reflection of a former ACE board member’s interest and the organization’s growing commitment to the concerns of its
Hollie Chessman members -- higher education leadership – about the rising rates and negative impacts of mental health issues among college students. “My research focus at ACE really underscores the place student mental health holds among the priorities of college presidents,” said Chessman who has relied on her experience as a former student affairs professional. “It is a wonderful opportunity for me personally to be able to speak to a national audience about an issue I have been interested in for the last 15 years.”
Prior to coming to ACE three years ago, Chessman worked in student affairs at Tulane University, Lake Erie College, Loyola University New Orleans, and George Mason University. Her research interests focus on well-being among students and student affairs professionals, on which she wrote her dissertation. She spent over 10 years in student housing, including as associate director of residential life, where she saw firsthand how mental health and wellbeing issues manifested in residential communities.
Over her last several years in housing, Chessman noticed that student mental health and wellbeing issues were getting increasingly more serious.
ties: student success, equity-minded leadership and institutional transformation - all of which she sees as interwoven.
“You had the feeling this was happening but there wasn’t really a lot of data that could shed light on it as a larger higher ed issue,” she said. “Now the longitudinal data from Healthy Minds and ACHA, show us how pervasive the problem is. I feel like doing the work to amplify that data and show the importance of addressing these issues is something that I owe to students in higher ed today.”
“If students don’t have positive mental health, they have trouble completing their degrees and there are equity and ethical concerns around that as well,” she said.
A Substantial Platform ACE is a member organization that mobilizes higher education communities to shape public policy and foster innovation. Considered one of the most influential higher ed associations, ACE, which is based in Washington DC, conducts policy, research and advocacy on a range of higher education issues. Its president, Ted Mitchell, was Under-Secretary of Education in the Obama administration. As the Associate Director for Research, Chessman says she wears several hats. In addition to leading research efforts specially focused on college student mental health and wellbeing, she works with colleagues to advance her division’s three priori-
I feel like doing the work to amplify that data and show the importance of addressing these issues is something that I owe to students in higher ed today.
Chessman says that in addition to conducting her research, her job is to translate research into practice. She spent the first couple of years of her position building networks and relationships across different mental health and wellbeing organizations – groups she calls “fabulous partners” like the Jed Foundation (JED), the Steve Fund, Healthy Minds, Active Minds, ACHA, and others. To amplify the messages of advocates and experts, Chessman started a blog series on ACE’s Higher Ed Today platform and has published over a dozen essays from scholars and practitioners in the field. Her own research includes “College Student Mental Health and Well-Being: A Survey of Presidents” that significantly “moved the needle” on the universal need for higher education to address the student mental health crisis.
When asked if ACE has a specific point of view on the subject, Chessman quickly referred to the October 2019 op-ed by ACE’s Ted Mitchell that called for a comprehensive, campus-wide approach to the problem. “Mental health and well-being among students is a serious and complex problem and should not be the sole purview of our campuses’ counseling centers….. Administrators and faculty and staff members all have a role to play in ensuring that students are not only surviving but also thriving,” – Inside Higher Ed. Advancing that point of view is part of Chessman’s passion for the job and it appears as though she is just getting started. ACE’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to higher education has acknowledged a heightened concern for student mental health. Chessman believes these
issues will only become more concerning for higher education leadership as they begin to dig out from the massive implications of school closings. In terms of ACE’s research agenda, next up is an analysis of the many mental health task forces that presidents and/or provosts have called for over the past ten years. “We’re doing an analysis across public-facing reports to give college leaders an insight on important consider-
ations to think about as they pursue similar efforts,” she said. “What are issues task forces are looking at? What data are they pulling from? and what can they replicate in terms of recommendations?”
Chessman is also working on a brief with Wake Forest University’s wellbeing collaborative to understand what steps institutions can take to support students of marginalized identities -- an example of the intersection of mental health, equity and inclusion that permeates all facets of ACE’s work. Chessman received her PhD from George Mason University and her MEd and BS from Kent State University.
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Proms, Parties and the Power of Social Norms in Preventing EventSpecific Alcohol Use in High School By Michael S. Gilson, JD, Ph.D.
A “mock crash” program is a simulated car crash that takes place at a school. It involves a driver who is “intoxicated” and police and fire departments participate, heightening the realism for the students. The dangers and consequences of drinking while driving and riding are both shown and explained to the assembled students.
recently met with a school district administrator about conducting a research project in one of the district’s high schools around alcohol use during high school prom, since this can be a high-risk event related to drinking, driving, and other behaviors for students. I knew that there was interest in this as this particular high school conducted a “mock crash” program shortly before senior prom every year.
The school administrator interrupted our free-flowing conversation with a blunt question – she asked whether I thought the mock crash that they do is effective in reducing harm among their students. The truth is, there is little evidence that these programs are effective in decreasing risky behaviors. While I considered my response the administrator stated, “I don’t think they work.”
Taken aback, I asked her why the high school continues to do this program every year. She responded with a sigh, stating that they had sought to discontinue the program but parents objected and the district felt that they didn’t have any alternatives available. As a researcher who studies substance use and risk behaviors, I would like to think that school districts are implementing evidence-based prevention efforts. As a pragmatist, I recognize that limited resources and a lack of readily available programs can make this difficult and that doing “something” can be viewed as preferable to doing nothing. The good news is that high school alcohol prevention efforts stand ready to benefit from a promising body of research on reducing college drinking. This line of re39
search focuses on addressing drinking during high-risk events, like high school prom, by providing students with personalized normative feedback. High School Alcohol Use is Common and Risky Even though it is illegal, alcohol use is pervasive among high school students. Most teens initiate alcohol use before age 18, with over 60% of adolescents reporting that they have drank alcohol prior
to leaving high school. Further, heavy drinking occurs with some frequency among 12th graders with over 1 in 5 reporting 5+ drinks, 1 in 10 reporting 10+ drinks and more than 1 in 20 reporting 15+ drinks in a row on at least one occasion during the past two weeks. This early use contributes to unintentional injury, suicide, fatal crashes, addiction, academic struggles, and social/ interpersonal impacts.
Percentage Who Reported Drinking at Event Compared to Normative Perceptions 93.6 86.3
Senior Prom 40
Clearly, drinking in high school has real and profound consequences for students. Identification of High-Risk Events Holds Promise for Decreasing Harms Associated with High School Alcohol Use Prevention efforts to address high school drinking commonly take a general approach that seeks to decrease alcohol use and associated harms by influencing attitudes and educating students. However, a compelling complementary approach is to target alcohol use associated with specific, high-risk, events. A key assumption to this approach is that heavy alcohol use does not occur with equal probability on each day during high school but is more often associated with certain events and times. Identification of drinking tied to specific events, because they can be anticipated and are time-limited, creates the opportunity for targeted interventions. These targeted efforts have great potential to reduce a disproportionate share of harms. An effective targeted alcohol prevention effort, then, requires accurate identification of high-risk events. While little research has been conducted to identify high-
risk drinking events in high school, anecdotal evidence abounds. News stories during high school prom and graduation season frequently warn of the dangers of underage drinking. In addition, popular high school films often depict these as times of rampant alcohol use and accompanying risky behaviors. Preliminary data supports alcohol use at specific events. I recently collected pilot data from over four hundred college students and asked about alcohol use during their senior year in high school. Roughly 1 in 4 of these participants reported drinking alcohol during senior prom and during a graduation party. Relationship of Social Norms to Drinking Behaviors Effective alcohol intervention programs frequently rely upon social learning theory that suggests, in part, that perceptions of peer behaviors such as perceived descriptive (e.g., the perceived use of alcohol by others) and injunctive norms (e.g., the perceived approval of drinking behavior by others) exert powerful influences on personal alcohol use. Research has consistently shown that perceived social norms are among the strongest pre-
dictors of alcohol use among college students and teens.
The good news is that high school alcohol prevention efforts stand ready to benefit from a promising body of research on reducing college drinking.
Further, research has reliably demonstrated that perceptions of both descriptive and injunctive norms around alcohol use are often inaccurate – individuals consistently overestimate the quantity and frequency of drinking among peers as well as overestimating approval of drinking behavior by their peers with the greatest misperceptions occurring for typically heavier drinkers. Lessons from Research on College Drinking
Researchers studying alcohol use in college students identified a number of high-risk events – notable among them are 21st birthday celebrations and Spring Break – where college students drank at higher rates. These researchers found that college students consistently overestimated the number of other students who drank during these events and overestimated the amount that others drank. Intervention messages focused on correcting this bias and reducing perceived norms for general drinking and event-specific drinking (e.g., 21st birthdays) have proven effective in reducing
drinking during high-risk events among college students. The logic behind these normative interventions is straightforward – college students may drink to “match” the perceived drinking norm. Since alcohol norms tend to be inflated, an intervention that corrects normative misperceptions can reduce drinking behaviors. Towards a Norms Based Alcohol Intervention of HighRisk High School Events While norms-based interventions have proven effective in addressing high-risk drinking events in college, similar efforts have not been used to target high-risk drinking events in high school. This effort is overdue, and adapting event-specific interventions to a high school population is an area of research that I am currently pursuing. Revisiting the pilot data that I previously mentioned around alcohol use during prom and graduation, we see a stark example of the same inflated perception of alcohol use among other high school 41
students when compared to reported drinking behavior. For both the senior prom and a graduation party, study participants reported a belief that nearly everyone drank alcohol. However, actual drinking behavior was much lower with 3 out of 4 not drinking during these events. This was indicative of an inflation bias in normative perceptions around how widespread drinking was during these events. In addition, participants believed that others drank significantly more than actual drinking behavior, indicating an inflation bias in quantity of alcohol consumed at these events. These findings were consistent with research on college students and this presents an opportunity to intervene and reduce drinking behaviors by correcting these normative misperceptions. Steps a High School Can Take to Intervene in HighRisk Events These preliminary data suggest that alcohol use during high school can be reduced and student populations made safer by targeting high-risk events. Steps for this intervention are relatively straightforward. The first requirement is to accurately identify a high42
risk drinking event. In this article, I have suggested prom and graduation as candidates but these events could vary by institution. The second requirement is to accurately assess risk behaviors of interest during this event. I have suggested the quantity of alcohol consumed around the event as well as the number of students who consume alcohol. Other high-risk variables could be of interest such as driving or riding in a car with someone who has been drinking alcohol. With these two pieces of information, high-school prevention specialists could then implement a brief, personalized intervention that contrasts alcohol-related behaviors with an individualâ€™s normative beliefs.
Addressing Social Norms Can be Effective Graduating from high school can be an exciting transition for students, one that should be celebrated. Prom and graduation parties serve important functions. Parents, educators and administrators alike want this to be a safe time for their students. There is a need for effective, evidence-based interventions that can help students safely navigate this time and these events. Circling back to my conversation with the school administrator: I applaud that the district recognized the need to address risky behaviors around a high-risk event and I encourage them and other school districts to consider implementing a norms-based intervention on its own or to complement ongoing efforts.
Readers interested in learning more about creating a norms-based intervention or who would like assistance with creating an intervention are encouraged to e-mail the author, Dr. Gilson, at email@example.com. His center at the University of Washington has consulted with high schools and colleges nationally in best practices for developing and implementing evidence-based practices to meet the needs on individual campuses, including the development of personalized feedback programs and other screening and brief interventions for alcohol and substance use.
I Belong By Maggie Messina
pproximately nine million students and alumni are members of fraternities and sororities in North America. Roughly 750,000 of those members currently belong to an undergraduate fraternity or sorority chapter, yet there is much debate on whether Greek life should remain a part of the college tradition. As a current member of Tri Delta at Southern Methodist University, I can speak to the benefits Greek life has offered me, particularly when it comes to belonging.
As one of the first people in my family to belong to a Greek organization, I joined because of what I heard from other friends and alumni. It was said many times, â€œmy time in greek life gave me some of my best memories.â€? I lacked a great group of friends in high school, so I was very intrigued by the fact that I could soon have 40 best girl friends from around the country.
tives was very comforting to me. Moreover, as young adults, we put on such a mask when we post on social media platforms. It is all about who has the fancier clothes, who goes on the best vacations, and so on. Since technology is making it so much easier to be someone you arenâ€™t, girls and boys are finding it harder and harder to show their truest selves to the people in their lives.
Being so far from my family, it was important to me to find somewhere else I could call home. There is a huge loneliness epidemic on college campuses. Although we are all connected through social media now more than ever, there is still this feeling that no one is truly invested in what is going on in your life past how your weekend went. I was nervous that at times when I needed a support system, would I feel alone? Being a part of a sorority with girls of similar values and unique perspec-
Being a part of Tri Delt has allowed me to be exactly who I am. It has given me the opportunity to share my opinions, life desires, and family stories with no judgement from anyone. I know walking into that house that I can have a genuine conversation with anyone. A sense of belonging was exemplified by the weekly Monday night chapter dinners, the several philanthropy events for St. Jude, the pep rallies and gatherings before football games, the mixers with fraternities on campus, and parents 43
Being a part of a sorority with girls of similar values and unique perspectives was very comforting to me. . . being a part of Tri Delt has allowed me to be exactly who I am. weekend extravaganzas. On top of that, the recruitment process created such a strong bond between my friends and me. We spent days organizing and practicing walk throughs of rush week. The laughs I will get from acting out the infamous dog pile and chant that we were required to perform for hours a day will be a great party story in my adult life. I have watched as the shy boy, the football player, and the funny guy down the hall from me all arrive back from their chosen fraternities with a swagger in their step. It brings me great joy to watch as the years progress how belonging creates confidence in every facet of a personâ€™s development. Fraternities and sororities push a person for excellence in fields such as academics, sports, music and philanthropy. As we mature past our desires to only please our parents we begin to want to make our fellow 44
members proud. Wearing your fraternity and sorority gear around campus and back home gives you a sense of pride and belonging. You may connect with a stranger who belongs to the same chapter as you wearing your Greek letters in a different state- a sense of belonging on a national level. Belonging, commitment, and striving for excellence are all things I had hoped for myself. In the past few weeks, I have been so heartbroken and lost without my sisters in Dallas. During this arduous time, mental health is certainly at risk. College kids survive off social interaction whether it be in the dining hall, the dorm, in accounting class or at Starbucks in the student center. This quarantine is like taking a fish out of water. I cannot wait to reunite with everyone come the Fall. I am not ignorant to the fact that Greek life can live up to its negative reputation. There have been cases of binge-drinking gone wrong and hazing. It can also appear that Greek life is based on
socio-economic status, race, and gender. Yet most colleges and universities work hard to make sure that each fraternity and sorority is maintaining the ideals and principles set forth by their founders and aiding in the personal and professional development of its members. Instead of putting the gauntlet down on all sororities and fraternities, we should examine the original intent of these organizations. They are places where kids can create meaningful relationships, support one another, become and grow as leaders, learn networking and professional skills and discover the importance of community service. Most importantly, they are a place where kids can feel like they have a purpose and a strong sense of belonging. I hope we can all turn our focus to the positive benefits of Greek life and put it at the forefront of why these organizations are so important for many students across America especially in these unnerving times.
Analysis: One Crisis with Varied Responses By Adam C. Powell, Ph.D.
these actions, responses were quite diverse.
s the threat of COVID-19 escalated, colleges and universities had to make quick decisions regarding how to best protect the welfare of their students, faculty, and staff. Institutions with residential learning environments had to decide both how classes should be transitioned to online teaching, and the extent to which people should be removed from the campus and asked to shelter or work elsewhere. Although there was one common pathogen that caused all
The differing responses of colleges and universities was likely in part a byproduct of the differences in the situations present at their campuses, the nature of residential life on their campuses, and their preparedness to foster online teaching. Campuses in remote parts of the country with few cases of COVID-19 may not have perceived the same sense of threat as urban campuses situated near substantial outbreaks. Residential life likewise plays a different role at different institutions; some house all their students in university-owned housing, some house students in a combination of university-owned and Greek-owned housing, and some have a significant population of students that commute from home or live in non-university housing. Institutions with a mixture of undergraduates and grad-
uate students have different considerations than those with only undergraduates, as some graduate students may not have living parents or other family members able to shelter them in the event of a campus shutdown. Large populations of international students present their own challenge, as not all can easily return home. Likewise, institutions vary in their familiarity with online content delivery. While some have maintained active online degree programs for years, and have the know-how and infrastructure in place to offer such programming â€“ in some cases with no changes at all, other institutions do not have a background in delivering online programming. The COVID-19 pandemic has not been evenly spread across the United States. At the time of writing, cases were disproportionately in the State of New York; New York had ten times the cases present in California, 45
although it had only half the population. While New York had experienced nearly 60,000 cases, Wyoming and South Dakota had each experienced under 100 cases. As a result of this variation, the actual and perceived risk that As online instruction campus leaders faced becomes a growing was not the same on all component of education, campuses. Institutions in states and nations the abrupt transition with fewer cases have brought about by perceived greater potenCOVID-19 may change tial relative downside to disrupting the lives and the way universities do educations of their stubusiness for years to dents than institutions come. in states and nations with greater numbers of cases. Institutions with a multi-campus model have in some instances taken different approaches in different locations, on the basis of the differences in risk. On March 5, 2020, Northeastern University moved its Seattle campus to online teaching only, in response to the early cases that had appeared in that city, while keeping its main Boston campus open for live instruction. A series of closures of the other campuses followed, based upon the state guidelines impacting each of the locations. On March 24, over two weeks after the closure of the Seattle campus, the Charlotte 46
campus was closed for live instruction. Class size was a factor in some closure decisions. As social distancing guidelines focused initially primarily on eliminating large gatherings, large lectures were viewed as posing a different level of risk than small seminars. On March 9th, 2020, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that it would be moving classes with more than 150 students online later in the week. The following day, MIT announced that all classes would be moving online, regardless of class size. As understanding of the danger of COVID-19 evolved, the sense of danger around gatherings broadened to include small gatherings as well as large ones. Residential life likewise created different sets of issues on different campuses. While undergraduates are often perceived to be between the ages of 18 and 22, the average American undergraduate is in fact 26.4 years old. Teaching colleges often have no graduate students, while research universities have mixtures of undergraduates and graduate students â€“ and in some cases, no undergraduates at all. The differing needs of undergraduates and graduate students has led to
differing residential life responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, in some cases, offering different approaches to the needs of undergraduates and graduate students within one institution. On March 10, 2020, MIT asked undergraduates living in both dormitories and Greek housing to leave campus no later than March 17th, in part due to the dangers posed by the shared facilities within such environments. An exemption process was put in place for international students with potential visa issues or COVID-19 concerns in their home countries, students without other homes, and students whom believe it would be unsafe for them to return home. Graduate students were not asked to leave their housing due to the more private nature of their housing. The need for an exception process proved significant; MIT had 4,530 undergraduates, of which over 400 received approval to stay in on-campus housing. While roughly 40 students intended to stay on campus for two weeks or shorter, the majority of applicants requested longer stays. Thus, leaving campus can impose a severe hardship on a significant portion of undergraduates, particularly at an institution with a large international
student population. Beyond addressing housing issues, meeting international studentsâ€™ F-1 visa requirements for on-campus instruction was an initial concern, although it was eased through a temporary waiver by the government. Recognizing the burden of closing its campus to international students at the outset of the crisis, on March 16, 2020, Liberty University announced that it would remain open, but that most of its residential classes would be delivered online. Students were allowed to return to campus after spring break if they wished to do so. On March 29, Liberty University announced that those students who had not returned by midnight that night would be asked to self-quarantine in single rooms for two weeks upon their return, and would have their meals delivered. Dining facilities on campus remain open for takeout, and campus fitness centers remain in operation, although both were limited to occupancy by ten people at one time. While the educational component of the
institution was completely virtualized, residential life was maintained for the students that preferred or needed to remain on campus. The ease of transitioning to completely teaching online additionally varied between institutions. A number of institutions have historically offered online courses to their students using platforms such as Blackboard and Canvas. Institutions with existing licenses for online teaching platforms, instructors familiar with using them, and libraries of prerecorded content were able to make the transition with far greater ease than institutions without such resources. Pre-existing online courses were able to be launched without a hitch or interruption at institutions that had already been planning to deliver them in the spring semester. While institutions of higher education generally transitioned to online instruction in response to COVID-19, many created gaps in their semesters to allow faculty time to prepare. At some public schools offer47
ing primary and secondary education, additional issues were encountered with online instruction. Federal regulations do not require primary and secondary schools to provide online instruction while they are closed. Federal guidance states that schools should not mandate online classes if they cannot accommodate all students, including those in special education and those with technology issues. Offering online classes inequitably would be a violation of the right to free access to public education. As a result, some institutions decided to not offer online classes at all.
access was a major problem in their area. Even suburban and urban Americans were not spared, with 9% and 13% respectively reporting issues with obtaining high-speed Internet access. Thus, lack of pre-existing institutional and student readiness for online instruction may have been a barrier to the rapid transition. The response of Americaâ€™s institutions of higher education to COVID-19 was not uniform, for likely legitimate reasons. Namely, some institutions were located in higher-risk geographies than others. Likewise, institutions and their students varied in their abilities to move towards online instruction and to head home. Ensuring that students had safe housing was a particularly serious concern for
Just as institutions varied in their readiness for online education, students varied as well. One survey utilizing a nonrepresentative sample found that a number of students had difficulty maintaining access to technology due to a combination of issues including broken hardware, data limits, and connectivity issues. Likewise, a 2018 survey of rural Americans found that 24% reported that obtaining highA quad at Babson College. speed Internet 48
institutions with substantial international student populations. Nonetheless, by proactively recognizing the issues with residential life, instructor preparedness for online learning, and studentsâ€™ abilities to access to online materials, institutions of higher education can prepare for future situations in which live instruction must be discontinued. As online instruction becomes a growing component of education, the abrupt transition brought about by COVID-19 may change the way universities do business for years to come. Furthermore, the potential for there to be subsequent waves of the pandemic make it all the more essential that universities equip themselves to maintain normal operations while running a virtual learning environment.
Photo by Marjorie Malpiede
Adam C. Powell, Ph.D., is President of Payer+Provider Syndicate. He holds a Doctorate and Masterâ€™s degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Health Care Management and Economics.
Science Summary A recap of research worth noting. By Dana Humphrey
Equity and Admissions Policies
As admissions policies nationwide are scrutinized more closely, two recent papers address policy changes that can affect equity in higher education. According to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Texas policy that promises in-state college applicants in the top 10% of their high school class admission to any of the stateâ€™s universities increased access and improved graduation rates. The researchers found the Top Ten Percent rule, introduced to improve equity in college enrollment, brought in more students from high schools with higher shares of underrepresented and low-income populations and decreased access for students from the more advantaged, traditionally â€œfeederâ€? high schools. Additionally, the researchers observed higher graduation rates among students from the typically underrepresented high schools, as well as some evidence for gains in earnings 7-9 years after college. With the policy in place, students from the more advantaged high schools tended to attend less selective colleges, but did not experience declines in overall college enrollment, graduation, or earnings.
Another recent paper, Income Segregation and Intergenerational Mobility Across Colleges in the United States says that a hypothetical policy of giving middle-class and low-income students the same edge that legacy students receive in college admissions would help decrease economic segregation in higher education. A team of economists showed that, relative to high-achieving affluent and low-income students, students with high test scores from the middle class enroll in Ivy League-caliber institutions at lower rates. The research suggests that the proportion of middle-class students on Ivy League-caliber campuses could be increased to 38% from 28% by enrolling more of those who have the same high SAT scores as wealthy applicants. The paper also shows that changes in college attendance patterns would have substantial effects on upward mobility among college-goers in the U.S. They state that equalizing attendance rates for students with the same test scores would reduce outcome gaps by 15%.
Free College Poll
A study from the Pew Research Center, conducted in January, found that nearly two-thirds of Americans (63%) support tuition-free public college for all U.S. students, including 37% who strongly favor the proposal. The study also shows considerably partisan and demographic differences in opinion of tuition-free college. While 83% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults Pew surveyed favor free college, 60% of Republicans and those who skewed Republican oppose the
Update on Hunger and Homelessness
The updated 2019 #RealCollege survey led by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University, reveals a continuing problem with food and/or housing insecurity affecting college students in the U.S. Now in its fifth year, the survey was completed by more than 167,000 students at 227 community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. Seventeen percent of students who answered the survey reported being homeless at some point in the previous year, 39% said they were food-insecure in the prior 30 days, and 46% said they faced some level of housing insecurity in the previous year. The rates of food and housing insecurity are lower than they were for the sample of students and colleges assessed in 2018, while results for homelessness remained the same.
concept. Republicans under age 30 slightly favored tuition-free college, and were more than twice as likely as republicans 65 and older to support it (55% vs, 24%). Generally speaking, the age divide over the proposal was stark: While 75% of adults under age 30 favor this proposal, it drew support from only 47% of those ages 65 and older. Just over half of white Americans (53%) favored free public college, compared to 86% and 82%, respectively, among black and Hispanic adults.
The report shows that basic needs insecurity continues to be more common among students attending two-year colleges compared with those attending four-year colleges. The report also found that Black and Indigenous students, students identifying as nonbinary or transgender, students enrolled part-time, and students who are former foster youth, are at greater risk of basic needs insecurity. To address these issues, the Hope Center calls for programs to advance cultural shifts on college campuses, engagement with community organizations and the private sector, more robust emergency aid programs, and a basic needs-centered approach to government policy.
Higher Education Decreases Premature Mortality
According to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, post-secondary education reduces the risk of early death. To assess whether education is associated with premature mortality, researchers analyzed data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which followed a cohort of 5,114 black and white men and women for 29 years. Roy, B. et al found that each level of education attained is associated with 1.37 fewer â€œyears of potential life lost.â€? The authors also note educational disparities grew wider between 1990 and 2000 and persisted or worsened during the 2000s.
Heightened Risk for Eating Disorders among LGBTQ Students A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that LGBTQ college students are more likely to develop eating disorders than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. Researchers, using data from the College Student Health Survey, found that cisgender women, transgender and gender-nonconforming students reported higher rates of eating disorder diagnoses than cisgender men. In comparison to their heterosexual peers, lesbian, gay and bisexual students also had a higher likelihood of having these disorders, and cisgender bisexual women had the highest rates. The researchers concluded that additional preventative efforts are needed to reduce prevalence among marginalized groups. 51