Each December, student life vice presidents and deans from member institutions of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest and the Great Lakes College Association meet in Chicago. Our meeting provides us an opportunity to share and learn from one another about key issues we face on our respective campuses. Over the past two years, we have spent an increasing amount of time discussing the current environment regarding student well-being.
One of my colleagues was sharing the environment on his campus—the increased demands for mental health services, the need to build and enhance resilience, and the need to more effectively work upstream with a focus on prevention. When he finished, I shared that he had just described Luther! We all acknowledged that his description was apt for all our campuses. It is helpful to be in community with others who share the same challenges and see similar opportunities and to share and exchange ideas and prospective solutions. Of course, there are no quick or easy solutions.
One aspect of Luther’s strategic plan focuses on improving student well-being. At our meeting in Chicago, when we discussed our campus environments, several campuses stated they had recently increased resources in support of student mental health. Our respective campus settings may differ, but we collectively are experiencing the same challenges to meet the increased demands for such services on our campuses.
With Luther’s strategic plan, we are confronting and addressing the challenges we face. Goal 2 of the strategic plan states that we will be a community of inspired, engaged, and resilient individuals empowered to thrive and serve in an ever-changing world. Part of this work entails revitalizing systems and facilities that support wellness.
In the fall, students received an update regarding the comprehensive fee for the 2019-20 academic year. Within the comprehensive fee, a new health and well-being fee will directly support additional health and wellness services, resources, and programs for students. We are currently planning for the introduction of new services, resources, and programs as a result of the fee.
One direct outcome is that an additional mental health counselor position in the Counseling Center has been created. We launched a search for a new counselor in December and anticipate the new appointment to begin in February. We have also identified a new resource to complement the traditional, in-person therapy the center provides—one that will allow students to engage with a support program on their own schedule. Additionally, our counseling center staff have made adjustments to their delivery model over the past several years as they have faced demands that have outpaced our capacity. More work is being done as we continue to explore options for the center, and I anticipate updates regarding their program-delivery model will be available in future newsletters.
Supporting wellness during a student's college years helps to prepare them to better manage the challenges they will face when they move into their career, continue their education in graduate or professional school, or provide essential services and care in deep volunteer positions. Ultimately, our collective work at Luther should help to ready students for success in life and career—and that is worth every ounce of prevention.