The Mary Christie Foundation Names a New President
The Mary Christie Foundation has named Zoe Ragouzeos, PhD, the Executive Director of Counseling and Wellness Services at New York University, as its next president. Ragouzeos, will advise the Foundation on its educational programming, outreach initiatives, and research agenda. “My work at NYU shows me every day how critical mental health and wellbeing are to a young person’s development and to their success throughout their lifetime,” said Ragouzeos. “I am thrilled to be advising an organization that has done so much to examine these issues and bring the conversation about student mental health into important policy circles around the country.”
Dr. Ragouzeos’ pioneering work at NYU has made her a national spokesperson for mental health and wellness service innovation on college campuses. She has been a Board member of the Mary Christie Foundation since 2016.
The Chronicle of Higher Education hosted a virtual forum on “Campus Well-Being During a Continuing Crisis.” Moderated by Chronicle senior reporter Sarah Brown, the forum brought together leading college counseling leaders — Monica Osburn of North Carolina State University, Cory Wallack of Syracuse University, Stacia Alexander of Paul Quinn College, and Asia Wong of Loyola University in New Orleans — to discuss student wellbeing this fall amidst the global pandemic, the nation’s reckoning with racial injustice, and the upcoming divisive presidential election. The event was an authentic and pertinent look into campus wellbeing during this tumultuous time.
In a piece in Forbes, Marvin Krislov, president of Pace University, discusses what educators can do to support struggling students this year. The answer is straightforward, he says. “We need to be aware, we need to be accepting, and we need to be supportive,” Krislov writes. “We need to recognize that the mental health and wellbeing of young adults will be an ongoing challenge – one that isn’t new to the pandemic, but one the pandemic has exacerbated – and we need to talk about these issues, acknowledge them, and destigmatize them. It is up to all of us to help students get the support they need, and it is up to government, corporations, and foundations to fund those important resources. Bolstering the mental health of young adults is crucial to their success in college and to the productivity of our future workforce.” He stresses that, “We all need to be a part of supporting mental health and wellbeing among young people. We can’t silo this work, and, especially in this challenging time, we certainly can’t ignore it. We all need to look out for our students, be aware of the particular challenges they might be facing and be ready to direct them to the professional resources they need.”
In an op-ed in the Hechinger Report, Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA and Dave Jarrat, who writes on issues related to higher education and student success,, describe how the pandemic has “compounded long-standing mental health struggles, exposing more students to the trauma of personal and familial illness, financial hardship, displacement and psychological harm.” Kruger and Jarrat write that institutions must redouble their efforts to address mental health. They believe that all faculty and staff should have training in trauma-informed communication and in triaging potentially dangerous situations, and that colleges and universities must “break down silos between all student-facing functions, developing an “all-hands-on-deck” culture.”
Yale Mental Health and Counseling started offering students day-of counseling sessions on some days in an effort to increase accessibility. According to an article in the Yale Daily News, students had previously struggled to connect with the clinicians and get the support they needed.
According to an article in the Daily Tarheel, the Office of the Chancellor at University of North Carolina is asking faculty to pause instruction on Friday in observance of World Mental Health Day. This announcement comes after students created a petition calling for a day off before the end of the semester. Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said that though the compressed academic calendar does not permit a day off, the pause in instruction may allow faculty to change a live lecture to a recorded one, postpone a due date or reschedule a quiz. The article reported that many students are feeling burnt out, taking online classes amidst the added stressors of the pandemic. UNC student Katie Horn, who created the petition, said, “It’s been super rough, to be honest. We sit all day in front of the computer, and then we get assigned to work and we have to sit in front of the computer even more.” In a campus-wide email, Guskiewicz wrote, “Taking care of our mental health is paramount during these extraordinary times. We all must attend to all aspects of wellness, recognize the necessity for individuals to exercise agency when and where they can and encourage as much flexibility as possible.”
Inside Higher Ed reports that applications and web platforms providing teletherapy and tele-mental health services to college students have gained renewed attention as campus counseling centers are inundated with requests for mental health services. The pandemic has accelerated the emerging market as more colleges embrace teletherapy to avoid in-person therapy sessions that could pose health risks. However, some say teletherapy services should be used with caution. Kelly Davis, director of peer advocacy supports and services for Mental Health America, a national mental health advocacy organization, said students may be “Zoom fatigued” and not want to do more video calls. She also stresses the importance of using evidence-based practices. “It is important that we make sure we are promoting tools that are effective and also honor that students want to receive support in different ways,” Davis wrote. “Even when students return to campus, some will want to receive in-person support and some will want to continue with virtual resources.”
College freshmen have turned to social media to develop friendships and relationships, as they join their new academic communities amidst COVID-19 restrictions. Collegesboston2024, an Instagram account for Boston students, aims to bring together college freshmen and foster community during a time when making new friends or creating a study group in-person demands shouting from across the room and trying to read social cues through their peers’ masks. “We can’t really rely on naturally organic, flowing relationships, which is what I thought was going to happen in college. We definitely have to… go out of our way to reach out to people,” said one of the students involved in running the collegesboston2024 Instagram account.
One Southern Methodist University student reflected on life inside an isolation pod after contracting the coronavirus, saying that the real struggle was finding the substitute for any social connection that would normally occur living in a dorm. For college students in isolation, the mental health effects can be just as potent as the physical symptoms of the coronavirus. “There is a lot of anxiety, uncertainty and no clear finish line,” said Denise Paquette Boots, an associate dean of undergraduate education at University of Texas at Dallas and an expert on mental health. “It is a compounding issue and isolation really exacerbates all of it … Self care is the most important thing right now.” SMU a counselor on call 24/7 for those in isolation pods.
In op-ed from the Editorial Board of the Middlebury Campus, Middlebury College’s student newspaper, called out the college for disciplining students for COVID-related infractions, including sending a number home for the semester, as the college shifts to new phases of campus protocol. According to the Editorial Board, the rules and guidelines are unclear to students and harshly punishing them for infringements may not only be undeserved but may also negatively impact students’ health and wellbeing.
Chad Dorrill, a 19-year-old at Appalachian State, recently died of a rare COVID-19 complication after recovering from the flu-like symptoms he experienced. Although colleges and universities have become hot spots in the pandemic, young people generally have been at lower risk for developing severe forms of COVID-19. Only a few college student deaths have been linked to the virus. The New York Times reports that Mr. Dorrill’s death has shaken the rural campus, sparking questions about whether the college is doing enough to keep its students and faculty safe. Appalachian State has not conducted the kind of costly, widespread mandatory testing and tracing of people with and without symptoms that has helped control the virus at some campuses. Cases at the school spiked sharply last week and students and faculty members are calling for stronger safety measures.
Appalachian State has been criticized for how it communicated the death of the student. Ralph Gigliotti, director of Rutgers University’s Center for Organizational Leadership and an expert in crisis management said that in cases involving the coronavirus, institutions need to take special care that an element of humanity shines through. Debbie Beck, a member of ACHA’s coronavirus task force and assistant vice president of health and wellness at the University of South Carolina said that administrators should remind campus constituents where they can seek help and outline counseling resources.
The New York Times reports that as campuses across the country have struggled with reopening, some, including Cornell College in Iowa, Amherst College and Colby College, are holding infections to a minimum, allowing students to continue living in dorms and attend face-to-face classes. The Times lays out some contributing factors, including geographic location, having minimal Greek life and aggressively enforcing social-distancing measures. But a major thread connecting the most successful campuses is extensive testing. Research indicates that fast, widespread and frequent testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic people is the best way to stop potential outbreaks.
Education Dive reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its coronavirus testing guidance for colleges and universities. Earlier guidance, criticized by many public health officials, advised institutions to test only people showing symptoms of COVID-19 and those with potential exposure to the virus.
In Inside Higher Ed, Viviana Geron, a sophomore at Duke University, and her mother, Marie Lynn Miranda, provost of the University of Notre Dame explain why they “consider in-person instruction more important than ever as our nation wrestles not only with the pandemic but also with myriad crises, including systemic racial and social injustice, political divisiveness, economic inequality, and access to educational and economic opportunities for young people.” Notre Dame made the decision to reopen for in-person education in May, and Duke announced its decision to bring students back to campus in June. After a spike in cases on Notre Dame’s campus that caused them to shut down in-person instruction for several weeks, Geron and Miranda write, “We believed then, and we continue to believe — and this has been borne out to date by the data — that our classrooms were safe and important to the personal and academic development of our students.” They write that they explain this strategy asks much for students, “ethically as well as academically” but that students are empowered to hold each other accountable and public health systems in place to catch problems early. The president of the University of Notre Dame recently tested positive for the coronavirus, several days after he attended the White House event announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame alumna, as President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Jenkins was widely criticized by students for not wearing a mask or following other public-health protocols at the event, who say he preached a standard of behavior to students, faculty, and staff members that he was unwilling or unable to model himself. He later expressed regret to campus.
This year, college admissions officers will be evaluating students’ applications without standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and in some cases, letter grades . In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Jeffrey Selingo, author of “Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admission,” explains why he thinks this will exacerbate inequity. According to Selingo, selective colleges will rely even more on schools they know best, typically known as “feeder schools” that can be relied on to produce students who perform well. This could result in an oversampling from private preparatory schools.
Mental and Behavioral Health
Yale University‘s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Good Life Center co-launched an online wellness workshop series designed to help student-athletes safeguard their mental health and navigate difficulties associated with the pandemic. The workshops are part of a new campaign called YUMatter — born of student-driven efforts and assisted by athletic administrative advisors — to instill a culture of openness and communication about mental health within athletics. The workshops focus on three topics: “Your Student-Athlete Identity,” “Coping with Circumstances Beyond Your Control” and “Coping with Loss.”
In response to the growing need for mental health services for students, Loyola University Maryland launched Togetherall, an online peer-to-peer mental health community moderated by professionals. Through the anonymous community, students can support others who are sharing similar experiences and feelings.
The Fairfield University Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs has been collaborating with Counseling and Psychological Services to address social justice through the lens of mental health. The offices have organized a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Book Club for faculty members, as well as the Breakfast Club, a training group that teaches faculty how to better support students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Student Counseling Services at the University of Minnesota has added new counseling affinity groups to support LGBTQ+ students and students of color navigating their identities amid the pandemic and increased social upheaval. The new counseling affinity groups will meet virtually on a weekly basis to bring together students with shared identities to foster connection and empowerment. “We’re dedicating some of these affinity spaces to specific BIPOC student communities in particular, because we know that a core component of health and wellness is feeling that our identities are acknowledged, affirmed, valued, and celebrated,” Alexa Fetzer, groups coordinator and staff psychologist for Student Counseling Services, said in an email.
Psychology Today reports that COVID-19 precautions are shifting mental health support away from in-person short-term talk therapy sessions, and towards digital options including apps, as they more safely support students on campus and remotely during the pandemic. In a recent study, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s Division of Digital Psychiatry, led by John Torous, MD, explored colleges’ offerings for remote resources, what students are looking for, and how students engage with the digital mental health resources. Though apps were the most commonly offered resources, the researchers found that many of them were outdated or discontinued, and/or had privacy concerns. Their data found that students want free, safe, customizable and credible resources, with an emphasis on credible information.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
In The Conversation, Lynne Anderson describes the scarcity of housing for college students who are parents. According to a Campus Family Housing Database, just 8% of all U.S. colleges and universities offer on-campus housing for such students, who are disproportionately low-income and students of color. Anderson writes, Now that university budgets are becoming tight due to COVID-19, I worry that student parents won’t be seen as a priority, if they are seen at all.” She emphasizes the importance of taking the needs of these students into account, because, “When students who have kids succeed, society benefits. College graduates embark on careers that are meaningful to them, earn higher wages that make them less likely to live in poverty and are more likely to volunteer and contribute in their communities.”
Nearly 3,000 Maryland residents are on a wait list for the state’s tuition-free program, the Maryland Community College Promise scholarship, which has experienced budget cuts due to the cost of combating the coronavirus. The demand outstrips what the state says it can supply, but, according to the Washington Post, the scholarship is more critical than ever amid the economic devastation unleashed by the pandemic.
The Common App will no longer ask applicants to identify high school disciplinary history, as research has shown that it disproportionately impacts students of color and those from low-income backgrounds. A statement from the Common App website reads, “It’s time to evolve the application. Eliminating disciplinary reporting requirements is a necessary step in creating a more equitable admissions process– and in turn, a more just economy.” Individual colleges and universities may still ask students for disciplinary history as a supplement to the Common App if they choose.
In a Hechinger Report Student Voice piece, Swathi Kella, a sophomore at Harvard University, discusses the enrichment that affirmative action, and the resulting diversity, brings to higher education. She illustrates this by pointing to one of her classes this semester, where Indigenous, Black, white, Latinx and Asian American students all participated on the same Zoom call, each bringing their own interests, experiences and backgrounds to the class discussion. She calls it “a testament to Harvard’s complex and multilayered admissions process.” She writes that this core element of the admissions process is under threat by a lawsuit, brought forth by Students for Fair Admissions, which “casts Asian Americans as the victims of racial balancing” and aims to gradually eliminate any consideration of race or ethnicity in decisions of who gets into top colleges.” She concludes that, “For more than 50 years, affirmative action has opened academic doors to those who have been historically excluded. This has enriched the academic experience of all students.”
A new study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute found that nearly 40% of student loan payers are helping someone else pay off their student loans, and 27% of these helpers hold no student loan debt themselves. Often, students’ families step in to help them carry the burden of the debt of their education. The study, which analyzed data from in 2015-2016, also says Black borrowers are likely to face a student debt “trap,” where their loan balances grow instead of shrink over time. About 13% of Black borrowers are likely to never pay off their student loans. Fiona Greig, director of consumer research at the JPMorgan Chase Institute, attributes this to the wage gap between Blacks and whites.
The U.S. Department of Education is investigating whether the free speech practices of Binghamton University in New York, violate federal law and regulation. The investigation stems from incidents last year, when protesters trashed tables displaying promotional and political materials from a conservative groups, and drowned out a speaker invited to campus. The White House has taken a special interest in campus free speech. The Chronicle reports the Education Department has pursued three known cases since President Trump issued an executive order directing federal agencies to ensure that institutions receiving U.S. research or education grants “promote free inquiry.” In all three cases, it has sided with conservative parties. Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said that while his organization had expressed concerns about all three cases, the Education Department “needs to have a strong track record of doing this evenhandedly. That’s how they can gain or lose the public trust.”
A new analysis from New America found that people who earned a bachelor’s degree at Florida community colleges were making about $10,000 more annually than their peers who received associate degrees in similar fields four quarters after graduating.
College and university students across the country, facing uncertainty related to their living situations, are experiencing issues with the voter registration and voting process. A number of schools brought students on campus only to send them home weeks later due to COVID outbreaks. While there are a number of campuses fully operating, students know that things could shut down quickly like they did in the spring. For this reason, many are struggling with where to register themselves and/or request mail-in ballots. Many schools canceled fall breaks to maintain campus bubbles, and so students who planned to vote early from home are no longer able.
Inside Higher Ed reports that, as Senate Republicans rush to confirm a conservative justice to the Supreme Court who many believe will nudge it toward invalidating the Affordable Care Act, concerns are rising about the potential that millions of college students would be left without health insurance. “It’s almost unimaginable, the idea of students losing coverage in the middle of a pandemic,” said Erin Hemlin, director of health policy for the millennial advocacy group Young Invincibles. The prospect of its loss is alarming to some students. Kaylyn Goode, a 19-year-old George Washington University sophomore who gets insurance through her parents’ employer said, “It’s scary to think about it in the current situation.” She continued, Even if we might not get as seriously ill” from coronavirus, “we don’t think we’re immune.”