President's Initiative on Enriching Campus Wellbeing
Student success remains our top priority at UTSA, and in recent years we’ve undertaken a number of initiatives to promote academic success among our students. Today — on the first day of classes for 2020 — we are introducing a new initiative that recognizes the intrinsic role that health and wellness play in a student’s academic and personal success. The President’s Initiative on Enriching Campus Wellbeing will seek to foster a culture of physical, emotional and social wellbeing at UTSA, for the benefit of our students, staff and faculty.
A recent study of UTSA students by the American College Health Association (ACHA) found that, at some point during the previous 12 months, 77 percent of our students reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do, 53 percent reported feeling overwhelming anxiety, and 34 percent reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function. This initiative recognizes the daily pressures our students face and the impact that wellbeing has on student retention, graduation, sense of purpose, faculty and staff productivity and more. It will seek to connect existing programs to coordinate a more comprehensive and holistic network of services.
Though the initiative will focus heavily on mental health at the outset, it will look broadly at eight dimensions of wellbeing — physical, social, spiritual, environmental, financial, occupational, psychological and intellectual — as endorsed by several leading higher education associations. Notably, this initiative will extend beyond the typical sectors of student health services and student affairs to consider how every aspect of the university — from policies and procedures to matters both in and out of the classroom — can impact overall wellbeing.
Through the initiative, we will model best practices among our peer institutions while also adopting a culturally competent approach that aligns with being a Hispanic-thriving institution. With a focus on prevention and early intervention efforts, the initiative will work to provide our students, faculty and staff with the tools they need for increased self-awareness and healthy lifestyle choices. National and UTSA data from ACHA’s National College Health Assessment will be used as benchmarks of our progress.
A first step of the initiative will be assessing strengths in our existing services, working to create synergies between them, and identifying gaps in current programs. One expected outcome will be enhanced training for all professional and student staff who work directly with students. In addition, we anticipate the need to create a website and awareness campaign to ensure all Roadrunners know about available resources and support services and how to access them.
This initiative will be led by Vice Provost for Student Success Tammy Wyatt, who is an associate professor of health education and whose own research focuses on health issues and behaviors among young adults and college students. Co-leading the initiative with Tammy will be Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Students LT Robinson and Director of Counseling and Mental Health Services Melissa Hernandez. Mary Diaz will serve as the third co-lead in her role as chief of staff in the Office of the President, conveying the importance of this effort as a presidential priority. This steering group is in the process of assembling a team of faculty, staff, students and community partners to plan this effort and assess its impact.
It is important to mention that there are many dedicated Roadrunners already engaged in this essential work; we are grateful for their past and continuing efforts. Just as student success is the responsibility of everyone who works at UTSA, this initiative will require commitment and engagement at every level across our campuses.
If you have ideas to share or are interested in getting involved in this effort, we encourage you to contact the steering group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Kimberly Andrews Espy
Provost & Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs