Well-Being: Blossoming in the Classroom

“The collegiate well-being movement has started to blossom.” -David Bryngil

“Students—and faculty—are hungry for the opportunity to belong, to create community, to relate. With a little focused intention, we can satisfy this hunger.”  -CNDLS’ Laura D. Valtin, Mindy McWilliams, David Ebenbach

In CNDLS’ work on the Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning we aspire to promote not only student well-being on our campus but also a vibrant conversation on well-being that extends beyond our walls. And so we’re thrilled to be among the contributors to the current issue of the magazine Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education: “Mental Well-Being and Illness: Our campuses show they care”  (Fall 2018).

As its title suggests, Conversations acts as a kind of forum in publication form where educators at Jesuit colleges and universities can come together to share their ideas and questions. In the current issue, we described our experiences with the Engelhard Project in a piece entitled “Well-being in the Curriculum,” written by Laura D. Valtin (former CNDLS Project Coordinator), Mindy McWilliams (Senior Associate Director for Assessment and Programs), and David Ebenbach (Project Manager and Professor of the Practice). We were joined in the magazine-long conversation by colleagues from Fairfield University, Gonzaga University, Regis University, Seattle University, Loyola Universities of Chicago, Maryland, and New Orleans, and more. In these pages these authors consider, among other things, the crises that many of our students experience while on campus; the ways in which well-being is refracted through dimensions of class, documented status, and sexuality; and the role that Jesuit institutions of higher education can play in creating atmospheres where students can thrive.

The issue culminates in a list of ten questions “for continuing the conversation.” As we begin another semester—where we’re always likely to encounter students who exhibit a wide range of well-being (or lack thereof)—we include a few of those questions here, and some answers as well:

Q: Where are the places/spaces on our campus that provide support for students on our campus? (counseling centers and beyond?)

A: A good place to start at Georgetown is Student Health Services, or the Campus Resources list provided by Student Outreach Services (SOS). These are the folks that make up the campus safety net. And note that CNDLS and SOS are co-sponsoring a Safety Net Training session for faculty on September 13th from 12 – 2 p.m. You can register here.

 Q: What are ways that I let students know that I am supportive of mental health needs? (syllabus language, readings in class, etc.) Are my course policies (on attendance, late assignments) able to accommodate students struggling with mental illness?

A: You might find our Teaching Commons page on Teaching Well-Being useful.

And a few questions for you to ponder yourself:

Am I comfortable discussing mental health? How do issues of mental health impact my work on campus? What are some personal experiences with students/faculty/staff that have impacted this viewpoint? How do we define cura personalis in the context of mental health on our campus? How do I care for my own mental health? Prayer? Conversations with family and friends? Exercise? Therapy or counseling? Community? How do I know when I am NOT taking care of my mental health? What are those impacts on me?

Check out the full issue of Conversations to read more and to consider more questions. And don’t hesitate to keep the conversation going. We’re hosting two faculty conversation series this semester, one on Teaching to Mission and one on Inclusivity and Well-Being, and the invitation to new participants is open. You can find out more here, and you can sign up here. Or, as always, feel free to reach out to us at cndls@georgetown.edu. We’d be glad to hear your reactions to the issue, as well as insight into the issues of student well-being you’re seeing in the classroom, and will be happy to help you think through how to shape your teaching to address them.