Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University, was among 30 institutional leaders who attended a special forum on improving college student behavioral health, the first of two events on the subject involving institutions from across the country. The dinner and next-day forum took place at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23 and 24. It was hosted by Georgetown President John J. DeGioia and the Mary Christie Foundation, a thought leadership organization dedicated to the health and well-being of teens and young adults.
Another forum, involving provosts and student affairs deans from the same institutions, will take place on March 2 and 3, 2020, also at Georgetown.
Understanding how to support students with an increasing array of emotional and behavioral health issues has become one of the biggest challenges, and highest priorities, for college and university presidents, Dr. Becerra said. The Presidents Convening on College Student Behavioral Health provided an opportunity to share our responses to these challenges, to learn from one another and to examine how higher education can more proactively support college students well-being.
The escalating rate of mental health issues among American college students is well documented, dominating headlines and overwhelming college counseling centers. Colleges and universities in 2019 are faced with a new reality regarding college student mental health, one that requires a move from crisis response and short-term strategies to an acknowledgement of the data and long-term solutions.
It was this acknowledgement that inspired The Presidents Convening on College Student Behavioral Health, which drew 30 presidents and system heads from across the country. Leaders explored the many considerations within this paradigm shift, including the expectations for college student mental health among key stakeholders, what the data is telling us and how we can apply it, identifying best practices as well as new and innovative initiatives and asking how we can work together to move from crisis to structure.
The events began with a dinner on Sept. 23 in Riggs Library at Georgetown University featuring Dr. Corey Keyes, Professor at Emory University, who spoke on the importance of flourishing while at college. Next day discussions began with a facilitated conversation and Q&A session with practitioners Paul Barreira, M.D., Director of Harvard University Health Services and Zoe Ragouzeos, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President of NYU Student Mental Health.
Program highlights included a leadership panel with Sylvia Burwell, President of American University, Barbara Snyder, President of Case Western Reserve University and Kent Syverud, Chancellor of Syracuse University. Georgetown President John DeGioia served as moderator. Gabrielle Starr, President of Pomona College, also led a discussion on stakeholders. Finally, there was an expert panel moderated by Julio Frenk, President of the University of Miami, which featured the following institutional leaders:
- Sarah Ketchen Lipson: Assistant Professor in Boston Universitys School of Public Health and Associate Director of the Healthy Minds Network
- Nance Roy: Chief Clinical Officer of the JED Foundation
- Amelia Arria: Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development in the University of Marylands School of Public Health
- Ben Locke: Executive Director of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University
The event also featured the release of a new survey conducted by the Mary Christie Foundation on college student parents expectations and understanding of campus mental health. Throughout the day, presidents were asked to consider topics that should be included in the agenda for the second meeting in this series involving provosts and student affairs deans from the same institutions.