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Progress: Latest on Wellness at WPI

DEPARTMENT(S): 
November 19, 2021

This message was sent to the WPI community.

Message Highlights:

  • Earlier this week, students, faculty, and staff were emailed a survey about the campus climate regarding mental health and well-being. If you haven’t already, please take the time to respond.
  • Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and parents have provided input to the Task Force via 16 virtual and in-person listening sessions—thank you for sharing your insights and ideas.
  • The Task Force is absorbing and analyzing your feedback and will incorporate it as their work continues.
  • Given the volume of input, the Task Force will now provide their recommendations by mid-December, as originally planned.
  • Early actions are already underway (increase in counseling and advising staff, and much more) and we are in a position to act quickly as additional recommendations emerge from the Task Force.

Dear WPI Community,

I’m writing to update you on our efforts to position the WPI community to thrive for many years to come. Much is already happening, and through the focused efforts of the Mental Health and Well-Being Task Force, we are creating our longer-term agenda to ensure we center on the well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. I want to thank every member of our community for your engagement and passion as we work together to gain a better understanding of the specific issues WPI faces, and further develop the university’s holistic response.

Your voices are essential to this work. Earlier this week, students, faculty, and staff were emailed a survey asking for input regarding campus mental health and well-being climate. Please take the time to respond.

Listening, Learning for Short- and Long-term Actions
By the end of this week, the Task Force will have hosted 16 virtual and in-person town hall listening sessions for students, faculty, staff, and parents. Hundreds have candidly shared important perspectives, feedback, ideas, and suggestions for supporting our community’s mental health and well-being; it is greatly appreciated. We also thank all who attended the November 4 student gathering and march, and those who participated in the emotional and compelling discussion that followed.

In these sessions, you’ve shared personal stories of setbacks and coping strategies, meaningful insights, innovative ideas—and some hard truths—all of which will be given deep and thoughtful consideration. Your inputs will be combined with the results from the survey mentioned above, and all will be considered as the 45-member Task Force works to finalize its recommendations. Given the large volume of input the Task Force has received, we now expect their recommendations by mid-December. Some of the early outputs and near-term recommendations from the Task Force will be acted upon immediately, such as:

  • We have recruited two additional full-time counselors to the Student Development and Counseling Center (SDCC) staff, alongside additional per diem counselors. Current wait times for an initial intake appointment are 1–3 days at the most.
  • We are hiring additional staff in Academic Advising, Student Activities, and the Dean of Students office in direct response to student needs and will consider other key investments to support students as they are brought forward.
  • We are working with an outside partner to launch an after-hours telehealth service to augment our Counselor-on-Call system. This service will provide students with direct access to mental health counselors when the SDCC is not open in the evenings and on weekends. We are actively working with the partner to develop WPI-specific processes and acquaint them with our campus’s needs and resources so they can be responsive to students. We are on track to launch this by C-Term/Spring semester. Currently, our WPI Campus Police officers thoughtfully manage after-hours calls; they will remain available for medical and other emergencies.
  • We are working to launch online scheduling for the SDCC as soon as possible.
  • We expect to launch the new Center for Well-Being at WPI early in 2022. We have several highly qualified candidates to serve as the founding Director who will interview with student, faculty, and staff members of the Task Force and campus partners in the coming weeks.
  • Numerous students, faculty, and staff took advantage of drop-in grief counseling November 4 and 5 to process and grieve our recent losses. Thank you for taking care of yourself in this way; we hope you will continue to access support services on campus.
  • Thus far, more than 30 faculty and staff attended a workshop sponsored by the Morgan Center for Teaching and Learning to learn ways to incorporate wellness strategies into their course curriculum.
  • The SDCC has completed 12 Recognizing and Responding to Student Distress (RRSD) training sessions and several Student Support Network sessions for faculty, staff, and students to learn about signs of stress and how to guide students to help.  We will continue to host sessions and urge you to sign up as they are announced.

Please know that we—university leadership, members of the Task Force, and so many others across our campus community, including parents and alumni—are working with great care and commitment as we chart the best path forward for WPI.

Meanwhile, we ask that you please continue to connect with each other to create a web of support, and that you access the significant wellness resources available to our community. We will continue to communicate regularly and with as much transparency as possible through this process. Together, we will move forward and build a better WPI where well-being is at the center of all we do.

Thank you for your active involvement in our community-wide efforts to advance a thriving WPI.

Sincerely,
Laurie