The last academic year brought a major focus on mental health and well-being to the WPI campus as the community and the nation faced a crisis in youth mental health that was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. To work towards nurturing a culture of wellness that promotes healthier habits, behaviors, and decisions that permeate all areas of the community, in September 2021, President Leshin convened a Mental Health and Well-Being Task Force (MHWBTF), which was made up of students, faculty and staff. The Task Force’s main charge was to seek input from all members of the community in order to better understand the intersection of mental health and well-being and the rigors of higher education, and to identify new opportunities to support the community.
Led by co-chairs Jean King, Peterson Family Dean of Arts & Sciences, and Matt Barry, assistant director of the Student Development & Counseling Center (SDCC), the Task Force included more than 35 students, faculty, and staff and gathered information from a major survey, town hall listening sessions, and many other sources to identify high-level findings which were presented to the community by way of three reports focused on students, faculty and staff, and underrepresented groups on campus.
“The six-month effort of the task force was essential in destigmatizing mental health issues of all community members at a critical stressful time for WPI. The Task Force provided listening sessions, data collection and data analysis that supported the expansion and, more importantly, the steps to make the university’s mental health initiatives sustainable. The data pointed to common issues experienced by community members and identified ways we can take individual responsibility for our own self-care while building a more resilient community for all,” said Jean King, Peterson Family Dean of Arts & Sciences and co-chair of the Mental Health and Well-Being Task Force.