The below message was sent from James J. Valentini, dean of Columbia College and chair of the JED Steering Committee, on February 1, 2018.
Dear Undergraduate Students,
As we kick off this new year, I am writing as chair of the JED Steering Committee to give you the latest update on our partnership with the JED Foundation to enhance wellness efforts on campus.
First, I want to thank the 19 members of the JED Steering Committee for their work. Comprised of faculty, staff and students from across the University, I’m grateful for the many ways in which this group has collaborated to support these critical efforts.
As I described last fall in our prior update, our partnership with The Jed Foundation, the nonprofit organization helping us assess and improve on-campus wellness, continues. To date, we have completed the 120-question JED Campus Assessment of our policies, programming, services and outreach, submitted to JED proposals from the Columbia College Student Council, the Columbia Engineering Student Council, the General Studies Student Council and the Student Affairs Committee of the University Senate, and organized student and faculty focus groups whose discussions of student wellness were provided to JED as well. And the Steering Committee had an extensive discussion with Jed Campus, including a half-day site visit.
Based on this discovery work, JED has now submitted to us recommendations that will inform our multi-year strategic plan. JED believes we have a strong foundation of programs and policies that are aligned with best practices in the care and support of undergraduates on university campuses. The plan goes on to define 14 key objectives to guide our work in strengthening and enhancing our support. These are:
Ensure that emotional well-being is a campus-wide responsibility
Teach students the skills necessary to cope with the stresses of college life, make wise lifestyle choices and be academically successful.
Implement sustainable programs that offer students the opportunity to build connections with others in their community.
Ensure incoming students with mental health and substance abuse histories are supported in their transition to college.
Provide robust screening opportunities at diverse touchpoints in the student experience.
Train campus community members to identify, reach out to and refer students who may be struggling.
Promote help-seeking behavior through destigmatization efforts and increased access to resource information.
Strengthen leave policies and protocols that best support students in distress.
Enhance systems, protocols and processes in order to coordinate necessary care for students.
Ensure access to all necessary clinical care services.
Ensure that substance abuse policies and protocols best support students.
Reinforce adequate and appropriate institutional response to student deaths or other emergencies.
Strengthen established protocols for the reporting of, and follow-up to, emergency situations.
Minimize environmental risks for suicide.
In recognition of these 14 important areas of action, the Steering Committee has begun to form working groups for each objective, led by specific members of the JED Steering Committee. These working groups include professional staff across the University, faculty and students — as appropriate. We will continue to receive guidance and support from the JED Foundation throughout the development and implementation of our multi-year plan.
While our implementation of this strategic plan is just beginning, we have already established a continued commitment on campus to enhance student health and well-being. A few ongoing developments include: increased mental health and community-building programming at orientation, and throughout the year; mandatory gatekeeper training for staff; new lounges in Lerner by next Fall (already approved by the University) to foster better community connections — without compromising group meeting space. In addition, Columbia Health has also begun designing a new comprehensive health history assessment for all incoming undergraduate students, will be piloting the addition of health psychologists into primary medical care services, is launching a new website and will continue to work proactively to create greater awareness of wellness resources.
I wish you well in this new year. I also encourage you to get more sleep, eat well and find time to take care of yourself and those around you — I’m trying to do the same. Please remember that you can and should connect with your advisers, your residential staff, Counseling and Psychological Services, and many others at Columbia, should you ever need any support. As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments and suggestions.
James J. Valentini
Dean of Columbia College and
Vice President for Undergraduate Education
cc: Mary C. Boyce, Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
Lisa Rosen-Metsch, Dean, School of General Studies