Progress on well-being priorities

The below message was sent from James J. Valentini, dean of Columbia College and chair of the JED Steering Committee, on May 2, 2018.

Dear Undergraduate Students,

As the semester comes to a close, I am once again writing as chair of the JED Steering Committee to give you the latest update on our partnership with the JED Foundation to enhance health and well-being efforts on campus. We heard your feedback on wanting more information from us and will soon have a new platform for reporting our progress.

In an earlier message, I shared 14 priority areas of action identified by the The Jed Foundation, the nonprofit organization helping us assess and improve on-campus wellness. Consistent with JED’s recommendations, working groups for each of these objectives were formed, led by members of the JED Steering Committee and including faculty, students and professional staff from the University. You can revisit these 14 objectives and see the members of the each of the working groups online.

Working groups have been meeting since January. Here are some new highlights of our progress achieved, along with our future commitments:

  • We sought feedback on current information barriers to effective care and resources through student focus groups in preparation for a forthcoming communications campaign.

  • After collecting an inventory of all programs offered to undergraduates that teach life skills, we are identifying overlaps and gaps in order to identify opportunities to either enhance or introduce new offerings.

  • We will be introducing an improved NSOP experience, with new training for student volunteers and leaders in order to build their capacity to support peers in distress and connect them to appropriate resources. CPS counselors will also be available in undergraduate residence halls during NSOP to introduce the service to incoming students, destigmatize counseling and lower barriers to care.

  • We will pilot a weekly community-building programming series in the fall at a consistent time and place on Friday or Saturday evenings. In addition, we will strategically time health and well-being events during the academic year.

  • We have designed a new confidential and comprehensive health history assessment for all incoming students. As clinically appropriate, students from the Class of 2022 who self-identify with physical health, mental health and substance use history will be connected with services and resources prior to their on-campus arrival.

  • We have evaluated various screening tools and will make ULifeline available to all students, while increasing promotion of our existing BASICS alcohol and marijuana self-assessment screening tools.

  • Within the first six weeks of the semester, we will also provide additional identity-based programming across the four undergraduate schools to increase social connectedness amongst undergraduates.

  • We will increase transparency around medical leave processes and policies to address potential anxiety around logistics upon return, including, housing, course registration and medical insurance.

  • Driven by extensive student feedback, Columbia Health’s website was redesigned and relaunched in February. The new site provides students with a more user-friendly navigation and easy access to all resources and services.

  • We launched a pilot initiative to include psychologists from Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) into Medical Services, allowing direct referrals to CPS from Medical Services, creating an additional low-barrier entry point for students to access mental health care.

  • We collaborated with Public Safety on April 28, 2018, for Drug Take Back Day and are exploring further opportunities for safe drug disposal.

  • A student-driven, student-led group called Recovery Coalition, which works with students who self-identify as “in recovery,” is now active on campus, with weekly meetings throughout the academic year. Students have also started a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. For more information, including upcoming meeting times and locations, email

  • A pilot program will be developed over the summer and launched next semester for expanded community Naloxone training.

  • We are continuing to improve residence hall roof door security, balancing the need to restrict student access while maintaining emergency access functionality.

I want to thank all of the students, in particular those who are graduating, who have supported us on these various tasks. If you would like to be considered to fill a vacancy on a working group, please send us an email with your name, UNI, school and a brief explanation of why this initiative is important to you.

I wish you well as the semester comes to an end. Please try to get enough sleep, eat well and find time to take care of yourselves and those around you. Should you need any support, remember that there are many individuals here to help you, including your advisers, your residential staffCounseling and Psychological Services staff, and anyone at Columbia with whom you feel comfortable connecting. 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