Division for Student Affairs Offers Faculty and Staff Training for Student Well-being Support

REACH program’s virtual workshops provide faculty and staff information, trends, resources and referral processes related to student health and well-being.

REACH program
January 25, 2022

By Nick Erickson

There is a lot being asked of young people and college-aged students right now—from a culture of hyperachievement to the disruptions in schooling caused by COVID-19, not to mention the health and safety factor of the virus. And studies are showing that it is taking a toll.

According to fall findings from the Mayo Clinic, 44% of college students self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, while more than half reported feeling overwhelmingly anxious in the past year. 

In addition to devoting counseling resources to help students directly, the George Washington University Division for Student Affairs (DSA) created the REACH program to assist faculty and staff in identifying and engaging with student needs for health and well-being.

REACH offers seminars and workshops ranging from identifying conflict styles and addressing the issue of food insecurity among students to understanding the responsibilities in responding to sexual harassment and trauma-informed care. The sessions include presentations from campus experts, and then faculty and staff are invited to participate in discussions.

“We all see the student from a different view or different angle, so if we are all tuned in looking through the same set of glasses, we can catch the students a little bit earlier from a care and concern perspective,” Senior Health Promotion and Education (HPE) Program Associate Saray Smalls said.

REACH, which launched sessions in spring 2021, is part of the Raise Up GW strategic initiative that is focused on student well-being. Smalls said that up to 15 faculty and staff members attend per session.

Assistant Professor of health and policy management Wayne Psek of the Milken Institute School of Public Health has found REACH to be such an important resource that he has attended three so far and encourages more members of the GW community to attend.

“Given the current times that we are in and recognizing that everybody is under stress in some way, I thought it was really valuable to be able to recognize how students understand and react based on the situation they are in,” Psek said.

He has found both the discussions from the experts and follow-up conversations with faculty and staff to be enlightening and engaging. Psek mentioned that learning from each other and hearing how his peers have addressed certain concerns has been much appreciated.

“It was very rich because you are hearing from others and having a reaction from counselors on how they might handle a certain situation and then hearing from other faculty on their experiences,” Psek said.  “That was really nice to learn from peers and the experts.”

While there are student programs and initiatives at GW, the HPE team thought it was important to target faculty and staff specifically because they interact so closely and directly with students.

“They are the first ones to see when a student might be struggling and see some of those changes, so we wanted them to be a point of contact for students so they can intervene early on,” said HPE Program Associate Zareena Khan. 

There are still 10 sessions left this semester, and interested faculty and staff members can register for each session individually on the REACH website. Past sessions are recorded, as will future ones. Khan said that faculty and staff members have expressed appreciation for having those recordings as resources.

DSA wants to make it clear that the university always highly prioritizes the health and well-being of students from the time between acceptance letter and commencement on the National Mall.

“We are of course here to build leaders, and we of course want to get our students to graduation,” Smalls said. “In addition to that we're developing young people who can be successful in their academics, careers and personal health and well-being.”

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