The past few years have presented unprecedented challenges for mental health in higher education (e.g., Evans et al., 2018; Francis & Horn, 2017) that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic (Gruber et al., 2023; Wang et al., 2020). Faculty and students have had to contend with climate change, political instability, and a multi-year global health pandemic that, taken together, have presented a compounded set of stressors. Furthermore, faculty and staff are reporting a high rate of burnout in higher education settings (e.g., Sabagh et al., 2018). It is not surprising that a mental health (MH) crisis has been declared in higher education. As a result, more resources and information about mental health (MH) have become available for learners along with some resources for how to help learners in the higher education setting.
Yet there remains little to no information or resources regarding handling MH issues in the classroom (for their students and themselves) for instructors and teaching faculty on campus. Many faculty report feeling ill-equipped and overwhelmed coping with the multitude of new and frequent MH challenges arising (Smith et al., 2022), yet few standardized surveys have been conducted. Yet educators are being asked to flexibly adapt and meet the needs of diverse learners with unique MH challenges. How do we help both prepare and support our educators who are not only interacting with learners that are coming to the classroom environment with MH concerns, but that are also facing MH concerns of their own? Our project involves surveying faculty to discern their needs for managing their own MH concerns; our project includes building an interactive resource for faculty to use. As a result, when faculty feel more in control of their MH, they will be more likely able to help their learners in return.
Many higher education institutions provide resources on MH; however, they are specifically targeted to the college learner and not faculty or staff. We believe that concrete, accessible, and applicable tools must be provided to educators on campus. Accordingly, this ASSETT innovation proposal consists of three aims. Our project is to develop an interactive online faculty toolkit for well-being and resilience. The project is to help faculty with their own mental health (MH) concerns, feel more confident in helping their learners that come to them with MH concerns, and to help them feel more confident in their teaching practices as they relate to the current landscape and intersection of higher education and MH.
Aim 1: First, we will utilize a survey-based approach to collect critical information about MH challenges experienced by teaching and clinical faculty who teach, mentor, and/or advise students on campus (these include all instructors that do not have faculty rank as well as graduate students who teach courses or serve as teaching assistants). We will concentrate efforts to collect data at CU Boulder but include additional data from teaching-related faculty and staff outside CU Boulder as well for a comparison group. We will use the data gathered to create an accurate summary of the MH landscape facing educators and disseminate this to raise awareness in the broader CU community.
Aim 2: Second, we will use the data gathered to create an interactive online Well-Being and Resilience (WBR) toolkit for teaching and clinical faculty who teach, mentor, and/or advise students. The overarching goal is to provide these educators a toolkit to approach their own mental health in a sustainable manner and help support learners as well. We will devote significant outreach efforts to alert teaching-faculty and staff of this resource through list-servs, workshops, and visiting department faculty meetings. This online resource will include interactive technology that integrates meditation activities, reflection, self-assessment tools, and creating an online community. After this online resource is launched, we will explore the possibilities of a peer mentoring program related to MH concerns, a microcredential, and/or a professional development retreat that allows faculty to reconnect with themselves. We plan to collaborate with others across campus that have knowledge and expertise in neuroscience and psychology, meditation and embodied learning, education, and the interactive Canvas-based components.
Aim 3: Third, after the initial year of collecting data and implementing the WBR toolkit (Aims 1-2), we will be well-poised to begin to develop a certificate program (or micro-credential) for faculty or staff who complete the WBR toolkit and demonstrate competency in knowledge of MH concerns in educational settings and participate in a peer-mentoring WBR workshop with other teaching-related faculty and staff.
STAKEHOLDERS & NEEDS
The key stakeholders in this project fit essential project needs and include the following:
- Shareholders/investors: ASSETT Innovation Incubator (funding)
- Local Community: University administrators and supporting bodies, such as the Center for Teaching and Learning, Office of Academic Affairs, and Faculty Affairs.
- Interdisciplinary Project Team members: All team members have a responsibility to collect accurate information to develop an interactive resource to help faculty manage their MH concerns. The project team members constitute an interdisciplinary team spanning Psychology and Neuroscience, Philosophy, Center for Teaching and Learning, Computer Science, the Institute of Cognitive Science, and the School of Education, the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, and Contemplative Resource Center.
- Beneficiaries and who project serves: Faculty across campus will be the focus-a resource for this project (e.g., surveyed for needs) and the population that the project will serve; as a result of the project, graduate and undergraduate students will likely see a positive impact on their learning experiences as their professors address their own mental health and well-being.
The impact of this project includes not only affecting faculty across campus in a positive manner as they manage their MH concerns, learning experiences for students and how they manage their MH concerns will be affected as a result. The success for this project is based on an interdisciplinary approach, utilizing the diverse knowledge and expertise of the smaller teams that will contribute to the project. As well, this interdisciplinary approach will lend various lenses to provide insight on how this new resource can best serve underrepresented and international groups across campus.
TEAM DESCRIPTION/GAPS & INTENDED SCALE
Our team consists of several members drawing from interdisciplinary approaches noted earlier. This includes spanning Psychology and Neuroscience, Philosophy, Center for Teaching and Learning, Computer Science, the Institute of Cognitive Science, and the School of Education, the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, and Contemplative Resource Center. Each of these members will contribute their strengths and expertise to the project in a variety of ways. Essentially our team will consist of smaller teams that specialize in certain aspects of the project. For example, we will have a Neuroscience and Psychology team, Meditation and Embodied Learning team, Education team, and Interactive Technology team. In addition to faculty and staff members across disciplines, we will have integrated teams with both graduate and UG students to serve on these teams. Our initial ideas for their work are indicated with the corresponding project aims and noted within the below bullet points.
- June Gruber, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience (co-leader of ASSETT Innovation Incubator Proposal)
- Kalpana Gupta, Professional Development Lead, Center for Teaching & Learning (co-leader of ASSETT Innovation Incubator Proposal)
- Sarah Victor, Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University (external collaborator for Aim 1 Survey Development and Collection)
- Paulette Erickson England, MSW, LCSW; Director of Faculty and Staff Assistance Program and Contemplative Resource Center (collaborator for meditation/embodied learning for Aims 2-3)
- Susan Jurow, Professor, Learning Sciences and Human Development and Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, School of Education (collaborator for education and technology for Aims 2-3)
- Sidney D’Mello, Professor, Institute of Cognitive Science and Computer Science (collaborator for neuroscience and technology for Aims 1-3)
- Graduate Students: Cynthia Villanueva, Stevi Ibonie, and Luiza Rosa; Graduate Students in Ph.D. Program in Clinical Psychology (Graduate student collaborators for Aims 1-3)
- Undergraduate Students: Manuel Alvarez (Philosophy/Psychology/Neuroscience major), Juliana Czar (Psychology major; Student Rep for BFA Student Affairs Committee) (collaborators for Aims 1-3)
- Master’s and/or UG students from CS and SoE (Technology and education collaborators for Aims 2-3)
The intended initial scale for this project includes the faculty employed at, and students enrolled at the University of Colorado, Boulder. While the Well-being and Resilience (WBR) interactive resource will be designed for UCB, the long-term vision is to offer this type of resource to other educational institutions.
- YEAR 0:
- Spring 2023: Finalize survey instruments; IRB submission; survey distribution, collect and analyze data for (Aim 1)
- YEAR 1 (AY 2023-2024):
- Fall 2023-Create and pilot a draft of the toolkit for (Aim 2)
- Spring 2024-Collect and analyze data on usage of online resource toolkit/make revision as needed (Aim 2)
- YEAR 2 (AY 2024-2025)
- Fall 2024: Collect and analyze data on usage of online resource toolkit/make revision as needed; create microcredential/peer mentoring program and optional professional development (PD) retreat (Aims 2-3)
- Spring 2025: Offer microcredential/peer mentoring program and optional professional development (PD) retreat (Aim 3)
- YEAR 3 (AY 2025-2026)
- Fall 2026: Review all aspects of project to prepare final report
- Spring 2026: Completion of Innovation Incubator Project
FUNDING REQUEST AND INTENDED USE OF FUNDS
|PI and Co-PI stipend||2 PI/Co-PI x $2,750/yr x 3 yrs||$16,500|
|Undergraduate student fellow stipend||3 undergrads x $19/hr x 100 hrs/yr = $5,700/yr x 3 =||$17,100|
|Graduate student fellow stipend||3 grads x $4,000 each||$12,000|
|Faculty partner honorarium||3 faculty X $1,000/each||$3,000|
|Website development (interactive components)||1 website fee X $7300||$7,300|
|Compensation for survey completion for participants||500 X $20 each||$10,000|
|Initial launch event (Year 1) and closing event (Year 3)||2 x $1,000 each||$2,000|
|Equipment: Computer laptops for student fellows (1 undergrad designated laptop, 1 grad designated laptop)||2 x $1,500 each||$3,000|
ANTICIPATED LONG-TERM NEEDS
The interactive online WBR toolkit will serve as a living resource for faculty to manage their MH concerns. To serve faculty, and indirectly CU students, well, the toolkit will need to be maintained and updated with accurate research-based information and supportive resources for faculty to use. The WBR toolkit will be housed online within the Center for Teaching and Learning. At this time, we see only minimal funding needed to support the maintenance of the toolkit through employment of undergraduate and graduate students. The sustainability of the WBR toolkit will be achieved by employing students to continuously be a part of this project and allowing for the most needed changes as seen through the lens of both faculty and students.
Evans, T. M., Bira, L., Gastelum, J. B., Weiss, L. T., & Vanderford, N. L. (2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nature Biotechnology, 36(3), 282-284.
Francis, P. C., & Horn, A. S. (2017). Mental health issues and counseling services in US higher education: An overview of recent research and recommended practices. Higher Education Policy, 30, 263-277.
Gruber, J., Hinshaw, S. P., Clark, L. A., Rottenberg, J., & Prinstein, M. J. (2023). Looking ahead at young adult mental health beyond the COVID era: Can enlightened policy promote long-term change? Policy Insights from Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 10(1), 75-82. https://doi.org/10.1177/23727322221150199
Sabagh, Z., Hall, N. C., & Saroyan, A. (2018). Antecedents, correlates and consequences of faculty burnout. Educational Research, 60(2), 131-156.
Smith, J. M., Smith, J., McLuckie, A., Szeto, A. C., Choate, P., Birks, L. K., … & Bright, K. S. (2022). Exploring Mental Health and Well-Being Among University Faculty Members: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, 60(11), 17-25.
Wang, X., Hegde, S., Son, C., Keller, B., Smith, A., & Sasangohar, F. (2020). Investigating mental health of US college students during the COVID-19 pandemic: Cross-sectional survey study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22(9), e22817.