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Supporting Student Wellness

During the “Chats with Deantini” last fall, a number of students mentioned that they are concerned about the mental and emotional health of students on campus. The Daily Beast website cites Columbia as one of the country’s most stressful schools. And many students agree. I write today so that I can tell all of you what I told those few students in the fall: I don’t want this to be a stressful place. I want to identify the source of that stress and help eliminate it.

Two projects emerged out of those conversations: the Student Wellness Project and the Student Space Project. The Student Wellness Project aims to make Columbia a more supportive, healthier environment for all students. The Student Space Initiative is adjunct to that, aiming to create a peaceful gathering spot that isn’t a study space, but simply a place for students to relax with friends and unwind. Students are concerned that the University’s lack of student lounge spaces may contribute to a feeling of isolation, thereby adding more stress to their time here. I think we need to change that. I asked students to come up with a plan. And I pledged to find the money to fund it.

I want to use this blog post to express to all of you how impressed I am, yet again, with the determination and creativity of our students. Both projects have come further than I could have imagined in just a few months, and I am proud to give an update on the great work that is happening.

The Student Wellness Project put up hearts around Lerner Hall on Valentine’s Day and is organizing “Crafternoons,” a peer support group and a Random Acts of Kindness Week. They are also planning a comprehensive website with campus health resources and developing more orientation programming about healthy living, which I think is critical. Consistent with that, the Columbia Neuroscience Society will be receiving funding from the College to host a Mental Health Awareness Week this month.

The Student Space Initiative came to me last month with a formal proposal for a lounge in Lerner Hall. They presented architectural drawings with detailed plans of what they would like to do. Before our meeting, the students had gathered the support of all four undergraduate student councils. We are now working with Facilities and Student and Administrative Services, which manages Lerner Hall, to propel these plans. We also plan to seek additional input from students and administrators.

I feel lucky to be a part of this effort to make Columbia College a better place. Of course we have bright, motivated students—that goes without saying. But to know that our students care deeply about the Columbia they and their classmates inhabit now, and that they are committed to making it a better place even as many of them prepare to leave, makes me proud. These projects will take time, and may not ultimately be what was originally envisioned, but I am going to do everything I can to ensure that we make wellness a priority and that a suitable student space comes to fruition. I am committed to doing everything possible to make sure Columbia College students are as happy and healthy as they can be.

If you have any concerns or suggestions regarding student wellness, please email them to me at ColumbiaCollege@Columbia.edu.