The Oct. 4 Undergraduate Experiences Symposium on student well-being resonated with Michelle Carpenter, chair of the Visual Arts Department. In the past few years, she has seen a difference in her students, who tend to mentally “check out” before midterms and finals due to stress from academics, finances, and sleep difficulties. According to data from the 2019 National College Health Assessment, those three things are the most challenging for CU Denver students to manage.
“I think they need some sort of break,” said Carpenter, who has the demeanor of a concerned parent when she talks about her students. “If we can just offer some kind of event or food—something that lets them know we are here and we care.”
The symposium acted as a catalyst for the inaugural Visual Arts Wellness Week, spearheaded by Carpenter and her department in the College of Arts & Media. The week of Nov. 4, students on the eighth floor of the CU Building on 14th Street were greeted with a table of healthy snacks—oatmeal, hot tea, granola bars, apples and oranges, among others—along with different resources. One day featured a Let’s Talk table; another had a stress ball workshop and five-minute massages. In clear site was a stack of orange papers with a comprehensive list of on-campus services for students, such as the Counseling Center, Food Pantry, Loving Lynx, and crisis walk-in hours.
In between classes, students stopped by the table and walked away with a sense of comfort. “I think everyone is happier because we are being taken care of,” said Tia Van, a junior in the 3D Graphics & Animation program. “People really needed something to bring out their happiness.”
A campus-wide focus on well-being
Carpenter’s efforts reflect a larger, campus-wide focus on student well-being. At the start of the fall 2019 semester, CU Denver’s Health and Wellness area, which includes the Wellness Center, Counseling Center and Dean of Students, launched YOU@CUDenver, a digital portal with content tailored to students’ mental and physical needs.
The free tool offers more than 600 pieces of user-friendly content related to health and well-being and a goal tracker, among other resources. If needed, the portal may also direct a student to a physical resource, such as the Phoenix Center at Auraria or Colorado Crisis Services. YOU@CUDenver is available for all CU Denver students, along with faculty and staff.
Wellness Week will make a regular appearance
Carpenter sees Wellness Week recurring the week before midterms and finals, when student stress peaks. Her department has agreed to allocate a portion of its budget to the effort.
Jeff Franklin, associate vice chancellor for Undergraduate Experiences, who organized this year’s Undergraduate Experiences Symposium after researching pressing issues facing universities, hopes other campus leaders follow suit. “It would be great if others of the schools/colleges followed the CAM example,” he said.