Thinking about Students’ Academic Wellbeing

In higher ed and our society at large, there is certainly a move to talk more about mental health in different contexts, with #endthestigma regularly trending on social media. That conversation is happening at Georgia Tech as well. Student wellbeing is an important topic on campus, including how classroom practices and situations impact students and their mental health and wellness.

What do we know about student academic well-being at Georgia Tech? The Health Initiatives office conducted a study of undergraduate and graduate students about mental health and wellbeing in the spring of 2018. The findings of the study show some important trends:










And another study conducted by Tech faculty Dr. Cara Appel-Silbaugh and Dr. Christie Stewart reported that student participants described the academic culture at Georgia Tech to be stressful, high demand, and rigorous in unhealthy ways, but that there is interest among students to change the culture of wellbeing on campus. Many students stressed that a big part of this shift needs to come from the faculty and their expectations and interactions with students.

Anecdotally, we hear that students often don’t think faculty care about them, though we know that not to be the case. In fact, Dr. Steve McLaughlin, Dean of the College of Engineering, recently published an opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed titled “A Friend at the Front of the Room,” in which he and deans from two other engineering colleges argue that faculty are well placed to step in when they see changes in students’ mindset, attendance, and other key indicators that a student might be in trouble. The Center for Teaching and Learning has created resources for faculty to think about ways to maintain rigor in their courses while also supporting students in ways they might not have thought about before – see our website on Creating a Positive Teaching and Learning Experience as well as our Learning Environment Toolkit.

This month, our blog and podcast episode will focus on the topic of student academic wellbeing. Next week, check out our new podcast episode in which Carol and Rebecca chat with Dean McLaughlin about his perspective on academic wellbeing and ways faculty can be advocates and resources for students. On the third Wednesday of the month, you’ll find an article written by CTL student worker Camryn Burke who interview students to get their in-the-moment perspective on the possible role faculty can play in their wellbeing. And on the fourth Wednesday will publish a list of additional resources you can consult on this topic.

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