by Camryn Burke, Class of 2022
(See more of Camryn’s work on the blog!)
On this month’s episode of Teaching and Learning Buzz, Drs. Carol Subiño Sullivan and Rebecca Pope-Ruark discussed mental wellness and the academic wellbeing of Georgia Tech students with the Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Steve McLaughlin. Tech’s Health and Wellness Center has aimed to improve facilitation of students’ mental health for years, most recently with the initiative “Tech Ends Suicide Together.” We at the Center for Teaching and Learning are interested in exploring how faculty can facilitate the improvement of their students’ wellbeing, so I decided to reach out to a few Tech students about their opinions on the mental health of the student body and how faculty can get involved.
How Do You Think Academics Affect Mental Health at Georgia Tech?
- “I think most classes definitely have a negative effect on mental health due to the load they have, but it feels somewhat inevitable that it’s difficult because Georgia Tech is difficult.”–Anika Moorjani (second-year Biomedical Engineering major)
- “I think academics and mental health go hand-in-hand, particularly at this school. You’re constantly forced to choose between academics, extracurriculars, and a social life. When you focus on one, the others start falling apart, and it just creates a cycle of stress.” Keah Gruduah (second-year Computer Science major)
- “In this competitive environment, it gets hard to prioritize mental health when you feel like you have to prioritize your academics and many students don’t voice their struggles. Without a supportive group of friends or family, the stress from school can feel very isolating.”-Martha Woldeab (second-year Mechanical Engineering major)
What Role Do Faculty Play in Students’ Mental Wellness, If Any?
- “Faculty should play a greater role in [students’ mental wellness] but I think they already have a lot on their plate, and it can be hard to make sure everyone in your class is okay when you’re dealing with hundreds of students. That being said, there are many people on campus that need help and aren’t getting it from faculty.”-Anika
- “The way professors structure their classes and the work we have to cover and how well they provide us with the resources we need all play a huge role in how stressed we are, as students. We’re often given a huge workload without enough resources to really support us and it takes a serious toll on the students.”-Keah
- “I think it really depends on the faculty. Some seem to genuinely care about the well-being and education of their students while others just seem to enjoy watching students stress over the amount of work given by their class. The differences in these attitudes can really mess with our health and anxiety levels.”-Martha
Can Faculty Help Reduce Students’ Stress and Anxiety? If so, How?
- “I think they can. But we shouldn’t expect all our faculty to be responsible for students’ stress relief. Georgia Tech is a hard school and that means hard classes. But we do need better counseling systems.”-Anika
- “I think they can and should help. We need more available counselors and mental health professionals (and to raise awareness of these resources), community events where students can step away from the technicalities of everything, and regular dialogue [in the classroom] about the mental health issues we’re facing.” –Keah
It was interesting to hear how fellow Tech students felt about how mental health is facilitated by the university and by faculty. I found that I agreed with many of their opinions and really think that their should be a more open dialogue between faculty and students about mental health. The institute is working on improvements in their facilitation of students’ well-being, some of which can be heard it in the second episode of Teaching and Learning Buzz. However, it’s clear there is still a long way to go, and one of the best ways to figure out how faculty can support wellbeing is to ask a student.