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Well-Being in Learning Environments

Funded by the Hogg Foundation

About the project

The purpose of this initiative is to improve student academic outcomes by working with faculty to make small shifts in the design and delivery of their courses to better support student mental health. Working closely with partners in academic colleges and departments, this initiative will help faculty and departments be more proactive in the well-being of all students by embedding conditions for well-being and flourishing into learning environments.

Conditions for well-being

Based on positive psychology research, conditions for well-being and flourishing are practices that impact students’ social, emotional, and psychological health. Instruction that incorporates elements such as social connectedness, self-compassion, inclusivity, mindfulness, and life purpose among others supports students’ well-being, which in turn improves their academic learning.

Research related to the project

Students with mental health concerns are more likely to have a lower GPA and have a higher probability of dropping out (Eisenberg, Golberstein, & Hunt, 2009). According to El Ansari and Stock (2010), “It is widely accepted that health and well-being are essential elements for effective learning” (p. 2). The demand for mental health services at the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) has increased 53% from academic year 2009-2010 to 2015-16 (Counseling and Mental Health Center, 2016). Engaging students in practices that promote good mental health is the responsibility not just of the CMHC, but the entire campus community. Students at UT Austin indicate that faculty are often seen as the “missing link” when it comes to their own well-being (Stuart & Lee, 2013).

This initiative bridges that gap by providing direct support for academic colleges and departments to make small adjustments in their operations in order to improve student well-being. The 2015 Okanagan Charter, an international charter for health promoting universities and colleges, published a call to action for higher education institutions: embed health into all aspects of campus culture, across the administration, operations and academic mandates (Okanagan Charter, 2015). This initiative takes the first step to embed mental health into academic settings.

Collaborative partners on the project

Three departments at the University have volunteered to partner with the Counseling and Mental Health Center to pilot the initiative over the next three years: the College of Liberal Arts, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the College of Pharmacy. The Faculty Innovation Center and Project 2021 are also consulting on the project.

Contact information

For more information about this initiative, contact the Well-being in Learning Environments project coordinator Dr. Thea Woodruff at thea.woodruff@austin.utexas.edu.

References

  • Counseling and Mental Health Center. (2015-16). CMHC fact sheet. Austin, TX: Author.
  • El Ansari, W., & Stock, C. (2010). Is the health and wellbeing of university students associated with their academic performance? Cross sectional findings from the United Kingdom. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7, 509-527.
  • Eisenberg, D., Golberstein, E., & Hunt, J.B. (2009). Mental health and academic success in college. B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, 9(1): Article 40.
  • Okanagan Charter. (2015). Okanagan Charter: An international charter for health promoting universities and colleges. 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges/VII International Congress. Retrieved here.
  • Stuart, G., & Lee, C. (2013). Mental health promotions focus group report. Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, Division of Student Affairs.






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