SEWB enacts well-being roadmap developments

The Center for Mental Health Care and Resources is on the second floor of the Flag Building and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. // Photo by Alec Grosswald Student Publications

Since launching in Fall 2022, the Cultivate Well-Being Action and Transformation Roadmap has guided Tech faculty, staff and students on ways to foster health and well-being over the next few years at the Institute. 

Over a year has passed since its debut, and the Technique has followed up on the progress of the Roadmap’s initial goals.

After a year of research and planning, the Roadmap was published to summarize previous well-being indicators at the Institute and outline strategies to improve these outcomes through 2030. Bounded by four major goals, the Roadmap lists a variety of initiatives and campus partners to contribute to the underlying objective of the Student Engagement and Well-being (SEWB) office: create cultural change.

“What we wanted to emphasize is that we’re not going to address issues of mental health and well-being by only focusing on clinical interventions,” said Luoluo Hong, Vice President for SEWB. “We have to get at some of the root causes and get at the organizational culture at Georgia Tech, and that’s shaped by many, many things for students.”

The Roadmap prioritizes changing the environment of Tech over time and from all angles, and Hong elaborated on some of the programs launched
in its early phases.

Last fall, the Center for Mental Health Care & Resources merged the Counseling Center and the Center for Assessment, Referral & Education (CARE), which Hong said would allow students to receive the appropriate resources in a more streamlined fashion. Additionally, prevention and outreach efforts have been launched in an effort to provide well-being resources before more serious situations arise.

“One area of particular focus is that we’re trying to do more on stress management and also sexual violence prevention,” Hong said. Specifically, the Wellness Empowerment Center was created to spearhead these efforts, enveloping existing resources like VOICE to provide upstream information to students. 

As more and more initiatives from the Roadmap begin, Hong wanted to emphasize how the plan is curated to Tech and its students.

“I wanted to make sure that we developed something that was responsive to Georgia Tech students,” she said. 

This unfolds through the Roadmap’s continued awareness of different student populations at Tech, keeping in mind undergraduates, graduates, commuter students and more that may have varying experiences at the Institute.

While the SEWB office is the predominant executor of the Roadmap, it also draws on campus partners to achieve its goals. 

“It’s kind of a two-way street. We have initiatives or ideas that students are really passionate about, and then we’re like, ‘Where does this fit within the Roadmap?,’” said Derin Aladesanmi, fourth-year PUBP and undergraduate Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President of Well-being, about SGA’s involvement in implementing the Roadmap’s goals. “It also goes the other way of, ‘These are the pillars [we] want to focus on. How can we expand them outside of what we’re already doing?’”

While Aladesanmi oversees well-being specifically, she said all of SGA seeks to incorporate student well-being into their projects. Some examples of her committees’ work includes expanding the Menstrual Product Program, raising awareness on sexual violence prevention and conducting Narcan administration trainings. 

In addition to their previous work, Aladesanmi spoke on the targets for future SGA health-centered initiatives. 

“We’ve had a lot of important conversations on what decreasing loneliness on campus looks like and creating community,” she said. Additionally, her committees have looked at leveraging funding from the Mental Health Joint Allocation Committee to host more events centered around well-being.

While the SEWB office is able to enact changes over many years, Aladesanmi spoke to the difficulty SGA and other student organizations may face when trying to contribute to cultural changes.

“Policy change can take a really long time,” she said about the limited number of years that students are at Tech to contribute to the well-being landscape. “With the initiatives I’ve been doing, it’s very heavy on the programs and people side of things.”

Both short-term programming and long-term shifts in culture shape the student experience at Tech. These initiatives have had differing effects on the diverse student body at the Institute, meeting the needs of some while lacking for the needs of others.

Speaking on mental health resources, Divyesh Ved and Daniel Kuhlman, fourth-year ME, are content with the help available to them. 

“I appreciate that professors are very accommodating towards deadlines and have various mental help resources in the syllabus,” Kuhlman said. 

However, both of them also shared their discontent with the lack of infrastructure dedicated to physical wellness on campus. Ved wishes that the campus had more initiatives for physical activities.

“There should be more gyms and fields on the campus. For people on the east campus, the CRC is quite far, and the gym in North Ave is not as good,” he said.

As an avid sportsperson, it has also been difficult for him to engage in different sports on campus. He suggested that the CRC should organize pickup games.

“Dedicate a day in the week to a sport/sports and have open pickup games supervised by coaches and student-athletes. This will encourage interested students to try new sports and learn from the best,” Ved said.

Ruth Minda, second-year CS, thinks that campus has enough organizations to keep students engaged. 

“There are both career and social-oriented clubs, so there is a good balance,” she said. Minda is glad that there are enough events that help her keep in touch with her ethnic roots, as she hails from Ethiopia. 

However, both Ved and Minda echoed that such events have not been publicized enough. Both students said that they would like more outreach and marketing programs from those involved with cultivating student well-being. 

“I have friends who did not know about the existence of certain clubs, even though they were connected to the Tech culture,” Minda said.

While many steps have been taken to increase well-being at the Institute, students still anticipate further changes in the resources provided and culture fostered in the Tech community. 

However, the office of SEWB and its partners are still pushing to implement the Roadmap and reap its benefits over time.

“Three years ago, I heard much more of Georgia Tech doesn’t care,” Hong said about students’ view of the Institute and its involvement with well-being. 

She concluded that although there is much more work to do, students are “shifting to ‘I do believe Georgia Tech cares,’” and this is a good sign for the Roadmap’s current and future success.