Priorities: Student Well-Being and Voice
Student well-being was a founding priority of Bringing Theory to Practice. BT2P was an early voice of alarm about rising levels of student depression and harmful behaviors and their links to academic and civic disengagement. Since 2003, we’ve supported more than a hundred well-being projects, often for work that bridges curricular and co-curricular programming and initiatives that strengthen connections among well-being, engaged learning, and community engagement.
In the process, our approach has evolved. An early focus on treating unhealthful behaviors as barriers to learning grew into an understanding of well-being as itself a core purpose of college learning, an essential goal of educating the whole person. We have learned from a range of researchers on student thriving and flourishing and supported work that explored the psycho-social outcomes of various educational experiences on diverse students.
BT2P is currently focused on the relationship between student well-being and educational equity. We are developing a collaboratory with researchers, advocacy groups, and campus exemplars aimed at overcoming racial, class, and other disparities in student thriving. We hope that such work will help to put equity at the heart of the well-being agenda and well-being at the heart of the equity agenda.
In prioritizing student well-being and its connections to inclusive excellence, we work with and learn from many friends and allies: among them, the Healthy Minds Network, the Jed Foundation, the Steve Fund, and the NYU-based Network for Improvement and Innovation in College Health. We are partners in the 20×30 Learning and Action Network, a consortium to improve the health and well-being of 20 million college students by 2030.
The BT2P database offers a scan of well-being work we have supported or initiated. Here are links to several exemplary projects that received grant funding.
- Georgetown University’s Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning infuses issues of well-being, public health, and community and personal care — as well as information about support programs –– across the curriculum.
- George Mason University researchers analyzed the efficacy of service learning and well-being programs in increasing first-generation students’ social connectedness, sense of welcome, and thriving.
- Spelman College created an experimental Total Well-Being Course, focused on mindfulness, positive identity, and self care for Black women, which has evolved into a Wellness Curriculum required for graduation
- Penn State University’s network of branch campuses jointly adopted a general education course, “The Art and Science of Human Flourishing,” taught by faculty trained in a multi-institutional summer institute.
BT2P has published widely on student well-being. We held national conference, “The Whole Student: Intersectionality and Well-Being,” which led to a special issue of Diversity & Democracy. Our volume Well-Being and Higher Education brings together important research, case studies, and theoretical essays on this theme. Both are available as free downloads on the Publications page.