Healthier Students Can Learn More Effectively: New Initiative at Selkirk College
Building a healthy community takes initiative and Selkirk College is placing a high priority on the well-being of its students.
With the formalization of Healthy Campus Initiatives, Selkirk College is leading the way in supporting students outside the classroom, recognizing that learners brings with them their entire life circumstances, not simply pen and paper or a laptop.
With a solid base of experience in the classroom and beyond, Leslie Comrie was recently hired into the new role of Healthy Campus Advisor and in this position will lead initiatives that foster a healthy student body. The passionate mental health professional is thrilled with her new role.
“This is a tremendous move, a really healthy and very progressive move on the part of the college,” she says. “It is a way to recognize that students bring all of themselves to the classroom.”
Vice President of Student Advancement Cathy Mercer says with this move, Selkirk College is not only responding to an increase in reported student situations of mental health challenges, but also taking a proactive approach to student wellness. Pilot projects in this area have demonstrated positive outcomes and with the help of a new student service fee in place this school year, the Healthy Campus Advisor role was created to further this support on campus.
“The other aspect of this work that is particularly rewarding is the experience that students on all our campuses are gaining in these initiatives as part of leadership and applied research projects in their programs,” says Mercer. “Student learning is helping to shape college directions in this area. This is exciting for all of us.”
As Comrie leads a college-wide committee looking at health and wellness initiatives for all employees and students, she is ready to facilitate challenging discussions. The conversation’s current focus is healthy sexuality, and sexual violence and misconduct on campus.
With the Province of British Columbia mandating post-secondary institutions to develop a policy to protect and support survivors of sexual violence, Comrie is training students to lead Dinner Basket Conversations as a “conduit for student feedback” as Selkirk College adopts a policy best suited to its campus community by March 2017.
Other Healthy Campus Initiatives underway include:
· Strengthening LGBTQ inclusion
· Offering student bystander training
· Providing educational support to staff encountering attitudes of discrimination or harassment on campus
· Renewal of the Student Ambassador Program with a focus on wellness
· Student peers support program
· Helping youth in care transition into post-secondary education
Comrie completed her Master’s Degree in 2007 from Dalhousie University and started work at Selkirk College in 2008 as an instructor in the School of Health & Human Services, both in Human Services and more recently in Nursing. It was early on as she began teaching, engaged with delivering strong content, that she recognized that students need more than instruction.
“I realized the content was really peripheral to what I was noticing about the barriers to learning caused by anxiety, mental health and unhealthy relationships with substances,” she says. “I began hearing from more and more instructors and staff that students’ ability to learn was really hindered by some of the issues they were facing. My focus is firmly rooted in how we might mitigate some of those stressors.”