Health Center Restructures to Meet Changing Student Needs

Kaizad Irani ‘22

Staff Writer

Pepper the therapy dog can be found in the Center for Student Health and Well-Being on Mondays and Wednesdays. Photo courtesy John Crawford ‘20

This summer, the Student Counseling and Health Center rebranded and restructured —  changing its name to the Center for Student Health and Well-Being and hiring several new staff members, including a therapy dog named Pepper. 

“We wanted to expand our outreach and promote ourselves as a center that offers more than just basic health and counseling necessities,” said Dr. David Graham, the new Director of Student Health and Well-Being. “We were trying to be intentional in our name, and we realized that the key word we were missing was well-being.”

As part of the reorganization, Dr. Graham replaced Dr. Trish Murray, who had been the director for 11 years, and Dr. John Brunelle became the Associate Director and Clinical Director of Counseling. Additionally, the center hired three new staff members. Kathy Carstens comes from Wake Forest University and will be both the Associate Director for Student Health Services and a nurse. Gloria Fortuna ‘19, who graduated from Davidson last year, will be a Health Education Fellow and the coordinator of the Green Dot Bystander Intervention Program. Lastly, Dr. Jessica Groleau, who previously worked at UNC Charlotte, will serve as a psychologist. Furthermore, the Center for Student Health and Well-Being is looking to hire another new counselor for this year. 

Dr. Groleau worked at the UNC Charlotte Counseling and Psychological Services for eight years before coming to Davidson. Although she considers herself a generalist clinician and works with a variety of students, her expertise is in trauma, sexual assault, and gender and sexual identity concerns. At UNC Charlotte, Dr. Groleau facilitated many therapy and support groups, including one for sexual trauma survivors as well as a group for LGBTQ+ students. 

“I approach therapy from a strengths-based and resilience-oriented perspective,” said Dr. Groleau. “I believe that students possess a wealth of knowledge to help them manage difficult life circumstances.”

“I have a lot of experience with group counseling,” she added, “and in the long-term future, I hope to implement therapy groups and/or coping skills workshops. Ultimately, I hope students find their work with me to be an empowering experience.”

According to Graham, “Dr. Groleau’s extensive history working with students who experienced sexual assault and/or life trauma, along with her time working on a college campus, will definitely boost our counseling center and services we offer for students.” 

One of the ways that students can get involved with the Center for Student Health and Well-Being is through the Mental Health Ambassador (MHA) program, which was created last year. The volunteer MHAs “are committed to raising awareness and implementing programming about mental health issues that are specific to the college experience,” according to the Center’s website. They focus on using their knowledge about mental health to facilitate conversations with students and carry out initiatives and outreach events.  

“Rebranding to the ‘Center for Student Health and Well-Being’ places more emphasis on mental well-being and general positive functioning,” said Jack Robinson ‘20, a current MHA. “I believe that many students only seek out resources when they are in desperate need, but this name change can help remind people that there is more offered than disaster prevention, that an increase in well-being is also possible.” 

Robinson is happy with the progress that Davidson has made towards student health and wellness and excited for the future of the center.“Dean McCrae really wants to foster a healthy and positive environment on campus,” said Robinson. “For example, it is now possible to schedule a 30 minute ‘Walk-In Counseling Intake’ appointment online. Students, including myself, sat in on SGA committees, talked to counseling center leadership, talked to deans and did other things for years in an attempt to get this feature offered. I am thrilled that it finally came to fruition, which gives me great hope about the future of the Center for Student Health and Well-Being.”

Along with the MHA program, students can apply to be Health Advisors. These student volunteers work alongside Fortuna and Georgia Ringle, the Center’s Health Educator to implement campus-wide health education and peer support.

“The MHA and Health Advisor programs are two groups that offer lots of programming and support to students,” expressed Ringle. “It can be easy to get isolated in the center because we are busy working with students behind closed doors,” she acknowledged. “We want to increase our outreach and work more with student groups and organizations to better help serve their needs.”

Above all, Dr. Graham wants to ensure the Center continues to adapt to best meet the changing needs of the Davidson community. “I recently met with the SGA Subcommittee for Mental Health and I am going to meet with them monthly. I will be working with them throughout the year to hear about what things we need to be doing and maintaining a proper and effective communication between us at the student body,” said Dr. Graham. “We want the community to get to know us better and we are constantly looking for more ways to give back to them.” 

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