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Teaching Grant Promotes Student Health and Wellbeing

Published on 4/27/2021 1:50:29 PM
Article credits: Raleigh Darnell

Undergraduates face many academic and personal challenges while pursuing academic achievement and their career goals. Maintaining student health and wellbeing is crucial in this regard, for student success and the success of Texas A&M University. Dr. Jayanth “Jay” Ramadoss (PI), Associate Professor & Director of Perinatal Research Lab, Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in collaboration with Dr. Timothy Scott (Co-I), Associate Provost, saw a need for programs that support students in the areas of health and wellbeing, and thus acted by developing the Presidential Transformation Teaching Grant in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Crouch (Co-I), Associate Dean and Dr. Larry Suva (Co-I), Department Head, VTPP.

In an effort to institutionalize programs of support for undergraduates at Texas A&M, Dr. John August, Dean, Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences delivered the key note speech and inaugurated the pilot study known as “The Sophomore Success Program”, and encouraged the development and success of sophomores in biomedical sciences (BIMS) and biomedical engineering (BMEN) programs. Two of the nine student-centric modules are featured in this article where invited facilitators informed and interacted with sophomore students via zoom.

On April 9, 2021, Dr. Anne Reber, the Dean of Student Life talked to students about stress management. The entire Aggie community has experienced stress in some form or another during the COVID pandemic. The day before the zoom session, the Bryan/College Station area experienced tragedy in the form of an active shooter, and weathered a damaging hail storm the same night; Dr. Reber’s talk on stress management could not have come sooner. Dr. Reber discussed multiple personal strategies for dealing with stress, such as acquiring a hobby or giving oneself regular breaks from work and study. Dr. Reber listed several resources provided by Texas A&M for student health and wellness, including but not limited to, Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Health Services, and the Rec Center. Dr. Reber also emphasized the value of the many clubs and organizations on campus, for connecting people of shared interests and fostering a “sense of belonging” in the community.

Stresses of varying contexts and degrees will be present always, even after the pandemic, but as Dr. Reber and other members of the session concluded, practicing good stress management is best cultivated as soon as possible. A&M provides resources to help students cultivate their own stress management practices, and as Dr. Reber kindly but firmly stated to students in the zoom session, “take advantage of them.” Texas A&M is here for its students, and helping students with stress management is no exception.

On April 16, 2021, Dr. Kenita Rogers, Executive Associate Dean & the Director for Diversity and Inclusion for the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, provided insight into what diversity and inclusion is and what faculty, staff, and students can do to promote diversity and inclusion at Texas A&M. Dr. Rogers began by confirming, through recent research, the need for diversity and inclusion to support minorities who face unique challenges in the workplace and academia. After defining diversity and inclusion, Dr. Rogers also described terms such as, privilege, implicit bias, microaggressions, and discussed equality and equity. Dr. Rogers listed diverse examples in relation to these terms including, an explicit case of implicit bias on an airplane, privilege and implicit bias in orchestras, and effective visuals for comparing equality and equity—the wheels of understanding rotated with Dr. Rogers’ wonderful bicycling analogies. Dr. Rogers made sure to mention that “We can all do better,” as faculty, staff, and students in regards to diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Rogers in conclusion listed ways we can put the principles of diversity and inclusion to practice: through acts of communication, cultural humility, and curiosity. In respect to diversity and inclusion, Dr. Rogers made the recommendation to “default to kindness.” Thanks to Dr. Rogers, the important message of diversity and inclusion will not be forgotten, as we continue to be part of a diverse, and inclusive, Aggie community.

BIMS and BMEN Students freely asked questions and both facilitators allowed for open discourse to develop. Through the question and answer sessions following each lecture, participants were able to engage in further discussion concerning the particulars of both major topics. Students could ask questions concerning subjects or terms they were unfamiliar with in each major topic. Students also felt comfortable posing questions related to scenarios, both hypothetical and personal, where they may find the information presented in each lecture helpful. The Sophomore Success Program has the potential to positively impact students who struggle in navigating the rigors of academic life. There is also the hope that students will take the resources provided to them through this program and apply what they learn, not just throughout their respective academic programs, but throughout their professional and personal lives—on and off Texas A&M University Campuses.