UNCSA Forward: Health and Wellness

Dear Campus Community,

I believe prioritizing health and wellness is integral to academic, professional and personal success. Careers in the arts require incredible discipline, effort and grit — and all too often in both the industry and educational settings, success has been equated with the sacrifice of well-being. I want UNCSA to be a place where being the best artist you can be is not mutually exclusive from becoming your best self. And I want UNCSA to be a leader in developing industrywide changes that focus on putting the well-being of artists first. 

To achieve this, we have made Health and Wellness a core strategy of UNCSA Forward: Our 2022-27 Strategic Plan. Initiatives within this pillar will focus on mental health, student well-being and safety, and campus workload balance. Although these are just the first steps, I’d like to share a few of the early initiatives from the strategic plan to improve health and wellness in our community.

Strengthening sexual misconduct prevention and response protocols
Student safety must be the baseline for any plan to enhance health and wellness. I want UNCSA to be at the forefront of best practices for protecting students from all forms of misconduct or harassment and be a model for the industry in creating a safer workspace for artists. At my direction, UNCSA has begun a comprehensive external review of our policies, procedures, communications and practices to strengthen our protocols to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct and harassment, with a collective goal of eliminating them from our campus. The review is part of a yearlong partnership with Harassment Free NC, which will also include a campus visit;  faculty, staff and student focus groups; a Title IX tabletop exercise; and many new training opportunities for the UNCSA community. 

Harassment Free NC focuses on creating holistic and systematic services for sexual violence response and prevention and Title IX compliance. They have worked with a variety of educational institutions, including NC State University, Appalachian State University, Duke University, Georgetown University and many more. 

Increased implementation of Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based training course that helps communities understand mental illnesses, seek timely intervention, and save lives. The course utilizes role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect individuals to professional, peer and social support as well as self-help resources. Student Affairs has given eight Mental Health First Aid training sessions resulting in nearly 30% of faculty and staff being certified.

Expanding counseling services for students
In response to increased student need, additional funding was allocated by UNCSA and the UNC System to support the hiring of external counselors for students with immediate or specialized needs. Federal funding allocated during the pandemic allowed Student Affairs to add an internal mental health counselor and a clinical addictions specialist to the student support team. Additionally, Counseling Services has dedicated a counselor for each arts school and academic department through the Counselor Liaison Program. The liaison participates in department meetings to gain in-depth knowledge of the programs and is a direct resource for the dean. As always, students have access to ProtoCall, our after-hours and weekend counseling service, where they can speak with a licensed provider. 

Piloting a learning and development series for faculty and staff
Beginning September 2021, Human Resources (HR) piloted a learning and development program for faculty and staff to enhance their professional and personal growth. There were 11 workshops conducted around topics ranging from work-life balance to group dynamics to time management. The sessions were facilitated by HR and ComPsych, the administrator of our Employee Assistance Program. HR is currently working with a consultant to assess the effectiveness of this program and the workshops that will be offered in the future.

Arts institutions have discussed the importance of health and wellness with much greater frequency in the past, but I have never seen wellness included as a core component of an institution’s strategic plan, and I am proud that our community is making this a priority. In our October 2021 survey, the health and wellness core strategy ranked either first or second among all campus audiences. 

Starting this transformative work at UNCSA will help create a quality workplace for all employees, and provide a new generation of young artists with the opportunity to maintain their balance and well-being while pursuing their dreams.


Brian Cole 

March 17, 2022