Plans to better wellness services at Chatham University are in the works, new Executive Director wants to better the university’s outreach to students

By Irina Bucur

Dr. Jennifer Morse was appointed Executive Director of Counseling and Wellness this summer, a title she says reflects a more comprehensive perspective on wellness services, and also points to expanding programming. Part of her job is to coordinate with groups like the Counseling Center, Student Affairs, Health Services and OAAR, formerly known as the PACE Center.

“My real goal is to be thinking broadly about what wellness is going to mean at Chatham,” Dr. Morse said.

Recently, she attended a Chatham Student Government meeting to hear from student leaders about their hopes and concerns regarding wellness, health and counseling on campus. She hopes student feedback will inform future programming, and that an added focus on proactive, rather than purely reactive, services will reach and engage a broader student base.

“If we’re trying to build something, it makes sense to hear from the people who will be using it,” she said.

This fall, Chatham welcomed the largest incoming first year class yet, and the growth of the undergraduate student body could signal an increased need for services. Still, some students say that the wellness outreach done by the University is not enough. Zoe Misera ’20 called services “the bare minimum.”

“They’re subpar. They could be better. They’re not very well advertised or well known,” Misera explained.

Lucas Rothe ’23 on the hockey team pointed out that there are “coaches and people here to talk to.” He describes a culture of openness on campus, but mentions that he wouldn’t have known about counseling services if staff members hadn’t personally come in to speak with the hockey team.

Being a relatively small University with leaner resources, one of Chatham’s obstacles-and feats-is using already available resources and staffing in the most efficient way it can. Part of this, Dr. Morse explained, means implementing a culture of training within wellness services. Graduate students, for example, can then appropriately work under the supervision of professional staff as a resource for undergraduates.

Morse also hopes to expand programming beyond counseling. Though critical and certainly helpful to students who seek it out, most use it reactively. Appointments are usually made when a student is already in distress. Wellness services, while incorporating counseling, are also focused on the idea of multidimensional, preventative and proactive care in the form of workshops.

With this in mind, staff has begun brainstorming ways they can implement this on campus. ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ in the Carriage House is one of the ideas being passed around.

“We all can benefit from wellness,” Dr. Morse said.