Campus & Community

Stevens Administrators Participate in NJ Mental Health Summit at Seton Hall University

Earlier this month, Stevens Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Sara Klein co-chaired the inaugural New Jersey Higher Education Mental Health Summit hosted at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. The inter-institution collaboration brought together delegates representing more than 40 New Jersey colleges, universities and mental health professionals, all with a shared goal of addressing the nationwide student mental health crisis.

In her remarks, Klein discussed the urgent need to create “more professional development for [university] staff members on mental health,” as well as the myriad potential opportunities to mount a joint approach to share resources, staff connections and support mechanisms across the state.

“This Summit comprised people from across the state and local government and gives us the opportunity to connect about our work and discuss how to support each other and our students, and solve problems together,” she said. “The values that connect us are a commitment to taking mental health seriously and investing time and effort working with students to improve their mental health.”

Klein also introduced the event’s keynote speaker, hip-hop legend and co-founder of the group Run-DMC, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, who delivered a keynote address that shared with audiences his own struggles with mental health. Navigating alcoholism, depression and suicidal ideation at the very height of his fame in the early 1990s, McDaniels explained that rehabilitation and therapy were essential tools in his long-term recovery process.

Summit co-chair Karen Van Norman, associate vice president and dean of students at Seton Hall, shared her vision for the event as an opportunity for those involved to “[take] a moment to step back, observe, learn and converse” about these pressing concerns. Speaking to a wide-ranging audience of mental health professionals and front-line practitioners from student affairs, campus police, residence life, athletics, health services and first-generation programs, among others, Van Norman deemed the Summit a “first of its kind” gathering.

Throughout the day, Summit participants engaged in a range of activities designed to promote psychological wellbeing and support mechanisms for diverse student populations. Attendees visited the Resource Fair, featuring 17 booths from mental health organizations, community providers and health service providers. Notable contributors included Uwill (the Summit’s principal sponsor), the JED Foundation, the Partnership to End Addiction, the Mental Health Association of New Jersey and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The demand for such services and resources has in recent years reached new heights. As New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way shared during another presentation, many educational institutions recognize that we are at a “crisis moment” that warrants immediate and sustained attention.

As an institution and a community, Stevens prioritizes mental health on campus. A recipient of the prestigious 2022 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award, which recognizes Stevens’ commitment to the physical and mental health of its students and as “one of the healthiest college campuses in the nation,” Stevens also received a Mental Health in Higher Education: Community Provider Partnerships Grant from the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, totaling more than $333,000, for its commitment to supporting the mental health needs of students. The work of Stevens President Nariman Farvardin’s Mental Health Task Force (2019–21) continues to inform campus-wide mental health initiatives.

At the conclusion of the Summit, attendees heard closing remarks from Brian Bridges, New Jersey’s Higher Education Secretary. Bridges reflected on the shared effort of participating institutions, noting that such collective effort has the power to become “a force for change,” not only for our students but also “in the lives of everyone in the State of New Jersey.” In the coming months, New Jersey will expand their existing collaboration with Uwill, a student mental health and wellness platform designed as a solution for accessible and proactive mental health support. As part of this expanded partnership, students at Stevens and other partner institutions in the state will be provided with free, unlimited teletherapy services with licensed mental health professionals.

Visit the Student Support page to learn more about Stevens’ approach to student wellness.