College is the time you grow into yourself.
Before coming to St. Lawrence last summer, I had worked at the same institution for 24 years. Thus, when I joined the Laurentian community in July 2021, I was a “first-year student” for the first time in a very long time. Just as our first-year students do each year, I moved into my new residence on campus, learned my way around, and began meeting new people on campus—students, faculty, and staff.
My transition to St. Lawrence reminded me of the joys and challenges new students face each year when they join our community. For our students, moving to campus may be the first time they are truly apart from their families or away from their high school friend groups. It can be both exciting and anxiety-provoking to have the freedom to navigate one’s identity and social relationships in a completely new environment.
Like so much of life, the college experience changed under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those of us who were new to the Laurentian community last summer and fall (as well as those who became Laurentians in fall 2020), it was a struggle to get to know others when masks covered their faces and social distancing guidelines were in place to curtail the spread of the virus.
Although there are many stories of humans flourishing in challenging circumstances throughout the pandemic, there is no doubt that many people have suffered. Psychologists like myself are fond of saying that human beings are social animals. The pandemic restrictions we experienced throughout society, on colleges campuses, and here at St. Lawrence undermined our basic human needs for connection and affiliation. As such, we at St. Lawrence are taking steps to support the well-being of our students in the face of the many challenges they are experiencing, often exacerbated by the pandemic environment of the past two years.
In this issue of St. Lawrence magazine, you can read about the people and programs designed to foster holistic wellness for our students. Vice President and Dean of Student Life Hagi Bradley has provided leadership in our student wellness initiatives. The Office of Wellness Education and its director, Laura Lavoie, offer students a wide range of options to promote physical and mental health. Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Kimberly Flint-Hamilton is working with students to ensure everyone at St. Lawrence is safe, known, respected, valued, and understood. The University’s Director of Counseling Services Tara Tent and her colleagues in the Diana B. Torrey ’82 Health & Counseling Center have created a clinical environment where students can get therapy in a professional, nonjudgmental setting on campus.
All our efforts to strengthen well-being on campus positions the University as a true partner with Laurentian families, who will always be the most important part of their students’ mental health solutions.
Of special note, St. Lawrence is working with The Jed Foundation, which has a mission of strengthening students’ emotional health and resilience. In partnership with JED, we’re identifying existing programs—and establishing new ones—that bolster the social connections that help everyone thrive as they build the personal resilience that will carry them through life’s inevitable challenges.
As I finish my first year as president, I continue to be a proud member of the Laurentian community. Thank you for being part of our top-ranked alumni network and for your role in supporting students during their time on campus and as they venture forth to make their respective marks on the world.