Clark students who are facing additional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic or working to overcome other obstacles in their personal or academic lives will now find additional support thanks to the newest members of the University’s Care Team.
The Care Team, developed three years ago under the Dean of Students office, is composed of staff members from Student Affairs, Athletics, the Office of the Dean of College. The team provides outreach and assistance to students and their families relative to a student’s social, emotional, and academic success. In August, Associate Dean of Students for Student CARE Becca Kitchell was hired to lead the team and has spent the fall semester coordinating resources to bolster support of individual students. Prior to Kitchell joining the team, Lamara J. Burgess assumed the role of director of student support services and Hayley Haywood was named assistant dean for equity and student success.
Members of the Care Team serve as case managers, advocates, and sounding boards for those needing extra assistance. The team may connect Clarkies to academic resources like tutoring or additional faculty support, wellness support through the Center for Counseling and Personal Growth, or may just have a friendly conversation about a student’s life.
“My hope for the Care Team and my new role is to create more trust and stronger relationships to help break down the stigma around seeking help,” Kitchell says. “We want to provide more proactive outreach and want students, from the day they step foot on campus, to understand this is part of the fabric of Clark.”
Kitchell wants to meet with faculty, staff, and student groups to educate them about what the Care Team is and the services it provides. That way, when members of the campus community encounter a student in need of additional support, they can direct the student to a Care Team member. Burgess has taken a direct role, meeting one-on-one with students, following up with their families, and serving as a liaison between other offices. “My position is very unique in that I get to meet and collaborate with just about everyone across campus,” she says. “Throughout my short time here, I have learned a great deal and built connections with many departments.”
The Care Team meets regularly to triage the information that come to them through from members of the Clark community who become aware of students experiencing various challenges. The team then coordinates outreach to students to offer assistance.
Haywood, who focuses on student issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, has been leading equity-related initiatives for the past five years at Clark as the director of Multicultural and First Generation Student Support. She has a deep sense of the lived experiences of underrepresented students and will use her new role to build structural change at Clark in support of these students. “Student Care cannot exist without an identity-conscious lens,” Haywood says. “It is critical that we honor our students’ diverse lived experiences and transform our environment to be one that truly allows all students to thrive.”
Kitchell says the Dean of Students Office, including the Care Team, continues to find opportunities to create a more cohesive campus. Efforts include bringing emotional support animals to Red Square during the fall semester and providing warm beverages and treats around the time of the presidential election.
“Those additional layers of support and outreach make Clark unique. As a small university, we have the capability to develop close relationships with students where they’re not just a number. We know them, and they become comfortable sharing things,” Kitchell says. “For me, that’s the most humbling part of my job.”