Student Assembly works to improve campus wellness resources

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EMMA FORD AND KIM LORES / THE FLAT HAT

Health and wellness are critical to every individual’s personal and professional success. Physical wellness is intertwined with mental wellness. The College of William and Mary recognizes this, and I believe that this is one of the reasons we have the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center, not just a Student Health Center. The departments in that building work with each other to provide students a cohesive approach to the overall wellness of every student who needs their help.

As a senator in the College’s Student Assembly, I can confidently say that your student government recognizes that these departments, while always striving to provide the best service they can, have sometimes fallen short of their broader mission. These shortcomings are not from lack of intent, but from lack of resources. Specifically, SA has received many concerns about the ability of the Counseling Center to adequately address the needs of the student body, and we are acting on those concerns diligently.

Upon my inauguration in April 2019, I expressed my desire to help the Counseling Center improve its capabilities and increase mental health awareness on campus. A group of experienced senators immediately came to me to form a subcommittee on the matter. We immediately began conducting research, holding meetings with the Counseling Center, and analyzing the data we collected. We worked on this project and met with the Counseling Center for updates over the summer. At the beginning of this academic year, the senate subcommittee engaged the executive branch to take our initiative a step further. We’ve held additional meetings with SA President Kelsey Vita ’20 and her cabinet, as well as with administrators in College President Katherine Rowe’s office. Much progress has been made on how to address the issues at the Counseling Center, and I am excited to share our findings with the student body and our proposed resolution once we have completed our analysis.

I ask the student body to remember, for better or worse, that to resolve this issue, we must work within the confines of the bureaucracy of the system. There are checks and balances in place to ensure any action taken is in the best interest of and wanted by the students. This means a solution can take longer than we would like, but adhering to the process will allow us to create the solution that will be sustainable for years to come. While the student body may not always hear about or know exactly what SA is working on, remember we are here to represent you. Come to us if you have a question, want an update on anything we’re working on, or to share what you want us to work on.

In my time in SA, I have come to believe confidently each SA member ran for their position to enhance the student experience and do so with complete transparency. Additionally, my interactions with each representative have been mutually respectful, even when we have disagreed about various topics. The culture of this government body is representative of the College community at-large.

I had the honor and privilege of earning my bachelor’s degree from the College’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business in 2014. My experiences on campus have shown me a community that is supportive and drives each other to become the best versions of ourselves. I had trouble seeing this when I first arrived on campus. I came from a place where I had been one of the best. At the College, I was middle of the pack at best. It was uncomfortable for me. Eventually, I came to realize my fellow students were willing to help me in areas where I did not excel, and I could help them in areas where I excelled. This is a critical aspect of the idea of community. There will always be pockets of individuals in any community who are cutthroat, devious and self-centered. However, that is not the overall character of the College’s student population or of SA.

I will bleed green and gold until the day I pass on. I only applied to one graduate business school: the full-time Master of Business Administration program at the Mason School of Business. I knew I would receive a world-class education in a supportive environment where I would be respected by my peers, faculty and staff. I also wanted to return to help with mental health awareness and suicide prevention due to the suicide of my friend and roommate during my undergraduate years. I will not rest until we make improvements in this aspect of student life. If you’re inspired by this article, I hope you reach out to me or your SA representative to aid us in our efforts.

Email Derek Kernus at

jdkernus@email.wm.edu.