Planning underway for student mental health strategic plan

The need for mental health resources for students have expanded in recent years, and now Iowa State will implement a university-level plan to guide those looking to support students. The development of a student mental health strategic plan began earlier this semester and will continue through a series of steps over the next four years.

Task force members

Erin Baldwin, student health services

Jordan Baumgardner, admissions office

Jordan Brooks, dean of students office

David Brown, Human Science extension

Shamaree Brown, athletics department

Kristi Darr, university human resources

Tony Dirth, recreation services

Ryan Doyle, student wellness

Sharron Evans, dean of students office  

Catelyn Fix, athletics department  

Dan Grooms, veterinary medicine

Kinsey Hauser, public safety

Ed Holland, university human resources  

Josie Irwin, student accessibility services

Tera Jordan, provost's office

Cassandra Knutson, human development and family studies

Brett Lohoefener, general counsel

Shelly McQueeney, student counseling service

Michael Newton, public safety

Kimia Noroozi Fashkhami, chemical and biological engineering  

Sasha Patterson, recreation services  

Matt Pistilli, student affairs  

Greg Pliler, human development and family studies  

nicci port, diversity, equity and inclusion

Merry Rankin, facilities planning and management

Paul Richmond, environmental health and safety  

Michelle Roling, student counseling services

Kelby Schultz, sorority and fraternity engagement

Anna Spahn, senior health care management

Jessica Shannon, student health center

Kristen Sievert, student counseling services

Virginia Speight, residence halls  

Angie Strotman, strategic relations and communications

Howard Tyler, agriculture and life sciences

Brian Vanderheyden, student wellness

Kipp Van Dyke, dean of students office  

David Vogel, psychology


"Student counseling services and the ISU police department mental health advocates work diligently to support mental health concerns on campus as well as faculty and staff who work on departmental initiatives in the areas where they are seeing students struggling," said Melanie Reed, student wellness, mental health promotion and suicide prevention strategy specialist. "With the various mental health programs occurring on campus, it has created a siloed process and students don't always know where or how to access resources. A mental health strategic plan that will solidify what help is available for them campuswide."

To provide a concise mental health plan for campus, Iowa State partnered with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that helps colleges and universities develop strategic plans to enhance the mental health of students. The four-year process began Aug. 1, made possible when the project was selected as one of 19 proposals funded through the 2022-31 strategic plan.

"To improve mental health, we really need to have a comprehensive approach that addresses preventative and proactive actions, resources, and establish policy and protocol," student wellness director Brian Vanderheyden said.

Strategic plan

The first year focuses on developing the strategic plan. Vanderheyden and Reed put together a task force of 37 individuals (see breakout) of various roles on campus who bring different expertise and knowledge. It spans all four divisions with vice presidents, faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students. Reed met with each invitee to discuss the task force's focus and no one declined to take part.

The task force first met on Sept. 28 and is completing needs and baseline assessments for campus that will set benchmarks for future years. The needs assessment analyzes a mental health survey sent to 4,000 students on campus that included undergraduate, graduate and professional students to provide quantitative data.

"The baseline assessment -- due Nov. 15 -- is eight sections and between 250-300 questions," Vanderheyden said. "We divided the questions among subject matter experts on the task force who are pulling data and talking to others across campus to collect information."

Results from the survey and assessment will be sent to ISU's Jed Foundation consultant in preparation for an on-campus visit March 4-5.

"Working with Jed gives us a neutral party reviewing the data and determining where there are gaps and where we can improve on what we are already doing," Reed said.

The visit

On the first day of the visit Jed representatives will meet with campus leaders and partners along with student focus groups. The second day will be dedicated to a strategic plan workshop with the task force and Jed representatives.

"After the visit, we will use all the data and discussions we have to put together the institution's strategic plan focused on mental health," Vanderheyden said. He hopes the process is complete by the end of spring semester.

What's ahead?

The second and third years of the partnership focus on implementation of the strategic plan. The task force will provide leadership to put it in place across campus. The fourth year involves sustainability planning and a second benchmark assessment to measure progress and impact since year one.

"After that we move into alumni status with the Jed Foundation, with the idea that every couple of years we complete strategic planning at the university level and work on implementing it," Vanderheyden said. "This is not a one-and-done thing. This builds the infrastructure to plan and then we are able to keep it going."

Alumni status ensures access to Jed Foundation resources after the initial four-year commitment.