Vice President and Dean of the College Paul McLoughlin sent an email to the Colgate student body Thursday, October 24 inviting them to partake in the National College Health Assessment (NCHA). NCHA is a nationally recognized research survey that, according to the NCHA website, “can assist [colleges] in collecting precise data about [their] students’ health habits, behaviors, and perceptions.” The dean “strongly encourages” students to complete the anonymous survey by November 22.
As stated by Dean McLoughlin in his email, Colgate participates in the NCHA once every three years. Colgate’s last administrations of the NCHA were in 2013 and 2016. Dean McLoughlin explained how the survey data has been used in the past.
“We have used past survey data to inform changes such as additional support services for students utilizing counseling and psychological services, both after hours and through BetterMynd, expansion of peer education through the Shaw Wellness Institute, new programs focused on sleep and cooking, as well as the expansion of efforts related to sexually transmitted infection testing,” Dean McLoughlin said.
This year, however, the survey holds extra weight. This year’s survey coincides with the university’s new integrated wellness approach, also known as the Third-Century Plan. As Colgate enters its third century, the university seeks a long-term plan, which according to the Colgate University Website aims “to help guide the trustees, alumni and friends of the University, administration, and the faculty over many years — even decades — as Colgate seeks to achieve the highest fulfillment of its mission.” Part of achieving fulfillment of its mission depends on Colgate’s knowledge of the state of its students’ health and wellness.
“The responses are helpful in formulating decisions about staffing needs and policies, as well as the types and nature of programs and services offered...additionally, my team in the Dean of the College Division is focused on a number of initiatives that impact the student expereinces, including the prevention of hazing, access to healthy food, the use and misuse of alcohol and other drugs, staff readiness for responding to student mental health and sexual violence support and prevention,” Dean McLoughlin said.
The email said that all students’ involvement is crucial, as their answers will directly impact how current and future programs, services and resources operate on campus. The aggregated responses will then be shared with the relevant departments and committees on campus, as well as with the president’s staff. Moreover, the success of the survey is incumbent on a large sample size so that the administration can draw conclusions and make informed decisions based on responses that are actually representative of the entire student body.
According to Director of the Shaw WellnessInstitute Katie Griffes, in the past, the survey has received a low response turnout, which, she said, “is unfortunate for us, because we do want to hear from our students; we do want to hear what their needs are.”
Griffes explained how the NCHA responses are important in steering the direction of the Third-Century Plan, which aims to combine Shaw Wellness, counseling services and health services.
“We’re thinking about what [the Third-Century Plan] would look like, and how it would best support the needs of our students. So the more input we get from our students about, you know, are we really seeing challenges with mental health, do we need more mental health support, are we seeing issues with loneliness, with relationship issues or with substance abuse [the better],” Griffes said.
Senior Zoe Frishberg said that students in her sociology seminar discussed their curiosity about the upcoming NCHA during class.
“We talked about Dean McLoughlin’s email, and a classmate and I started to wonder if the survey would address juuling, knowing how prevalent it is on campus. For my seminar thesis, I plan on doing a deep-dive into the sociological phenomenon of juuling, so I’d be interested to know if that ends up in the NCHA,” Frishberg said.
Soon students will receive a notification email with a link to take the training from the “National College Health Assessment,” firstname.lastname@example.org, which they should click on in order to participate. According to Griffes, the survey’s duration time depends on how students answer the questions.