IMSA’s Year of Inquiry into Students’ Mental Health

IMSA's Year of Inquiry 2018-19 seeks to investigate the issue of mental health on campus. Image source: Pixabay.

In the past year, IMSA’s administration asked the Office of Institutional Research to begin a Year of Inquiry. Since then, IMSA’s offices of Student Life and Institutional Research have taken a special interest in the state of students’ mental health.

On Wednesday, September 11th in the AC Pit, Dr. Amber Pareja (Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Research) and Katherine Berger (Executive Director of Student Affairs) hosted a Town Hall meeting, announcing the start of the Year of Inquiry. The Year of Inquiry is a new initiative which – with the help of IMSA students, faculty, and staff – will research and identify potential solutions to the mental health climate on campus.

As evinced by last week’s series of articles, the majority of the IMSA community agrees that mental health is a major problem, with many students consistently taking stress mods and going to the school counselors for much-needed emotional support.

Pareja outlined the reasons for choosing mental health as the Year of Inquiry focus topic. Most of her reasoning centered on the data from last year’s Climate Survey: “We asked students how they would describe IMSA, and…a lot of students are finding IMSA to be stressful or difficult. And this can really impact students’ mental health and well-being, [leading] to a lot of stress-related health symptoms.”

Berger added, “In addition to the data, we also know that mental health is…being discussed across the country, especially when it comes to high-school aged students, because the pressure that they’re feeling is [increasing]… So how do we support our students when they have mental health issues? What does the counseling look like? That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

Exact research questions for the project are not yet finalized. Instead, Berger and Pareja plan to organize a collaborative working group that will collectively determine appropriate research questions to direct the Year of Inquiry.

The underlying principle behind a Year of Inquiry is to engage the entire IMSA community in a project that analyzes measurable data and accomplishes measurable outcomes. IMSA students, faculty, and staff will work together to analyze existing data, potentially conduct further surveys, and get personal input from the IMSA community regarding potential solutions to mental health problems on campus.

Berger stated, “IMSA is taking a big step forward by saying, ‘We’re not just going to talk about what’s going on [regarding IMSA students’ mental health issues]… We’re going to engage our entire community to figure out, ‘What do we need to do going forward?'”

The PowerPoint presentation from the GA, including data from the February 2018 IMSA Climate Survey, can be found here.

A summary document from the Office of Institutional Research regarding the Year of Inquiry can be found here.

About the Author

Grace Yue
Grace Yue is a senior from Des Plaines. She's the Opinions section editor for the second year running, a resident of 03A-wing for the third year running, and an honorary resident of 06 for the third year running. Outside of Acronym, she participates in a research project at Fermilab, serves as 03 Head Tutor, and writes for the Korea Daily Chicago's Student Reporters Club.

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