Cross-curricular collaboration highlights mental wellness efforts

Published 07.10.2024

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A cross-curricular, collaborative effort by Pennsylvania College of Technology psychology and nursing faculty and a college counselor to enhance students’ mental health was highlighted at the Higher Education Suicide Prevention Coalition’s Annual Conference, held recently in Pittsburgh.

Fifty colleges from 21 states took part in the conference. Presentations and workshops focused on how college campuses partner with communities and organizations to promote mental wellness needs and decrease suicide risk.

Sharing their collective endeavors in the presentation, “Utilizing Peer to Peer Projects to Enhance Mental Health and Self-Care Through Curricular Infusion,” were Susan Koons Slamka, associate professor, psychology; Linda L. Locher, counselor; and Terri A. Stone, assistant professor, nursing.

A trio of Pennsylvania College of Technology employees presented at the recent Higher Education Suicide Prevention Coalition’s Annual Conference (from left): Susan Koons Slamka, associate professor of psychology; Linda L. Locher, counselor; and Terri A. Stone, assistant professor, nursing. They detailed cross-curricular, collaborative projects offered at Penn College to enhance students’ mental wellness. (Photo provided.)

Their session detailed three curricular infusion projects at Penn College: Students in a Community Health Nursing class created a “Nursing Student Survival Guide” for first-year nursing students; a Positive Psychology class sponsored a Wellness Fair addressing various self-care and mindfulness information and activities; and a Clinical Psychology class hosted a Wellness Fair promoting openness to change based on the readiness-to-change model for addressing mental health issues. Therapy Assistance Online (also known as TAO) provided a platform and model for these projects.

“The presentation highlighted the high-impact projects that upper-level psychology and nursing students took on to promote peer-to-peer wellness on campus and educate their classmates about the Therapy Assistance Online supports that are available to students to supplement their well-being strategies,” Slamka explained. “Students used their interviewing, supportive helping and professionalism skills learned in classes to assist their peers, showcasing our hands-on, real-world learning approach at Penn College.”

Slamka added, “The conference was a wonderful opportunity to be in an environment designated primarily for the mental health of students and to be part of the nationwide conversation regarding how to best support the total health experience of college students.”

HESPC is a collaborative organization with the united goal of developing and implementing strategies to reduce suicides on college campuses and improve the overall wellness of students. The coalition began in 2015 through the support of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Originally designed for Pennsylvania campuses, the outreach has extended to additional states. Campus representatives involved in HESPC activities include counseling center staff, student health, student affairs, residence life, public safety, athletics, campus ministry and other campus leaders interested in mental wellness and suicide prevention.

“The conference was a perfect blend of educators across the state discussing their recent research efforts on suicide prevention,” said Mary Shuma Rudberg, director of counseling at Penn College and a member of the planning committee for the conference. “Terri, Linda and Susan’s presentation was selected out of 32 proposals submitted, which speaks to the importance of their topic. Counseling Services’ collaboration with the School of Nursing & Health Sciences and the School of Business, Arts & Sciences has provided a bridge between these three areas, and we will continue to foster our connections at Penn College.”

The Penn College trio’s conference participation was funded through the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant through SAMHSA.

The presentation highlighted the high-impact projects that upper-level psychology and nursing students took on to promote peer-to-peer wellness on campus ...

Susan Koons Slamka

Associate professor, psychology

A licensed clinical psychologist, Slamka has been teaching at Penn College since 2001. She teaches a range of psychology courses and has developed numerous psychology and human services courses during her time at the college. She earned a Doctor of Psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology, both from Central Michigan University. Her Bachelor of Arts in psychology was received from Bloomsburg University.

Locher joined Penn College’s Counseling Services staff in 2017. She is a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania and a licensed clinical psychologist in Virginia. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy in counseling psychology and Master of Arts degrees in counseling psychology and in guidance and counseling, all from The Ohio State University. She attained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and education from Dickinson College.

Stone began working at Penn College in 2010 as a learning lab coordinator in nursing and transferred to faculty in 2012. She holds a Master of Business Administration from Bloomsburg University, a Master of Science in Nursing, nursing education, from Mansfield University, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Bloomsburg University. Stone’s professional work includes public health experience in health education, cardiovascular risk reduction, case management, and licensure and certification of facilities.

For more information on Penn College’s psychology courses, contact the School of Business, Arts & Sciences at 570-327-4521. For more on nursing majors, contact the School of Nursing & Health Sciences at 570-327-4519. Counseling Services can be reached at 570-327-4765.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free at 800-367-9222.