SHARON, Pa. — Penn State Shenango Assistant Teaching Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Roxanne Atterholt was selected as a Fellow for the Student Engagement Network’s Engagement Faculty Academy.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Atterholt noticed a shift in the way students interacted with the campus community. “Coming out of the pandemic, the Student Engagement Network did a lot of research on the topic and found that well-being and engagement took a tank,” Atterholt said. “It was hard to feel engaged when everything was being done remotely.” The decline was noticeable for many other faculty members as well. “We wrote a lot about these issues for ourselves and I decided to design this project around that foundation we already had.”
As a result, Atterholt created an engagement project to benefit students, faculty, and staff at the Shenango campus titled, "Working on Wellness Together: Engage Your Healthiest Self." The project was selected by the Student Engagement Network and includes funding in order to incorporate evidence-based strategies for supporting students into academic learning environments and to host on-campus events.
As the overseeing member of a faculty learning community at Shenango, Atterholt, along with faculty members across various disciplines, participated in mental health first-aid trainings and included well-being-specific language into existing curricula for the fall semester. On top of the mental health initiatives and course re-structuring, the faculty group also scheduled games and art activities designed to allow all members of the Shenango community to connect and feel a sense of belonging. “Wellness should be some fun, too,” said Atterholt. “We invited anyone on campus to come and play.”
The group hosted two campus engagement activities in the fall semester and will hold two more in the spring, along with more mental health first-aid training for faculty, staff and students. With engagement opportunities like these, as well as small-scale and large-scale shifts in learning environments that promote well-being, the hope for the "Working on Wellness Together: Engage Your Healthiest Self" program is to reach as many in the Shenango community as possible. “We had about 211 students in the various classes who participated. In theory, at the conclusion of the spring semester, we could have about 400 people across this campus involved in some aspect of the project."
“We have a research guide developed by a Schreyer Institute of Teaching Excellence partnering-faculty which has helped us collect data,” Atterholt said. “Hopefully, this goes great, and we have documented evidence. Then perhaps it can be duplicated at other Penn State campuses and beyond.”