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Issue No. 6—Winter 2013
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A Message from the Dean of Undergraduates

Even though the spring semester is in full swing, you’ll see in this newsletter that we had a lively and successful fall semester, with the introduction of new programs and resources, including the Center for Written, Oral and Visual Communication and the First-Year Writing Intensive Seminar program. Rice created the Center for Teaching Excellence this year, with the appointment of 16 esteemed faculty fellows to foster research, communication and collaboration on innovative teaching. Rice launched its first ever “massively open online course,” an Introduction to Interactive Programming, hosted by our new partner Coursera. I will be launching my own chemistry course on Coursera in late February or early March.

The semester was not without some controversy, and in early December our students engaged us in a discussion about Rice’s policies and positions regarding student mental health on campus. At Rice, we regard mental health care as a public health matter in which we are committed to providing timely and effective psychiatric and psychological support to our students, to reducing barriers to mental health care on and off campus, and to destigmatizing mental illness at Rice. Rice students face a variety of academic, personal and social challenges as they transition from home to college and from adolescence to early adulthood. Adjustment to college life can be stressful and depending on students’ unique psychology, biology and neurophysiology, they are at risk for depression, anxiety, trauma, psychotic illness, substance abuse and addiction.

In September, to address these and other situations, my staff launched the Wellbeing Project, a series of events, workshops and programs to foster healthy behaviors, both physical and emotional, for students. Our goal is to provide our students knowledge and awareness of the signs and symptoms of mental illness and of the resources available for care and support. As we continue to educate and inform our students, I ask and invite you to join us in encouraging wellness amongst our students.

We know from years of experience that a number of students will struggle with psychological crises, addiction and mental illness during their Rice years. For some, illness will compromise their health, happiness, success, and for a few, their safety. Through the Rice Counseling Center (RCC), we have programs in place to help our students when they are in need. The center provides triage, referral and brief treatment services to students with mental health needs. A psychiatrist and highly trained psychologists and social workers are on staff at the RCC. Evidence shows that counseling centers improve mental health outcomes on college campuses. This is our experience at Rice. To complement the RCC, we developed a Wellness Center to deliver short-term psychological support for students having short-term interpersonal problems, relationship crises and academic stress. Peer support is provided by peer health advisers and a national organization called Active Minds, a national student group committed to mental health.

Each academic year, a few students have exceptional difficulty managing their mental health needs and their academic responsibilities. We work with each student who is in need and seeks help. You can help us by encouraging your students to seek assistance when they are struggling by visiting the RCC or the Wellness Center or by talking to their college master or faculty members. If your student has any chronic medical or mental health condition or is regularly taking medication, we strongly recommend that you arrange a local physician and/or therapist to monitor their health and wellness. If you would more information, please contact us.

We are looking forward to the many spring events, which ultimately lead us to Commencement May 11. As always, you are welcome to visit the campus and experience for yourself the varied activities in which our students are engaged.

Best regards,

John S. Hutchinson
Dean of Undergraduates