Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) was named in two competitive grant awards by Lilly Endowment Inc. as part of a Phase 3 Charting the Future of Indiana’s Colleges and Universities initiative.
SMWC, the only institution in Indiana to be included as a partner in more than one grant initiative, is one of 16 Indiana colleges and universities supported by nearly $70 million in funding as part of an initiative designed to help Indiana institutions assess and prioritize the most significant challenges and opportunities and develop strategies to address them.
The two grant initiatives are collaborative efforts designed to support student retention and mental health resources.
Dottie L. King, Ph.D., president of SMWC, said, “I am so grateful to the Endowment for setting in motion a process that has allowed us to dream again while addressing the most pressing needs facing our students today.”
“I am also thankful for the collegiality that has enabled us to develop strong partnerships in a collaborative and forward-thinking way as together we work to expand opportunities for students throughout the state,” said King. “Each of the two grant initiatives is about persistence and success, and I am excited about the opportunity for our collective institutions to work together to make an impact on real-world issues facing higher education.”
In partnership with University of Indianapolis, SMWC will work to improve retention and graduation rates for students, especially first-generation college students, students of color and students eligible to receive federal Pell grants. University of Indianapolis will lead the six participating institutions through process improvement in areas such as data management, departmental collaboration and development of a more robust alert system that will flag at-risk students. Other schools named as part of the grant include Anderson University, Indiana Institute of Technology, Martin University and University of Southern Indiana.
“We are in the business of helping students develop and achieve their dreams for a fruitful career by graduating with a degree,” said Janet Clark, Ph.D., vice president for academic and student affairs. “Therefore, strengthening the collection and analysis of data on what factors contribute to the success and retention of students is very exciting and critical to an institution’s success.”
The second grant-funded project will improve and expand mental health awareness and resources for students. The grant was submitted in collaboration with DePauw University (Greencastle, Indiana), and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute, Indiana). It will enable these institutions to build a creative, collaborative and expandable approach to meeting the mental health needs of college students in support of their long-term success.
According to a 2020 report by the American College Health Association, nearly 33% of college students screened positive or were diagnosed and or treated for a mental health concern. However, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health estimates that only 11.8% of college students utilize counseling centers. Because poor mental health can hinder academic success, SMWC and the partnering institutions will use the grant money to support MINDful College Connections —establishing a non-profit consortium to address this significant issue, in a multi-year process.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to expand wellness services to our students with specific emphasis on mental health. The MINDful College Connections is a partnership consortium that will serve the mental health needs of college students,” said Aimee Janssen-Robinson, Ph.D., associate vice president for student affairs.
“Particular focus will be on the use of shared clinical services, peer education and preventive care to respond to student mental health needs early and empower students to utilize psycho-education and self-care strategies. The ultimate goal is supporting students to impact retention and college students’ ability to graduate successfully,” added Janssen-Robinson.
Lilly Endowment launched the three-phased Charting the Future initiative in 2019 to help leaders of the state’s 38 colleges and universities engage in thoughtful discernment about the future of their institutions and to advance strategic planning and implementation efforts to address key challenges and opportunities. Collaboration was encouraged, especially in the third phase of Charting the Future, and several schools proposed collaborative programs and strategies. Through three phases of grantmaking, Lilly Endowment awarded more than $138 million to the schools.
“We are pleased with the creative and collaborative approaches the colleges and universities are taking to address these challenges and seize opportunities to better serve their students, institutions, communities and the state of Indiana,” said Ted Maple, the Endowment’s vice president for education.