Supporting the Well-Being of Students of Color

A video toolkit for faculty, staff and providers

Mental health among college students has become a national priority. Students of color in particular experience unique circumstances, such as racial/ethnic discrimination, disparities in mental health services, and marginalization. These experiences can contribute negatively to their mental health and well-being and impede both academic performance and college satisfaction.

This video series features scholars and practitioners from across the country who provide evidence-based information for faculty, staff, and providers to foster a positive learning environment and support the mental health and well-being of students of color.

Scholars and practitioners have informed this effort through a holistic approach. Understanding the space and place in which students of color operate provides us with a lens to examine the multiple dimensions of students’ academic and social contexts on and around their campuses. This includes not only the physical components of campus climate, but also the virtual contexts that impact students’ sense of belonging.

Scholars have also highlighted the formal and informal relational contexts among students of color and their faculty, student peers, staff, families, and communities, in order to understand the strengths and contributions that relationships can have on the well-being of students of color. Considering the barriers and strengths (including structural, social, cultural and personal) of students can help advocates and supporters identify students’ assets and support them as college campuses adapt to better serve students of color. Scholars and practitioners have introduced innovative interventions to address the complex challenges facing students and institutions, and guidance on best practices to implement, scale up, and advance rigorous research on this topic.

This video series is a product of a collective effort between scholars and practitioners across the country. We hope you will join us as we increase awareness and understanding about the experiences of students of color and consider how to best support them so that they may be successful and thrive in the educational environment.

The Weight by Christina Morton

Campus Climate and How it Impacts the Mental Health of Students of Color

Campus climates are made up of interactions, norms, and practices. Students can experience campus climates in their residence halls, classrooms, and across campus spaces. When students experience negative interpersonal interactions, depression or anxiety can be triggered. When campus incidents of bias or discrimination occur, it can lead to isolation or a decreased sense of belonging. Faculty, staff, and administrators can foster positive campus climates by creating policies, norms, and practices to reduce hostility and where students of color can thrive as learners.

Microaggressions Can Take a Psychological Toll on Students of Color

Students of color often experience microaggressions — everyday insults — that can take a psychological toll over time. Racial microaggressions may come at the individual level — invalidation and interpersonal discrimination — or at the structural level. Students who encounter microaggressions may experience lower psychological wellbeing, feelings of invisibility, higher levels of anxiety and depression, and inability to concentrate — all factors that have an impact on a students’ academic performance, degree completion, and college satisfaction. Interrogating interpersonal interventions and campus structures/systems may aid in alleviating microaggressions.

Campus Climate Trauma: Students of Color Living and Reliving Traumatic Experiences

Campus trauma can be described as chronic, ongoing stress from past and new experiences with the education system. These experiences can be exacerbated by acute traumatic events such as acts of racism and hate crimes. In classrooms, students of color may often be asked to share their experiences for educational public consumption at the expense of reliving these traumatic experiences. Educators can foster a learning environment in which students of color can heal and thrive without the additional burden of campus trauma.

Campus Climate Trauma: Students of Color Become Resilient and Heal

Supporting healing and building resilience among students of color can include creating spaces for students to openly share their past and present trauma. These spaces can build a supportive community and develop a culture of positive reinforcement and validation. Providing opportunities for students to gain historical knowledge about the resistance and oppression engaged in by their racial and ethnic groups can increase efficacy, racial pride, and positive psychological well being. Institutional leaders have a role in supporting students in not only becoming resilient in the midst of toxic learning environments, but also fostering learning environments in which they can thrive.

Activism for Healing and Thriving: Supporting Students of Color in Building Agency

Activism can be a source of healing but may also come at the expense of re-traumatization, burnout, and frustration. As students participate in advocating for change on campuses, they can gain agency related to their histories and identities, join a community, and develop important leadership skills. However, when student activists are not well supported, their experiences can be stressful and retraumatizing, leading to negative academic consequences. Faculty and staff who support students should be attentive to students who engage in campus and social activism in ways that support their healing, thriving and academic pursuits.

The Young, Gifted @ Risk and Resilient video series was sponsored and curated by the The Steve Fund, National Center for Institutional Diversity, Center for Academic Innovation, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Special thanks to our guest speakers: Kira Banks, Laura Bohorquez Garcia, Tabbye Chavous, Roger Fisher, Christina Morton, Helen Neville, Annelle B. Primm, David Rivera, Michael Spencer, Torie Weiston-Serdan

Special thanks to b-roll student participants: Ivana Lopez Espinosa, Leticia Cruz, Andrew M Monroe, monét cooper, Channing Mathews, Sopuluchukun Anidobu, Maiya Whiteside, Ashley Soto, Maureen Thomas, Alexis Jimenez, Brianna Mims, Elena Maria Rosario, Dante Michael, Jarell Skinner-Roy, Arrice Bryan, Loren Johnson, Terrance McQueen