The main difference between Naspa Strategies 2021 and last wasn’t the virtual platform, it was the focus on access and equity issues. After a year of helping students navigate online classes, and online wellness services, wellness practitioners had seen first hand how poor access leads to poor outcomes.
It was great to see the health community coming around this issue, sharing how they brought services to hard to reach and underrepresented groups on campus. Along with this, many mentioned that COVID-19 disrupted a process that had previously served students well, and limited their support to their students. However, there is now a silver lining as schools across the country are ramping up their COVID efforts as vaccinations make their first waves onto campuses. This didn’t seem to mean that schools are any less eager looking for ways to virtually engage with their students as there the constantly changing “new normal”.
Our Favorite Sessions at Naspa Strategies 2021
There were many great sessions throughout the week, with each day starting with a meditation session that set the tone for the conference. We attended the meditation session every day as it was a great way to take some time to jumpstart the day.
Other presentations, including “Understanding Factors of Student Well-being and Academic Success” hosted by Samuel Pitasky focused on understanding major factors that influence college student well-being and academic success. They focused on research findings using a large, nationally-representative sample and identified the non-malleable factors (e.g., gender and ethnicity), as well as malleable factors (e.g., resilience), that can be zoned in on and targeted.
Their main goal throughout this presentation was to identify potential opportunities for program improvement or development on campus. Finding ways to understand your student demographic is crucial to effectively engage with your students, and this presentation served as a great example of that.
Speed Networking Showcases Mental Health Challenges
Another benefit to the virtual environment was the speed networking feature. After meeting teams from all over the country and learning how they’re handling virtual health and wellness, we saw some common themes.
- Virtual counseling added efficiencies but created challenges— The ability to meet with students virtually enabled more student sessions to get scheduled in theory, but created issues around student data. When students went home colleges that served a diverse population had to figure out how to comply with student data
- Reaching traditional students hits a low for most— Health and wellness services were feast or famine during the 1st part of the pandemic with some colleges seeing a boost in service requests and others dropping nearly 60%. Most schools we connected with saw a similar engagement rate with their traditional students as they were seeing with commuter groups
While 2020 was a year that dealt many challenges, it also presented a chance to change, as seen at the conference. The attendees all expressed an eagerness to learn from each other’s campuses, and share new ways to connect and engage with their students. The tone was optimistic and practical helping campuses find ways to improve student health as we move forward together. It was clear to see that although COVID-19 caused physical separation, it brought the wellness community together on a deeper level.
Until next year Naspa!