By Grace Gottschling
Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Angela Chong visited Student Government on Feb. 28 to speak about the College’s resources and the Division of Student Affairs’ five-year strategic plan. Newly elected SG members were also sworn in by Chris Blakeley, SG’s executive president and a junior civil engineering major.
Chong began the meeting with a presentation documenting recent efforts Student Affairs has taken regarding student satisfaction of health and wellness, Welcome Week and recreation services.
Chong discussed certain focus areas of the newly developed Student Affairs strategic plan — health and wellness, diversity and inclusion, resilience and leadership.
Chong has been interim vice president of Student Affairs since 2014, and said her main priorities are increasing the accessibility of the Division of Student Affairs as well as prioritizing students’ mental health and diversity.
“The mental health of students is a really critical goal of mine as well as diversity, but we still have a long way to go,” Chong said.
Under Chong’s leadership, Student Affairs has started regular meetings with the student body and student organizations. Student Affairs has also adopted an “open door” policy as well as “ask the vice president anything” days, according to Chong.
“We think our students are going to change the world,” Chong said. “We want to own and embrace that — that is what we use to choose what to work on and our priorities.”
Chong commented on the increasing number of students who have approached the Division of Student Affairs with concerns from just 150 students in 2015 to more than 700 students so far in the spring 2018 semester.
“This tells us that the need is greater, that students need support, but also that they feel comfortable approaching available resources,” Chong said. “I would rather this be a greater number, because I would rather students in need come in than not.”
Student recidivism is down by five percent this academic year and 99 percent of graduated students from the College, within the first year, are either in graduate school or employed, according to Chong.
Chong also noted that Welcome Week leaves 92.8 percent of participating students feeling welcome and acclimated to the College. Student Affairs is currently working to gather statistics on the transfer student acclimation process and satisfaction rate.
“Although we’re beating our peer institutions (in student satisfaction), we’re still not where we need to be in our goals,” Chong said.
Regarding Health and Wellness, Chong reported that CAPS appointments are continuing to increase each year with more clients coming back more often, which she cites as evidence that the stigma surrounding mental health is going down, allowing students to come forward without fear of judgement.
“We are very interested in your health and well-being and I want you to know that,” Chong said. “Safety has always been priority number one.”
Students at the College experience higher rates of anxiety and stress along with poorer resilience and coping skills than students at similar institutions, according to Chong. To address this, Student Affairs has begun to host open mental health events and workshops that introduce students to coping methods such as meditation and yoga.
After Chong’s presentation, Blakeley swore in the newly elected senators as well as the newly elected Alternate Student Trustee, Juan Carlos Belmonte, a sophomore accounting major.