Auburn University has been named a winner of the 2022 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award, one of only five in the U.S., as ranked by the Active Minds organization.
The award, now in its sixth year, celebrates U.S. colleges and universities that provide access to quality health care and not only serve students’ physical health, but give equal priority and investment to mental health.
“Mental well-being is essential for students to thrive academically and socially,” said Bobby Woodard, Auburn senior vice president for student affairs. “Auburn offers responsive, innovative services and resources that support the mental and physical health of our students, and they are an essential component of Auburn’s exceptional student experience.”
Auburn joins four other colleges and universities in receiving the Healthy Campus Award: Barstow Community College, University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, Stevens Institute of Technology and Virginia Tech.
Auburn and the other winning campuses found ways to pivot and address student needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, proactively address systems of oppression, integrate health and well-being in strategic planning and use data to ensure that students are getting the care they need, according to Active Minds.
The review panel for the Healthy Campus Award cited the following innovative practices in particular:
- Prioritization of a collective strategic approach: In collaboration with university administrators, students from Active Minds, Spectrum and the Student Government Association established a mental health task force to understand the mental health needs of their student population and compare Auburn’s approach to that of their peer institutions. Using these findings, student groups were able to advocate for better access to mental health resources and a university-wide approach to mental health that would support the whole student body quickly on a campus with a traditionally slow change process.
- Defining health broadly and pursuing it comprehensively: Auburn’s comprehensive communications strategy to promote mental health prevention awareness to campus, A Sound Mind Initiative, involves collaboration among 12 unique campus offices, including the Student Counseling and Psychological Services, Health Promotion and Wellness Services, Campus Recreation, Auburn University Medical Clinic, Campus Dining, Auburn Cares and the Office of Inclusion and Diversity to connect mental health to other forms of well-being, such as physical, emotional and financial health.
- Providing quality, responsive, accessible clinical services: The increased awareness and commitment to student mental health on Auburn’s campus prompted an additional investment in the systems and structures to support student well-being. With the constant prioritization of student well-being, Auburn was positioned to quickly pivot and address the treatment needs of students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Student Counseling and Psychological Services was able to keep up with demand and avoided almost all waitlists and increased outreach efforts by 45%, bringing services proactively to students and student groups.
“Auburn University stands out due to its commitment to working within university traditions to highlight and elevate mental health,” said Alison Malmon, executive director and founder of Active Minds. “Auburn is a model for prioritizing mental health by embedding mental health into the fabric of the student experience from the student’s first days on campus through graduation.”
The Healthy Campus Award involves an extensive application process as well as multiple endorsements. Each applicant is assessed across 10 criteria, with winners chosen by a panel of students, prominent researchers and experts in health and higher education.
Active Minds has updated its Healthy Campus Framework and Recommendations to guide institutions of all types on best practices for prioritizing health, both physical and mental, on their campuses and in their communities. The 2022 report is available online.
The Healthy Campus Award is made possible through the support of Peg’s Foundation. More information about Active Minds, the Healthy Campus Award and the best-in-class programs of the award-winning colleges is available on the website.