Improving Student Mental Health Conference Chester, UK - June 15, 2019
The challenge of supporting students with mental health difficulties is increasingly important for universities based in the UK, according to the conference’s organizers. A National Union of Students survey in 2018 reported that 78% of students said that they had experienced mental health issues in the last year. Many students find the university experience increasingly more difficult. More live at home and commute to class. Many students will acquire significant debt during the course of their degree. Many work– sometimes full-time – to help to pay for their fees and living costs. Others experience pressures to get a good degree, to be recruited to a well-paid job after graduating, and to survive the pressures created by social media.
But there is a lack of robust data and rigorous research into mental health problems in the student population. Report after report emphasizes “the need to develop well-being characterized by emotional resilience” in students. Yet no one seems entirely sure how to do this.
To address this gap between problem and solution, the Chester conference brought together representatives from CUAC and Cathedrals Group institutions from across England and Wales. Delegates included students, scholars from a range of academic disciplines, chaplains, student counsellors, and senior university staff responsible for student welfare.
In opening the Conference, chair of the European Chapter of CUAC, Revd Canon Professor Peter Neil of Bishop Grosseteste University, said of CUAC institutions: “‘The one thing which I think binds us together, and which is evidenced in all of our strategies, is the focus on the whole person… I think that the work being done in relation to the mental health agenda is exemplary in our institutions and that is clear from the very diverse topics which are represented here today. It is very encouraging to see such cross-disciplinarity here with colleagues all working in different ways in different domains but bringing these all together for the common good.”
Professor Wayne Morris of the University of Chester convened the event and described its agenda as follows: “We began by recognizing that student mental health is a challenge to all of us in universities in our context, whatever our heritage or foundation. However, delegates at this conference came together as representatives of institutions that form a network of universities inspired by traditions that put human dignity and well-being at the forefront not only of our identity but our practice. We wanted to acknowledge that improving resilience may well help to improve some aspects of students’ mental health but that, if this was our only response, we all too easily put the responsibility and perhaps even blame for the mental health problem onto the individual themselves. This conference aimed to problematize both dominant discourses around the causes of -- as well as the solutions to -- student mental health, and aimed to put the whole person and their well-being at the center of our concern without adding to their struggles with the notion that they just need to be more resilient.”
CUAC 10th Triennial International Conference
Saved by Technology?
The promise and danger of technology for Christian Higher Education
Do students still need teachers? Or would a machine work just as well?
Do students still need classrooms? Or is social media world enough?
Do students still need other students? Or could we learn just as well in isolation?
Helping us sort out the answers will be the following keynote speakers:
Prof Timothy Wu, Professor of Law, Science and Technology, Columbia University (USA)
Dr Karen O’Donnell, Centre for Contemporary Spirituality (UK)
Dr Christianna Singh, Principal of Lady Doak College, Madurai (India)
Prof Timothy Wheeler, Vice Chancellor of the University of Chester (UK)
June 29 - July 4, 2020
University of Roehampton, London, UK
New York Bishop Reports From C.S.I. Ewart Women’s Christian College
Tamil Nadu, South India
The Rt. Revd Prince Singh, Bishop of Rochester, NY writes:
"I was invited to Ewart Women's College in rural Melrosapuram, outside Chennai, to address the students, faculty, and staff. It was for the Commissioning of their Student Christian Movement (SCM) officers for 2019-2020.
"With the approval of the local Bishop, I went there and was moved by the experience. I had not intended to take on such engagements during my sabbatical since I intended to be quiet and dedicate my time to meditation and prayer. However, when the Principal, whom I knew from her days as head of the Department of History, persisted in her request using the SCM hook, I gave in. "I found the college to be an intervention to the systemic poverty in that most of the students were first-time college attendees. The students were from Dalit and other lower-caste communities as well from higher caste groups. This kind of integrated education is possible in such small and intentional colleges that continue to pursue a vision of making higher education available to young women from various sectors of India's caste-oriented society. Many of the faculty and student travel great distances to make this college viable.
"I found the student leaders of the SCM and their faculty advisors to be engaging and enthusiastic about a socially active Christian movement. I was privileged to share with them some simple stories from my own formation at Madras Christian College, another CUAC college, where I served as President of SCM. That chapter of my life was very formative in my development as a leader.
"I reminded them of my own self-discovery in the SCM. In a nutshell, my reflection to them was to pursue Self Awareness riffing off from Jesus’ teaching: ”If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32. Such self awareness can lead to Compassionate Service and practice of the Ministry of Presence.
"It was an overall exhilarating experience for me to see such joy, curiosity and a desire to serve others among these young leaders. Anglican values couldn't find better manifestation and embodiment than in education that is contextual and credible."
The Rt Revd Prince Singh is Bishop of Rochester (US) and a CUAC Board member
Two New Members: Selwyn College & St. Andrew's Theological Seminary
New only to CUAC is Selwyn College founded in 1893, the oldest college of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Their energetic Chaplain, The Revd Michael Wallace, looking for connections found CUAC and presented a list of four other Anglican colleges in New Zealand and one in Fijji, so the Oceania Chapter is growing. A residential college, typical in Oceania, Selwyn comprises 202 residents and the Warden is Luke McClelland. Women were admitted in 1983 and now constitute 60% of the residents. A notable tradition at Selwyn of the College haka (by tane, i.e., men) and waiata (by wahine, i.e., women) from the indigenous Maori culture. Another notable tradition is the all-male Sewlyn ballet formed in 1928, which is the oldest male ballet troupe in the world.
Pictured above: Selwyn College Warden Luke McClellend & Chaplain The Revd Michael Wallace
St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in the Quezon City part of Manila sits adjacent to Trinity University of Asia, the National Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John, and offices of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, as an ecumenical center of excellence for theological education and spiritual formation for ministry. One of the legacy institutions from the beginning of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines in the last century, it also serves the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. The Dean, the Revd Dr Gloria Mapagdol (pictured), has recently overseen updating the chapel, including air conditioning to support the fervor of the students’ prayer. St. Andrew’s association with CUAC strengthens the ties with the other three Episcopal colleges.
The CUAC Voting Trustees gathered at Whitelands College in June to prepare for the 2020 Triennial there and to finish their work on CUAC’s Strategy Refresh that Scott Townell facilitated. Here they are hosted at the Christ Church Oxford deanery by Martyn Percy. Front: Paul Dhaybaran, India, Jamie Callaway USA, Lilian Jaspar, India; Back: Peter Neil, UK, Renta Nishihara, Japan, Martyn Percy, UK, Robert Derrenbacker, Australia, Jeremy Law, UK, Emmanuel Mbennah, Tanzania, Wendy Fletcher, Canada, Martin Wharton, UK, and Mark Garner, UK.
Visiting CUAC recently was the new Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi Arama and the Vice Chancellor of the Episcopal University of South Sudan, Dr. Joseph Bilal. After more than a generation of civil war that has not yet subsided, they are moving forward on launching an Episcopal university, utilizing existing seminaries in five sites. At this point, they have full government support to become a university, they are provisionally licensed and classes are underway at Bishop Gwynne campus in Juba.
Pictured above is Vice Chancellor Revd. Dr. Joseph Bilal (3rd from Left), with Rev. Joseph Agang, Academic Secretary, and staff: Florence, Hakim, Evelyn, Junub and Abraham.
Pictured above is Canon Callaway attending the St. John’s University of Technology in Taipei’s Annual Thanksgiving Service, in their stunning chapel with Acting Chaplain Rev. Hsing-Hsiang Wu.
Linda A. Chisholm
Honored with a CUAC Distinguished Fellowship this February as founder of CUAC in 1993, Linda died this July after a prolonged illness. While her last Triennial was Canterbury and York in 2005, Linda’s legacy is alive in the present as well. Canon Callaway was the celebrant at a Liturgy of Thanksgiving in Nyack, New York in August, and wrote a remembrance, A Hero’s Journey.
From the General Secretary’s Desk While it is easy to forget it, homo sapiens are intensely social animals who survive infancy only because of extended external nurture. There is no such thing as a self-made person, as we are all products of the lives we have lived in community with others, whatever that has been for us.
Christians themselves cannot exist on a stand-alone or solitary basis, and even a hermit in the desert is there as a member of a community. As vital as relational bonds are to individuals, such as students and faculty, they are crucial for the institutions as well. A unique strength Anglican colleges and universities offer their students is their membership in a global family.
In the last eighteen months the CUAC board has been in a strategy refresh process, assessing what we need to accomplish to reach a new level of productivity. One of our principal goals is to strengthen relation building among Anglican colleges and universities. As a network of 160 colleges and universities worldwide, we are asking how we can make them deeper. On a given campus, how does the broader family show up, such as in exchanges of students, faculty or courses?
The piece in this issue on the Improving Student Mental Health Conference last summer at the University of Chester is a powerful example of how student-centered universities came together to give their students under pressure with positive support in the community. Wayne Morris clearly saw the need and convened a conference across the Chapter to come together to study and plan. In Asia, the Chapter comes together with a shared annual CUAC Service Learning Conference at Trinity University of Asia in Manila and the Association of Episcopal Colleges is planning a second Student’s Conference.
But while these face-to-face gatherings are invaluable, as we will be exploring the impact of technology at the 2020 London Triennial, we are also exploring how developing virtual connections can assist our institutions engagement and support from one another. As a network, CUAC existence to serve and strengthen our members building relations calls us to find the savviest and effective ways, including digital.
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Is education wasted on the young? I asked myself that, as I concluded my class this week on the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf for members of St Michael’s Episcopal Church in Rhode Island. They loved it. Half a century ago, some of them had been required to read it in school – and hated it. What had changed, other than the appearance of Seamus Heaney’s superb translation? Half a century of life. As we worked our way through the academic questions of whether it was an essentially pagan poem with a Christian “overlay,” or a genuine attempt to synthesize two world views, we also dealt with some fundamentals. Life is short, bad things will happen, keep calm and carry on.
I cannot imagine what it is like to be 18 years old today. I am writing this in mid-October 2019. Things are going on – the uncertain advent of Brexit in the U.K., the increasingly certain possibility of an impeachment trial here in the U.S. – events whose impact no one can truly foretell. I think of those Anglo-Saxon monks wondering if tonight is the night when the Vikings come back. Meanwhile the planet is starting to melt.
I take some comfort in the thought that almost all of the colleges and universities in CUAC are fairly small. They can still get away with teaching the humanities. They can still ask their students, well, at least give Beowulf a chance. Or Homer or St Augustine or Chaucer or Montaigne. Or their non-Western equivalents. Reading such things, talking about them with each other, is an investment in the future, whatever that future might hold.