In an effort to bolster health resources on campus, Stephanie King has been hired this semester as Columbia’s first-ever director of Student Wellness.
The position was created at the start of this year to meet a need for increased wellness resources, according to Assistant Dean for Student and Family Support Matthew Patashnick. King will be responsible for connecting Columbia College and School of Engineering and Applied Science undergraduate students to resources during crises and emergencies, supporting them through medical leaves of absence, and promoting various health services available at Columbia.
“Students, faculty, staff, alums have all identified a need to provide greater wellness services on campus,” Patashnick said. “We found an opportunity to create a position that will help coordinate among various partner offices some of the wellness initiatives that have been discussed in the past.”
Over the past year, administrators have taken steps to address concerns about mental health at Columbia. In particular, students have called for a standardized response to student tragedies and crises, as well as more supportive medical withdrawal and readmission policies. King sees facilitating medical leaves of absence as a priority.
“There are some concerns about the process. I am interested and, honestly, I think a lot of offices have already started the conversation, and I would just help move it forward because this will be one of my major responsibilities,” King said, referring to the current medical withdrawal and readmission policies.
King, who worked previously as an advising dean at the Columbia College and Engineering Center for Student Advising, is returning to Columbia after two years as the associate director of Student Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design—a post with similar duties as her new position at Columbia.
“I think this position grew out of a desire to maybe review things and change things, and I think it would be easier for someone who has a little background in how things are here, how they’ve been created, and where we’re hoping to go,” King said.
In addition, King will coordinate with offices including Counseling and Psychological Services, Disability Services, and Columbia Health to communicate student needs and promote health resources to students. She will also advise Nightline, a student-run anonymous call service.
While King is still in the process of gauging the health issues that are the most pressing to students, she said that she plans to adjust her role and responsibilities in the coming terms.
“I’d really like to hear from the students, and that is what I am going to be focusing on right now,” King said. “I think that is going to be my role, to fill in where it is needed.”