Student Success Team Rolls Out Curated Content to Help Students in Challenging Times


April 13, 2020

Podcasts. YouTube videos. Tip sheets. Infographics. Ask-An-Expert webinars.

Those are just a handful of the carefully curated resources Yorkville University’s Dean of Student Success, Dr. Deirdre Pickerell, and her Mental Health and Wellness team are set to roll out in the coming days to help students navigate today’s new reality in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re taking the approach of sharing resources that will help students with their mental health and wellness over the next several weeks,” Pickerell said of her team’s new #YU_CARES campaign.

“That means not only sharing really cool content that we’re finding, but also creating content that we think will be helpful for students…It’s all geared to helping them navigate this really challenging time.”

Inspired by the Student Success office’s C.A.R.E.S. mandate, the #YU_CARES campaign will continue helping students with:

– Connecting to Workshops/Webinars

– Accessing Individual Supports

– Referral to Community Supports

– Engaging in Wellness Activities

– Strengthening Self Care

Assisting Pickerell with the development and curation of those #YU_CARES resources is Shauna Thompson, Yorkville University’s newly appointed Director of Mental Health and Wellness. A Registered Psychotherapist with nearly 10 years of counselling experience, Thompson has spent the last three years acting as a Practicum Coordinator for Yorkville’s MACP program and is currently working towards her Doctor of Philosophy in Counselling Psychology.

Thompson said transitioning into her new director role in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis has proven both a challenging and a rewarding experience.

“These are very trying times. The nature of a pandemic is that everybody’s affected – staff is affected and students are affected. Home lives are different, work lives are different, and there are a lot of challenges to navigate that people have never had to navigate before,” she explained.

With all that in mind, Thompson said she, Pickerell and the rest of their team have spent a lot of time coming together at a ‘human level’ to think about some of those common challenges that even they themselves are facing, so that they could brainstorm ways to support the school community.

While some of the resources and supports that resulted from those deliberations are geared specifically to the development of coronavirus coping skills, Pickerell said other content currently being curated by the team includes resources designed to help students adjust to their new virtual learning situation.

“In this reality of now, they’re learning how to learn virtually….Our on-campus students, especially, may struggle with how they’re going to manage learning online: Do they have all the equipment they need? Do they have a quiet place at home to sit and be able to do their online learning?” she said.

“So, there’s that kind of content, too, that will teach students how to manage this virtual life that we’re all learning right now.”

Still other content being planned is more universal in nature, such as tip sheets on Managing Homesickness – a topic of particular interest for many of Yorkville University’s international students – as well as generalized strategies for managing stress and anxiety.

Another initiative being spearheaded by the Student Success and Mental Health and Wellness team, Thompson said, is a series of live Ask An Expert webinars that will tackle a range of different issues and topics.

Scheduled to launch on Friday, April 17, Thompson said the half-hour Zoom sessions will enlist the unique expertise of various members of the Yorkville University faculty and staff.

“It’s a live session students can attend. It’ll start with an interview format, where we’ll present some of the frequently asked questions that the expert can then answer, then we’ll open it up to student questions,” she said.

“It’s really designed to make sure that people are informed, and that any questions that people have are being answered.”

Pickerell said she hopes her team will be pushing out at a least three or four different resources a week – all of which will be sent directly to students’ via their school email, and will also be shared on Yorkville University’s social media channels using the #YU_CARES hashtag.

The ultimate goal of their efforts, Thompson said, is twofold.

“We want to provide a sense of reassurance for students that we’re here to help and that we are offering support through the counselling services we offer, as well as resources,” she said.

“In addition to that reassurance, we’re also looking at building resilience, so that students really realize that as much as this is a chaotic situation, they can overcome any challenges they’re currently facing.”