Over the past year, ICUNJ and its member institutions have considered how we might address the current challenges relating to mental health and suicidal ideation facing college students at our schools and across the nation. It became clear that there was both a need and an opportunity for our 13 institutions to connect and share best practices and gain useful insights on what is working on our campuses from student-facing staff who deal with these challenges – – referred to as an “epidemic” by the U.S. Surgeon General – – every day.
As a result, higher education in New Jersey will start the new year with a “first of its kind in the nation” Summit focused on students and meeting their needs. A year ago, the independent college presidents authorized ICUNJ to organize a cohort conference for our universities that would bring key campus personnel together for a one-day summit in January of 2024. Time would be invested to share best practices and learn from internal and external experts about what tools, processes and resources are available to help mitigate the risk of suicide, depression and anxiety among our students. In March 2023, this initiative was connected to the Chief Student Affairs Officers (‘CSAOs’) on our campuses and a Steering Committee was formed for the purpose of organizing a comprehensive Summit that would explore the multiple issues impacting behavioral health. Taking the lead in the planning and organizing this unique summit, event Co-Chairs Karen Van Norman from Seton Hall University; and Sara Klein from Stevens Institute of Technology outlined a series of committees to address program selection, registration, communications, logistics, fund-raising, and resource fair opportunities.
Seton Hall University’s offer to host the Summit provided a site able to accommodate up to 500 attendees, house 15 break-out sessions and space for 20 Resource Fair booths. The Steering Committee prompted by the access to large space looked to have an impact beyond the independent colleges to all of New Jersey higher education. Student mental challenges are not restricted to any specific campus or demographics, private, public and community colleges are all searching for ways to help students. The original Steering Committee expanded its members to represent all higher education sectors making the Mental Health Summit a statewide event. As a result, every student on New Jersey campuses will benefit from have their campus representatives attend this important event.
There will be more information to come on the New Jersey Higher Education Mental Health Summit planning proceeds. We are very proud and exited to be a part of this unique event and believe that it will make a real difference in the lives of our students and all students in New Jersey.
For more information go to