Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Bringing Counseling to the Classroom and the Residence Hall: The University Learning Community

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Bringing Counseling to the Classroom and the Residence Hall: The University Learning Community

Article excerpt

The author describes a counseling-focused Learning Community program for 1st-year college students. It is argued that counseling services can be improved if constructive partnerships are formed among counselors, faculty, and residence life staff. Positive initial assessment data are presented along with suggestions for implementing similar programs.

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Today's undergraduates face a host of challenges that counselors, faculty, and residence life personnel struggle to address (Bishop, Gallagher, & Cohen, 2000). Recent research (e.g., American Association for Higher Education, 1998; Bibace, Dillon, & Dowds, 1999; Tinto, 2000) has indicated that the formation of collaborative partnerships between the staffs of various university departments can help to improve student development and academic success. This article describes a counselor-faculty-residence life partnership program that builds on the aforementioned research as well as on several successful counselor-in-residence programs (e.g., North Dakota State University, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Arkansas) and faculty-in-residence programs (e.g., San Diego State University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Duke University) across the United States. I describe the central ideas behind this counseling-focused program, its main components, and some preliminary data on the program's impact on student development and academic success. The direction of future research and suggestions for implementing similar programs are also discussed.

THE CHALLENGES UNDERGRADUATES FACE

The college years can be among the most eventful ones of an individual's life. College presents students with numerous opportunities for personal, social, intellectual, and professional development. Ironically, because of these opportunities, this time can also be very difficult for many students (Bishop et al., 2000). The challenges undergraduates face can be broken down into three basic categories: psychological, social, and academic (Chandler & Gallagher, 1996).

Psychological Challenges

The transition from high school, the lack of social support, academic pressures, the need to define career goals, and financial problems often combine to produce acute levels of psychological distress in college students (Sax, 1997). During their first years of college, undergraduates are likely to experience painful feelings of alienation, loneliness, and depression, often at much higher levels than do individuals of the same age who are not attending college (Sax, Gilmartin, Keup, DiCrisi, & Bryant, 2000).

This situation is further complicated by the fact that college students engage in many health-risk behaviors, such as binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row for men; four or more drinks in a row for women), poor nutrition, and inadequate amounts of sleep (Gallagher, Gill, & Goldstrohm, 1998). Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, and Lee (2000) found that 23% of college students reported that they engaged in binge drinking "frequently" (i.e., bingeing three or more times in a 2-week period); 21% reported bingeing "occasionally" (i.e., one or two times in a 2-week period). Studies have also shown that nutrition for college students is significantly below the U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA) for caloric, protein, vitamin C, and calcium intake, whereas levels are significantly higher than the RDA for fat and carbohydrate intake (Beerman, 1991; Hertzler & Frary, 1992; Watabe-Dawson & Sasaki, 2000).

Social Challenges

Today's new college students also face a range of social challenges. Students find themselves in an increasingly diverse and multicultural environment on U.S. campuses, reflecting differences in students' ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status (SES), and worldviews. Recent census data have indicated that more than 1 in 4 (27%) U.S. college students is a member of a minority group (U. …

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