Students in KJ Commons

As the spring semester begins, Hamilton College’s Dean of Students Office hopes to bring students welcome relief from day-to-day stress and anxiety.

New for the spring 2018 semester, the College’s course catalogue features a class called THRIVE, an acronym for Thoughts, Health, Relationships, Impact, Vision, and Emotions.

In light of increased discourse on campus about mental and emotional health and stress management, Hamilton hopes that this non-credit course will become a model for maintaining students’ well-being.

Terry Martinez, vice president and dean of students, learned of the course from a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. She formerly served as associate vice provost and dean of students there, and studied under Marty Seligman at the Positive Psychology Institute.

After seeing the program to its third semester at Johns Hopkins, Martinez thought the course could fill a gap at Hamilton.

“A lot of what I’ve been hearing from the campus is that we need to do something about mental health and wellness, and so this course provides practical skills that students can learn and use right away,” Dean Martinez said. “In many instances, it really is about thinking about our day-to-day lives and how we can practice different techniques to help reduce and minimize stress.”

Sarah Jillings, assistant director of Outdoor Leadership, will lead the spring semester course. Jillings comes to the course with experience, having completed a master’s degree in 2015. For her studies, Jillings interviewed 25 Hamilton seniors within six to eight weeks of graduating in 2015 and asked them how they managed stress.

Aside from giving students well-being skills that will serve them on campus and off, Jillings hopes that the course will become a space for reflection and relaxation. She is also considering off-campus outings that address topics from health and nutrition to impact, such as visiting a children’s hospital, and relationship building, such as participating in escape rooms.

If anything, Jillings hopes students “can walk away with some solid insights about themselves, about the ways they interact with the world, have a few strategies to readily increase their satisfaction whether at Hamilton or elsewhere and [learn to do] things that will be impactful to themselves and other people.”

The course will be capped at 40 students.

“[What] I have seen happen in this course is that just by participating in it, students build a support network,” Dean Martinez said. “They think about their own individual needs, but then they become attuned to the others in the group. They think about their own personal impact on other people, which is a nice objective, I think, when we think about an outcome for this.”

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