The Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC), along with the Psychology Department, created the Resiliency, Information, Skills, Experience (RISE) Program, done mainly through the BCC, to help all undergraduate students learn the tools necessary to succeed in college. This semester will be the second time that the program is being offered. The first offering, in fall of 2018, was only open to first-years. However, spring 2019 was open to all students.
Director of the BCC, Dr. Joy von Steiger, along with Assistant Professor of Psychology Hannah Snyder, came up with the program. According to Snyder, the program was formed through ongoing collaborations with the BCC, to see the manner in which students were utilizing the BCC.
According to a flyer sent to the student body by Brandeis Health and Wellness over winter break, “RISE is a program for undergraduate students who want to learn skills to help them thrive in college, support their mental wellbeing and achieve academic success.”
The flyer goes on to state that the program is designed for students who have previously experienced “depression and/or anxiety.” Even though this program is targeted toward those types of students, von Steiger said in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot that it is really open to all students. She emphasized the experiential learning aspect that highlighted an “enhanced sense of belonging” and “setting students up for success.”
Both von Steiger and Snyder received feedback from upperclassmen about how they personally felt they did not have these resources available to them and still struggled with some of the things that were covered in the program, which is why they decided to open it up to all undergraduate students.
“We realized that a lot of undergraduate, and graduate, students feel like they don’t have the coping strategies that they wished they had, which is why we decided to expand the program to all undergraduates,” said von Steiger. She went on to explain that these programs would vary between different groups, namely undergraduate and graduate students. She hopes to someday have programs similar to RISE for all types of students.
Through their research over the years, Snyder realized that there was an increased need for programming, especially for first-year students. These students “who were often coming in with a history of anxiety and depression and had been receiving support and services during high school,” did not often realize the extra demands that college places on students, especially opposed to high school, said Snyder.
“The social environment is brand new, the academic environment is new… and the transition to becoming an adult, that can be really stressful and difficult for someone who is already coming in with a history of depression and anxiety.”
Students who are accepted into the program work both with therapists from the BCC and with Snyder to form two different skill sets, “coping with stress” and “academic skills,” Snyder said. They will first meet in a two-day “conference” that gives students the chance to get to know not only each other better, but the counselors and support systems that are available to them.
Snyder explained that the two-day conference really just involved doing a lot of ice breakers to make sure all the students were comfortable with one another in a safe space. Following these two days, the group will meet weekly and alternate between the two specific topics: “coping with stress” and “academic skills.”
The “coping with stress” sessions will be lead by different counselors in the BCC, while the “academic skills” sessions are led by Snyder. The purpose of both types of sessions is to help students ease the transition between high school and college. “There are some new tools that you might need to help you manage the academic side of things,” explained Snyder. “How to plan effectively, create schedules and study in an efficient, and effective, way. Deal with tendencies to procrastinate. And all those things that if you don’t develop skills independently, then they can become a source of a lot of stress.”
Snyder further emphasizes the RISE program because it combines two topics that are oftentimes not talked about together. “You can’t just deal with the academic side or just deal with the mental health side,” explained Snyder. “Those things are closely related. You have to try to both prevent stress and give students tools for coping with stress when it inevitably still occurs sometimes.”
The RISE program for this semester has already closed, but students interested can apply next semester for the program.