James Madison University

Professors Here to Help

By: Brett Seekford
Posted: September 25, 2014

PHOTO: Award recipients

Roughly four years ago, an idea for a new program at James Madison University was devised by members of Madison Teaching Fellows, a group sponsored by the Center for Faculty Innovation. Their underlying goal was to find an answer to a pressing question: How does alcohol affect the university as a whole?

The result was the development of the Here to Help program. Nine professors from different fields of study – from health sciences to music – came together to investigate the effects of alcohol on students. Through their work with the Counseling Center, the University Health Center and the Office on Substance Abuse Prevention, the group created a resource list for faculty to use if they thought their students were struggling. While geared toward people struggling with substance abuse, it was constructed more broadly to allow professors to engage students who they saw as dealing with an underlying issue that distracted from their studies. The program was constructed as a combination of the training the Health Center already had in place for faculty and the goals laid out by the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention.

Dr. Katherine Ott Walter, an associate professor in the Department of Health Sciences, is being recognized for her involvement in this program along with Dr. Sarah Brooks of Art History and Dr. Molly Brown of Business, among others. The Division of Student Affairs and University Planning granted the “All Together One” award to the Center for Faculty Innovation, the Health Center, the Office on Substance Abuse Prevention, and the faculty members involved in creating the Here to Help program.

Dr. Ott Walter did not at all expect any recognition for her involvement with Here to Help. “It was a surprise. It wasn’t something we were told was going up for anything,” she said. She went on to add, “I think most of us are fairly proud that it has been received so well.”

Although it has only been in existence for about two years, the program is helping both professors and students by drawing them closer together through the training Here to Help provides, cultivating a community that is beneficial to everyone. Needless to say, Here to Help is likely here to stay.


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