This past week, Assistant Dean of Students Douglas Davis announced an upcoming addition to the Student Council (StuCo) for the 2023-24 school year: the Wellness Representative position. The primary purpose of this role is to serve as a direct intermediary between the student body and the newly appointed Dean of Wellbeing. The role of Wellness Representative is to serve as an approachable individual who focuses on wellness-related issues on campus, facilitating open communication and encouraging students to express their concerns. The introduction of this position to StuCo has raised some questions among students regarding the specific responsibilities the School can expect from the Wellness Representative.
In a recent interview, Cassie Dillard ’24, the upcoming Wellness Representative, emphasized the importance of clarifying that the Wellness Representative’s responsibilities do not involve providing counseling or support for students facing mental health challenges. Rather, the main objective is to collaborate with the administration in devising effective strategies to enhance student well-being. This newly established role addresses the potential apprehension and intimidation that students may feel when sharing concerns about mental health with faculty members. The introduction of the role of Wellness Representative should begin to alleviate the burden of such conversations and enable students to feel more at ease when discussing their thoughts and ideas with this new council member.
Dillard also spoke on her platform and the immediate issues she intends to address. Dillard's presidential campaign heavily emphasized wellness, allowing for a smooth transition of her efforts into her new role as the Wellness Representative. When asked about her approach to fostering open communication with students, Dillard emphasized the importance of "being present and involved.” Despite her status as a day student, Dillard dedicates the majority of her time on campus and hopes to position herself as an approachable figure at all-School events and during meal times in the Tsai Commons. Dillard believes that her active presence contributes to her approachability, asserting that “being around and being a familiar face makes you more approachable.” It is essential for Dillard to convey to new students that she is readily available to engage in conversations or answer any inquiries they may have. Moreover, her active involvement in various aspects of student life, including the arts and sports, enables her to build relationships with a diverse range of individuals, thereby fostering an environment conducive to discussing mental health on campus.
In line with her goal of amplifying student voices, Dillard plans to host numerous listening sessions throughout the year. Recognizing the significance of student input in her new role, she said, “I need student voices.” This commitment to inclusivity and her understanding that student perspectives evolve over time demonstrates Dillard's dedication to aligning StuCo's initiatives with the desires of the student body. Furthermore, Dillard aims to communicate with the Dean of Wellness on her takeaways from these listening sessions, contributing to the development of comprehensive plans to address prevailing issues concerning mental health on campus.
Dillard acknowledged the inherent challenges in having conversations with the Dean of Wellness on discussing the complexities of mental health and wellbeing at Lawrenceville. Drawing upon her extensive experience collaborating with faculty members such as Dean of Students Blake Eldridge and Carter Head of House Bernadette Teeley, she underscored her ability to “effectively and respectfully communicate students' general sentiments and collaboratively devise impactful solutions.”
She also recognizes that II Formers may be hesitant to approach her to discuss these sensitive matters. As a proactive measure, she intends to build strong relationships with House prefects to have more productive conversations on mental health within the Houses. To foster trust and ensure more transparent communication, Dillard believes that “conducting a survey or presenting an overview of the objectives and plans for the upcoming academic year would be beneficial.” By doing so, she aims to establish a strong foundation of trust between herself and the student body, facilitating more effective dialogue on mental health and wellness. Overall, as Wellness Representative, Dillard is committed to listening to student voices, relaying student concerns and ideas to school administration, and establishing more open communication with the student body.
Through greater collaboration and transparency with both students and the administration, the addition of a Wellness Representative to StuCo has the potential to usher in an era of significant change.