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UNC System grant to focus on mental health and wellness for the COE

Purple BetterYou logo with the red white and black logo of NC State University College of Engineering, all on a white background. To the left of the logos there is a mobile phone showing a BetterYou app screen and company mascot next to the phone.

When Shannon DuPree saw that the University of North Carolina System’s annual funding program would focus on mental health and resilience for 2023, she immediately began to brainstorm what to focus on for the application.

“There are obviously lots of things,” said DuPree, who is the director of wellness at NC State. “But when talking to the clinicians in the counseling center and reviewing literature, we realized that STEM students are at greater risk for mental health challenges and are less likely than their peers and other academic disciplines to access resources or seek help.”

DuPree, along with graduate assistant Whitney Becker, who is a Ph.D. candidate in applied social psychology, joined forces with Angelitha Daniel and Domonique Carter from the College of Engineering. Daniel is the assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and Carter is the university program manager for the office.

We want students to realize you can be the smartest, you can work hard, while prioritizing your health and wellbeing.

Daniel called it the “perfect partnership.”

“It creates partnership for us to do the things that we know are critical in terms of helping students understand what resources are available and actually pushing them to utilize them,” she said.

The group’s application was one of 10 selected. With the grant, which is $185,000, DuPree, Daniel, Becker and Carter are starting a program called Engineer Your Wellness (E-Well). The program includes monthly wellness programming, wellness coaching, access to an app called BetterYou, wellness workshops and much more.

Shannon Dupree on stage behind lecturn while presenting the E-Well program at NC State University.

“Another thing that has also been on our mind is building community among students,” said Becker. “So with some of those initiatives in terms of, for example, Game Night and some of those other events, we’re aiming to host monthly events that bring students together and even work on incorporating wellness.”

The group is also working on outreach specifically to historically marginalized student populations who may find it difficult to be a student at a predominantly white institution, especially when faced with racism.

“Just showing them that they’re important and that the things that make them them are incredibly crucial to not only the College, but the University,” said Carter. “We also try to show them that there are other folks here just like them. They’re not alone in any way.”

Outreach to students includes working with the embedded counselors, digital billboards and emails.

Students play soccer in The Oval with Hunt Library in the background.

“I would also point out another really important partnership is with our Women and Minority Engineering Programs in the College,” Daniel added. “That connection to directly support students who are historically marginalized, that’s an important connection to ensure support of these students.”

“We want to impact the people, the places and ultimately shift the culture in the College of Engineering,” said Dupree. “We want students to realize you can be the smartest, you can work hard, while prioritizing your health and wellbeing.”