Mar 18, 2019
Senior Communication Specialist
Bow Valley College
Bow Valley College successfully pilots first Reading Week in support of student mental health
CALGARY, AB – In a bold step to increase student well-being and academic performance, Bow Valley College has successfully completed the first of its three pilot reading weeks--one for each semester of its year-round academic schedule.
Bow Valley College’s student population is just shy of 16,000 (full- and part-time) and features certificate, diploma and post-diploma, post-baccalaureate, micro-credential and upgrading courses and programs. The breaks for credit classes scheduled for the 2019 year include this last holiday week—February 18 to 22, July 1 to 5, and November 12 to 15.
Shawna Bava, Manager, Student Wellness and Employment, Student Success Services, says there was a lot of motivation and commitment to accommodate the pilot.
“Adjusting the academic calendar to include Reading Weeks supports our reputation as an accessible institution and it shows that we are taking steps to recognize student mental health as a priority in our community,” Bava states. “For students, this last week was a welcome wellness pause, a time to study or catch up on assignments and get some down time with family and friends. It was also a chance for them to access supports, services, and workshops during the week as all our campus locations remained open.”
Last week, the Calgary downtown campus hosted several student-focused events and workshops, covering everything from improving organization, writing, technology and financial empowerment skills, to academic honesty, report and citation referencing and training in suicide prevention, and responding to sexual assault and abuse.
Jay Decore, Executive Director, Students' Association of Bow Valley College, says it has been a long time coming for such a move, and applauds the college for recognizing the stress experienced every day by students.
“Exams, mid-term projects, part-time jobs, family obligations—it is a lot. It has taken almost five years to implement a Reading Week after SABVC initially started advocating for it. It is fantastic the college sees this as a priority.”
Various research across Canada and the US reveals that post-secondary students experience stress, anxiety, trouble sleeping and eating, financial and relationship problems, as well as increased potential for addiction and suicide. The impact on academics can range from poor grades and missed deadlines to reduced attendance, loss of interest or dropping out entirely.
In 2017, the college’s Student Success Services received nearly 2,500 counselling requests. Personal relationship issues were most commonly reported, followed by grade performance, then worries about basic needs sustainability (food, shelter, clothing, money, and childcare). The last aspect of concern included stress about safety and security, such as suicide, domestic violence and child welfare.
In response to these findings, the college created a new campus mental health strategy with recommendations for new and enhanced approaches, programs and supports for students. Launching the Reading Week pilot program is a complement the college’s commitment to actively promoting and supporting mental health and well-being.
Bava says while at first blush the pilot has produced some desired results, student surveys and focus groups will help track success long term. She hopes this legacy move on behalf of Bow Valley College will help support and promote greater self-care and engagement, and inspire other post-secondaries to follow suit.
“We look at students as holistic individuals and recognize that mental health contributes greatly to academic success,” she concludes. “When a student sees there are designated break times, they know we are supporting their wellness and performance. That makes us stronger as a campus as well as a community.”
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Media Relations Officer
Bow Valley College
About Bow Valley College
Bow Valley College - Calgary and region's only Comprehensive Community College - with more than 15,000 full- and part-time students, is a leader in business and health career training, community studies, creative technologies, adult upgrading, and English Language Learning.