Carnegie Mellon University

Photo of masked student

February 10, 2021

Boosting Student Health

CMU supporters empower Tartans to thrive in body, mind and spirit

By Sarah Burke

As students prepare for their futures during the COVID-19 pandemic, holistic health initiatives are more critical than ever before. Thanks to community support, Carnegie Mellon has developed creative approaches to help Tartans improve their physical, mental and emotional well-being wherever they are learning.

Read on to learn about the life-changing resources CMU donors are making possible for students — from telehealth to nutritious food to virtual fitness and mindfulness programs.

Caring for Students

Throughout the pandemic, Carnegie Mellon has taken action to safeguard students’ health.

University Health Services offers telemedicine appointments to Tartans studying at CMU and remotely. To protect students and clinical staff, the campus health center has adopted touchless check-in procedures, plexiglass barriers, lower waiting-room density and negative-pressure exam rooms to reduce air contamination.

The university has also hired additional nurses and advanced clinicians, created a contact-tracing center, invested in COVID-19 lab tests and purchased mass-vaccination software to prepare for the future.

University Health Services offers telemedicine appointments to Tartans studying at CMU and remotely.

Fostering Resilience

Mental health is key to student success — and Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) has pivoted to meet Tartans’ most urgent needs during COVID-19.

“We’ve had to think differently about everything we do,” says Shane Chaplin, director of CaPS.

When CMU transitioned to remote instruction last March, all staff members gained certification in teletherapy to provide remote counseling to students based in Pennsylvania. The team also adopted a new platform to facilitate community referrals for students living in other states.

In addition to providing individual therapy, the office tripled its outreach events in 2020 to engage more than 7,000 students. Virtual skill clinics and drop-in groups have offered students a safe space to discuss grief and loss, family relationships, self-compassion, anxiety, depression and other topics.

Shane says his office has also deepened its collaboration with campus partners such as the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, and enhanced services for Black students, LGBTQIA+ students, international students and other marginalized communities.

In addition to providing individual therapy, Counseling and Psychological Services tripled its outreach events in 2020 to engage more than 7,000 students.

Fighting Food Insecurity

For students struggling to afford basic necessities, the CMU Pantry is a lifeline.

Generous supporters have allowed the pantry to distribute more than 73,000 pounds of fresh produce and nonperishable goods to almost 800 Tartans since March 12, 2020.

“It’s so impressive how the community has rallied to support students during this time,” says Zack Miller, CMU Pantry project administrator for SLICE.

The CMU Pantry now offers online ordering and pickup service to keep students and pantry staff members safe. Students with children can access free diapers, baby formula and other household items in addition to their weekly food order.

In November, CMU’s Staff Council helped make food even more accessible for students.
The council’s annual food drive collected 285 can openers, which the pantry is offering to shoppers who need them.

Building Strength

Every day, students stretch, sweat, lift and dance their cares away with Carnegie Mellon Athletics fitness programs.

img_4895.jpgWhen CMU went remote last spring, daily virtual classes attracted 40 to 50 participants per session. During the fall semester, hybrid group exercise and physical education classes made it possible for hundreds of Tartans around the world to stay active in campus studios or their own living rooms. CMU community members also had access to recorded workouts on demand.

CMU’s fitness center, pool and other athletic facilities were open throughout the fall with new safety procedures in place.

Cultivating Mindfulness

As students navigate major challenges, CMU’s mindfulness programs are helping them develop tools and strategies for stress management.

More than 6,600 students, faculty and staff have downloaded Headspace. Thanks in part to donor support, the CMU community can access the app’s guided meditations, “sleepcasts,” exercise routines and other content for free. More than 600 new CMU users signed up in spring 2020, and about 150 people continue to join each month.

On top of weekly gratitude sessions and other virtual events, CMU’s Division of Student Affairs recently launched a six-week restorative series called “The Power of Rest” featuring Eliza Bishop, a 2004 graduate of CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

 Boosting Student Health • Breaking Down Barriers to Education • Rallying for Tartans

Read on to discover how each and every gift improves students’ lives.