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Assessment Tool Uncovers Gaps in Student Wellness Services

An assessment developed by Butler University's Institute for Well-being captures students' perceptions of the wellness services available to them on campus and helps pinpoint areas in need of improvement. Butler first created the Student Well-being Institutional Support Survey (SWISS) in 2020 to help analyze student needs during the pandemic, and has now made it available as a paid service for other institutions.

Administered online via the Qualtrics XM Platform, SWISS asks students research-backed questions about their physical health, nutrition, financial situation, mental health and sense of belonging. By analyzing student responses, it identifies gaps in services (such as mental health care or affordable food offerings) and highlights specific needs across demographic groups.

At Butler, for example, the survey revealed that sophomores were feeling particularly disconnected from their peers. In response to the findings, the university created more residence-life programming for second-year students, such as activities and social gatherings designed to help them find common interests.

"Our RAs noticed immediate results as students began to make new friends,"said Shannon Mulqueen, director of residence life at Butler. "It happened because we administered the SWISS survey and took action based on the results."

At Sacramento State, which adopted SWISS this year, survey results revealed that academics were the top stressor for students (cited by 75% of respondents), followed by mental health (59%). Students desired a greater emphasis on attending classes or workshops that would help build resilience and grit, self-compassion, mindfulness, empathy and keeping an open mind, the survey found.

"If we're trying to solve mental health issues, there's a lot of room for advancement there,"commented Kate Smith, director of student wellness at the university. "The end goal is to use this data to really inform our decision-making as we set our strategic plan moving forward."

At the University of South Alabama, the survey uncovered a surprising statistic: Thirty-three percent of students were struggling with food insecurity, despite the existence of a campus food pantry with free groceries for students in need. The institution plans to launch a wellness website this summer highlighting the resources available to students.

Twenty schools across the country have now implemented SWISS, including Louisiana State University, University of Central Florida, University of Minnesota, George Washington University, Oakland University and others. Participating institutions can access student responses in real time via a secure online portal, download their survey data along with data visualizations to aid decision-making, and utilize aggregate data for benchmarking.

"You can make a big impact when you have actionable feedback to work with, rather than vague goals to increase student well-being by X percent,"said Bridget Yuhas, creator of SWISS and director of student affairs assessment and strategy at Butler. "We're happy to see so many universities recognize the power of listening, understanding and acting on experience data, because we all win when students thrive."

For more information, visit the Butler site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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