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Counseling Center Receives National Recognition for ‘INSPIRE’ Project

NC State’s Counseling Center received the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors’ Media Award for its “INSPIRE” video, which focuses on the importance of mental health among the university’s international population.

Wizaso Munthali speaks about her experiences in the INSPIRE film Play Video
Wizaso Munthali speaks about her experiences in the INSPIRE film

Monica Osburn, executive director of the NC State Counseling Center, and several members of the Counseling Center staff recently received national recognition for their contributions to the “INSPIRE” film project published in fall 2019. The Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) presented its Media Award to the Counseling Center staff during its virtual 2020 annual conference last month. 

According to the press release, the award recognizes the Counseling Center staff’s national contribution to campus mental health as well as Osburn’s role as a national leader in college counseling services. The AUCCCD is the largest organization of campus mental health leaders in the world, and each year it recognizes member achievements that exemplify excellence in the promotion of campus mental health.

“This award is a significant achievement for our staff because it highlights our work specifically with international students,” Osburn said. “My hope is that it will also ‘inspire’ other counseling centers to connect with their international student populations.”

The Counseling Center’s INSPIRE video shares experiences of students and faculty with international backgrounds with hopes to inspire resiliency and expand perspectives of the NC State University community. The short film focuses on challenges experienced in the mind, body, emotions and behaviors; identifying supports and strategies to cope through challenges; and messages to their Wolfpack community. The film was funded by the Counseling Center as well as a Diversity Mini-Grant from NC State’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED).

“INSPIRE” was a follow-up to the Counseling Center’s “Stop the Stigma” video, addressing stigmas about mental health among international students and encouraging those students to seek assistance when they need it. The video originated from an idea among the Counseling Center’s multicultural committee, who applied for the diversity grant through OIED. The international students depicted in the film all had connections with the Counseling Center through a variety of programs, and volunteered for the project to help get the word out about mental health services to their peers.

“Our team recognized that our international students needed a different level of support,” Osburn said. “Many of them are not aware of mental health care, as it might not even be available in their home country. So hearing from international students themselves about how to navigate some of these issues has been instrumental.”

The video was coordinated by Osburn as well as Yuka Kato, a licensed psychologist and interpersonal violence treatment coordinator; Stephanie Rubain, assistant director and licensed clinical mental health counselor; and Mary Njaramba, a licensed mental health counselor and licensed addiction specialist. 

Njaramba noted that the video also addresses how students may or may not define themselves as “international.”

“This video really displays how diverse the population at NC State is,” Njaramba said. “Just because you’re an international student doesn’t mean you experience culture shock or ‘America’ in the same way.”

Njaramba was surprised and grateful to learn about the award “INSPIRE” received from the AUCCCD.

“We do many things, but every now and then when you find one of those things or projects spotlighted, it brings joy and fulfillment in the work we do,” Njaramba said. “I feel empowered and encouraged that it was worth it all. That means people are taking notice of the international student community, and for them to get to that point means they viewed the video. I’m grateful for this work to be recognized and that it drew attention to many who weren’t aware of the issues before.”

Njaramba said NC State’s international students, faculty and staff are struggling with isolation and not being able to travel home during COVID-19, and encouraged the Wolfpack community to lend their support.

“Take a little bit of time to get to know what is happening with them,” she said. “Be more empathetic to our international students and give them extra support. International students already face unique issues in going to college abroad, and COVID 19 is compounding these issues, particularly financially. Students are away from families and cannot go home, in addition to facing academic pressures. We all need to go a little bit of the extra mile and support these students right now.”