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Health and Wellness

Penn Resilience Program Brings New Mental Health Tools for Students

A group of faculty members poses for a photo after receiving Penn Resilience Program training.
A group of faculty and staff poses for a photo after receiving Penn Resilience Program training.

NC State continued its strong emphasis on promoting student mental health and well-being by adding another important resource to the toolbox over the past year. 

During the 2023-24 school year, the UNC System collaborated with the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center to implement the Penn Resilience Program at all UNC system schools. Division of Academic and Student Affairs Senior Associate Vice Chancellor Carrie Zelna led the program’s introduction at NC State, which began in the 2023 fall semester. 

“This program is a great resource for our students as we continue to promote mental health on campus,” Zelna said. “The introduction of the program this past year went very well, and we’re looking forward to continuing with it moving forward.” 

During that fall semester, faculty and staff across campus received training from Penn Positive Psychology Center professionals over five day-long sessions. They learned about hands-on, applicable tools that they could then teach to their students.

“I thoroughly enjoyed doing these workshops, I got a lot out of it,” said Rhonda Sutton, The Graduate School’s assistant dean for professional development. 

During the 2024 spring semester, each faculty or staff member who completed the training trained two student cohorts of 12-15 students as student resiliency ambassadors. 

After completing their student cohort training, the faculty and staff members received a $3,000 stipend. The training sessions were a way for the students to learn vital mental health tools for themselves and their classmates. 

“Resilience Training gave me skills on stress management and perspective that I think will be very useful in my future,” one student said. “I do have to teach myself to use them consistently, but once you get the skill down you can see a real difference!”

Sutton, who was already a licensed counselor before completing the Penn training, described the student training sessions as hands-on and interactive. 

She also said it was a way to unite students across campus to pursue a common goal. 

“Post-pandemic, it’s felt like we lost this sense of community and ways to interact with each other,” Sutton said. “I saw one of my groups come together and honestly talk with each other.  Both cohorts connected well with each other, celebrating their successes, talking about how they were using some of the tools, and sharing the challenges they were experiencing in terms of maintaining resilience and getting through graduate school.”

In some of the workshops, students were provided with a physical binder filled with resilience tools to carry with them as a resource they can turn to when the stresses of an academic semester pile up. 

“I feel like even though all my tools can be a little overwhelming, I love that I have this binder with things to remind myself of how to deal with tough situations in the future,” a student said. “I feel like I came out with several skills that I’ll use already and more that I can study on my own too.”

This summer, NC State will continue to expand its program offering, training five new faculty/staff members, who will in turn train at least two student cohorts apiece in the fall. 

With new staff and students trained and other staff members who participated in 23-24 returning to train additional students, the university will continue to ensure that as many students as possible receive these mental health tools. 

“It’s extremely valuable,” Sutton said. “These are life skills that not only get you through your college years, no matter what level you are, but they’ll get you through life. They are skills that are very transferable no matter where you are in your life. So I think it’s a very important training, and I’m planning on offering these workshops again.”