CHC Dean’s September '23 Message

Creating a community of care and support  


When I became dean of the CHC just over three years ago, some of the worst wildfires in Oregon history had driven us all indoors. The country was still reeling from the protests following the murder of George Floyd. And it was the beginning of a school year like no other, as all levels of public education moved to remote learning due to the pandemic. The media and public officials liked to use the word “pivot” to describe what was happening in schools, but for educators the process felt neither nimble nor swift.

If I hadn’t been able to ask for help from a trusted network of friends and colleagues, I’m not sure I would have survived. From the friend (a dean at another public university) who met with me monthly for mutual advice sessions to the CHC staff that patiently answered my basic questions to the colleagues who were rooting for me and who responded to panicky emails with kindness, wisdom, and compassion—I couldn’t have done this alone.

I reflect on that time in my work advising and teaching students. When our new students come to campus, among the many pieces of information they receive from us is advice to go to office hours. Meet their faculty, we advise them, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. In the CHC, we know why students may be reluctant to reach out to faculty and advisors.

To ask for help is to be vulnerable—to acknowledge that there are days that just feel like a slog, problems that loom so large as to seem insurmountable, expectations that can weigh heavily on all of us. For some students, asking for help can feel a lot like admitting you don’t belong here in the first place. And in a classroom setting, to ask for help can be taken as an admission of ignorance, even--as I frequently tell my students--when everyone else in the class could also use a helping hand.

Outside the classroom, the stigma associated with mental health can make it that much harder for students to share their challenges with people who can help them, even in a university setting, where mental wellness resources are often abundant and readily accessible. In the CHC, we try to communicate to our students that to ask for help shouldn’t be an act of bravery. It should just be routine.

Asking for help, developing a network of trusted advisors, learning habits and practices that promote mental health—these are skills that prepare students for life beyond college and for their careers, whatever they choose to do. When Instructor Tobin Hansen asks students in his introduction to the liberal arts class whether they have settled into a routine in college, he’s encouraging them to acknowledge challenges in a space designed to help them succeed. When Professor Kate Mondloch leads her class through exercises in meditation and mindfulness, students learn to check in with themselves and reflect on what their bodies need to be successful. When students give each other feedback in Calderwood Seminars in Public Writing taught by Instructor Catalina de Onís, Professor Dare Baldwin, Professor Michael Moffitt, and Senior Instructor Nicole Dudukovic, they are learning the value of giving and receiving help.

If there is one lesson I want our students to take to heart, it’s that none of us can do this alone. I want them to experience firsthand how creating a community of care and support—where everyone can request and receive a helping hand—is a defining feature not only of the Robert D. Clark Honors College experience, but their lives beyond it.


Carol Stabile

Acting Dean