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BU announces Executive Director of Student Wellbeing position, community expresses both excitement, skepticism

Boston University Executive Director of Student Wellbeing Carrie Landa’s LinkedIn profile image. Recently promoted, Landa said she wishes to use her new position to provide better mental health services to BU students — to which some students and parents have expressed skepticism. ILLUSTRATION BY CONOR KELLEY/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston University’s Office of the Provost announced the promotion of Carrie Landa — previous director of Behavioral Medicine and associate director of Student Health Services since 2014 — to Executive Director of Student Wellbeing in an email sent to all students Nov. 1. 

The email noted the vast array of mental, emotional and physical stressors students across the nation have experienced in the last 20 months on top of adjusting to remote learning as a reason for the promotion. 

Landa wrote in an email that she is planning to use her new position to work on providing better mental health services for BU students. 

“Students have reported that they don’t feel supported by BU, and this is a key driver for this new initiative,” Landa wrote. “It’s important to remember that support may mean something different to each member of our diverse student body.”

She added that her goals for the role will build on her leadership at the Wellbeing Project — a campus-wide administrative initiative launched in September 2019 at the recommendation of BU’s mental health task force, which Landa was the chair of, to promote student mental wellness. 

“The other important part of this new initiative is to engage students in learning skills that contribute to their success, not just academically or professionally, but socially and as healthy individuals that are part of our vibrant community,” Landa wrote. 

The Wellbeing Project has launched a variety of initiatives to support students on campus since its start, including giving students access to the mindfulness app Headspace and collaborating to create the Terriers Thrive Together project to promote on-campus mental health resources every October.

Landa added that BU’s student body is composed of driven graduate and undergraduate students who need to strike a balance between academics and mental health. 

“My goal is to remind students that it is equally important to feel well and have experiences and opportunities that support success in all aspects of life, while at BU and beyond,” said Landa.

Rachel Lapal Cavallario, BU’s associate vice president of public relations, wrote in an email that Landa will further grow BU’s commitment to students’ mental and emotional well-being.

“She will be leading new resources, programming, and efforts across the University to create integrated and shared approaches and resources to support students’ wellbeing,” Lapal Cavallario wrote. “Supporting and advancing student wellness and mental health is critically important.”

Shannon McKean, a sophomore in College of General Studies and member of BU Student Government’s Mental Health Committee, said she is familiar with problems SHS’s Behavioral Medicine is facing and thinks BU could benefit from more tangible resources but expects Landa to use her background to fulfill the new role to the best of her ability. 

“I do think that Dr. Landa has some good experience with working with college students and in the community, so I hope that she can leverage her position to implement some of those resources for students,” McKean said.

She added the Mental Health Committee is working on an initiative to implement trigger warnings on syllabuses and course descriptions to warn students about sensitive topics in class, and advocating for more full-time therapy options and counselors in BU’s Behavioral Health.

“Those are some of the things that I would really like to see Dr. Landa support and work with,” McKean said. 

David Cotter, assistant provost for Graduate Enrollment Management and Graduate Education and a member of the Wellbeing Project steering committee, said he looks forward to working with Landa. 

“[Landa] is a fierce advocate for BU students and for engaging the whole community in campus-wide conversations about students’ overall health and well-being,” Cotter said. “It’s awesome for BU students, in my opinion.”

He added Landa’s position will allow the University to look at mental health on campus “holistically.”

“[Her office] is not going to be tied to Student Health Services or the Dean of Students,” Cotter said. “I think it’s going to be beneficial that it’s a University-wide piece.”

Cotter said Landa plans to work closely with Crystal Williams, Vice President and Associate Provost of Community and Inclusion and himself, as well as Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, to create a more inclusive community in addition to just adding programming. 

“Students need to have a community that they feel comfortable in,” he said. “They need to … be equipped to have tools to improve their own overall well-being and I think that’s what [Landa] is going to do.”

Other members of the BU community have lingering concerns about mental health on campus. Alessandra Kellermann, founder of BU Parents United — a Facebook group for parents of BU students to voice concerns — said the University’s commitment to mental health on campus was lacking even after the institution of the Wellbeing Project.   

“It seems that [Landa] will be in charge of a campus-wide Wellbeing campaign, trying to do what they should have been doing all along,” Kellerman said. “I don’t see it as a promotion. The Wellbeing Project was always there.”

Kellermann said that universities in general too should realize the benefit of investing in mental health resources since it greatly affects the student body’s academics. 

“[BU needs] to see it as a win-win when they invest in the well-being of their students,” she said. 

Kellermann added that BU needs to hire more counselors, provide workshops and support groups for stress management and revamp their mental health hotline.

 “Many students are then ending up not getting any help at all,” she noted. “They don’t have enough [counselors] and they’re referring out to Boston and saying ‘good luck.’”

Joey Chen, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he hopes more attention is directed to student-accessible resources on campus. 

“I feel like the staff on the ground just get more work, as they are actually trying to help students directly and have been since day one of the pandemic,” Chen said. “I’ll be happy to see BU invest in more clinicians like better access to after-hour crisis intervention, and more clinical help in the dorms.”

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