It Takes a Village: A Big THANK YOU to the COBE team

We survived!  The past week was crazy as we launched the COBE initiative.   Six days and ten (!) Welcome Week events later, we now have >1200 followers across Facebook and Twitter (and if I could ever figure out how to get my Instagram account to work, I know we have more there too).  Our supply of 2,000 COBE t-shirts is nearly gone, and we have another order underway so we can continue to build the COBE community (more to come about times we’ll be in the Commons and around campus).  Next comes the fun part, where we get to create a campus focused on well-being together!

Most importantly, I want to take a moment to send out a HUGE THANK YOU to all the individuals who have made the COBE launch a success.   I especially want to thank my AMAZING team, who did all the heavy lifting (often literally; think 2000 t-shirts being drug around campus!):  Amy Adkins, who oversaw the entire COBE launch, while also supervising our undergrads and prepping for the first week of class; Craig Zirpolo, our new digital media specialist (and recent VCU grad) who just started with our group in July and managed to build a website, launch video, and everything associated with them in the matter of a few weeks; Zoe Neale, my graduate student who juggled classes, clinic, research, and COBE craziness all at once; Jessica Salvatore, my right hand person whose leadership keeps all the grants and projects chugging along, enabling us to engage in ever-expanding new initiatives like COBE; Fazil Aliev and Bin Cho, who amaze me with their statistical brilliance and yet are still willing to pitch in any time a hand is needed (need a fridge painted or bulletin board hung anyone?); Jinni Su, Peter Barr, and Sally Kuo, my three new postdocs who just started and immediately got thrown into the COBE craziness, and jumped in as enthusiastic team players; Megan Cooke and Jeanne Savage, my amazing graduate students, who are always willing to pitch in and help; and lastly, Regina Coles, my project coordinator, who keeps us all organized and makes the group run.  I am so grateful to work with such a talented, supportive, and enthusiastic group of individuals.  None of this would be possible without you.

In addition to the members of my immediate team, there were countless others who helped make COBE possible.  Tom Woodward and Mark Luetke at the ALTlab – you are amazing.  Mark is the talented artist who quite literally brought COBE to fruition.   Remember back in June when I talked to you both about whether we could launch a major university initiative by August?  I think you thought I was a little crazy – but thanks to you we did it!

Linda Hancock – without your support, and the fabulous group of individuals that you have brought together at The Well, none of this would be possible.  Thank you all for being such wonderful partners.

Finally, the launch of COBE is quite literally the product of hundreds of meetings and conversations over the past couple years.  Without the encouragement and support of senior leadership and faculty colleagues across VCU this would have never come to fruition.   Thank you all for making VCU such a creative, innovative place to live and work.

 

 

Get to Know COBE

This fall we are launching COBE: the College Behavioral and Emotional Health Initiative, and I couldn’t be more excited!  This effort has grown out of activities related to Spit for Science, a research project focused on identifying risk and protective factors associated with substance use and emotional health outcomes across the college years (and beyond).  Over the last four years, we have enrolled nearly 10,000 students into the project (and don’t worry, we’ll be back again in the spring for the next wave of data collection).   One of the amazing things that has happened as a result of this university-wide research project, is that it brought the university community together to unite around issues related to behavioral and emotional health.

There are faculty across the university who are doing amazing research related to substance use and mental health outcomes.   We already have 34 faculty from 13 different departments, 26 trainees, and more than 150 undergraduate students representing 15 different majors who have worked with the Spit for Science data – and Spit for Science is just one of MANY projects related to behavioral and emotional health that are on-going at VCU.

There are also amazing faculty and staff in student affairs who are devoted to developing fun programming related to health and wellness at the university (don’t miss Love n Liquor at Welcome Week!) and to delivering services to students who are struggling.  But even beyond that, because health and wellness impact so many aspects of our lives, there are faculty and staff across the university who are working to promote student wellbeing, from the VCU Police, to Greek Life, to Residential Life and Housing.

COBE brings together all of these groups to provide a central (virtual) place for all things related to behavioral and emotional health.  Through the COBE website, and through our social media, we will bring together information about research projects and findings, coursework related to behavioral health and wellness, and events and programs across the university related to behavioral and emotional health.  By partnering with dynamic colleagues in the ALT Lab, the School of the Arts, and the Robertson School of Media & Culture, we aim to stimulate a conversation about health and wellbeing that is engaging and interactive (science should be fun!).  We want everyone to feel ownership over COBE, and to join in and make this campaign great.  Follow us on twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and be part of the movement to make VCU a happy, healthy place to live and work!

On a personal note, the reason I became a university professor is because I love universities (my parents might say I found a way around their “you only get 4 years” adage, but that’s another story…).  I love the atmosphere on an undergraduate campus.  I love the enthusiasm and excitement of thousands of freshman coming to college each year, and thousands more returning to the community they love after a summer away.  I love the sense of camaraderie at a university.  I love the creation and dissemination of knowledge in ways that can make our world a better place.  I love the energy that comes from having a community of brilliant people who are passionate about an incredible diversity of topics, and the innovation that can happen when we all come together in one place.  I love that it takes all of us to make that community, and that by the act of coming together at a place like VCU, we become more than the sum of our parts.  If you are a new student reading this, or a VCU faculty member, or VCU staff – THANK YOU for making VCU the amazing place that it is.  It is my hope that COBE will be a mobilizing force that all of us at VCU can rally around – an effort to make wellbeing a core part of the university experience at VCU.  I look forward to building that with you, and to seeing where it will go!