We’re a third of the way…

…through our course this semester and I could not be more excited. You all have impressed me with your discussions, reflections and blog activities.  Over the past few weeks we’ve introduced the major concepts and ideas that will pop up throughout the course.  Once reading days are over, we’ll move into the second part of […]

Love N’ Liquor

During Welcome Week I was lucky enough to catch Dr. Linda Hancock’s famous “LNL” sessions.  Dr. Hancock is the Director of the VCU Wellness Resource Center and a strong ally of both Spit4Science and our new COBE initiative. Using her own unique blend of humor (“Have you herd?”) and candor,  she teaches incoming students how to stay safe while drinking […]

Effects of stress

I didn’t know that stress has so many effects on the body! Click here to see some frightening news!  One of the experiments they reference looked at changes in gene expression due to stress.  Luckily we have a fantastic support system at VCU including the Wellness Resource Center, Student Health, and the newly founded COBE to help […]

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!  

“The Blacklist” takes on gene-environment interaction!

I watch very little television, but I will confess that one of my current guilty pleasures is The Blacklist.  Season 2, Episode 4 was all about how the propensity to aggression is based partly on genetic influences and partly on environmental influences.  It is rooted in this 2002 research paper by Caspi and colleagues, that was published in Science.  Check out the episode.  And when you do, think about how much is accurate and how much is science fiction (my take: they actually got a lot right compared to many media portrayals of genetics).  What do you think about the rogue clinical psychologist?  As we better understand gene-enviornment interactions, do you think there will be people who try to use that information for harm rather than for good? How successful do you think they would be?