President Carter leads first University Senate session of 2024
Community conversation focuses on mental health services
The Ohio State University President Walter “Ted” Carter Jr. presided over University Senate for the first time since taking office at the start of the new year. Carter spoke to the shared governing body of the university and learned more about an important issue for students, faculty and staff: mental health services on campus.
“This is my 25th day on the job and I’ve never felt more, in my entire life, that I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m proud to be one of you, proud to be a Buckeye and I’m really excited about being here with you,” he said.
Ohio State’s senate comprises 141 faculty, students, staff and administrators who advise campus leaders on key educational and academic policy concerns. Carter spoke about the importance of the university’s shared governance model and how their work together comes at an important time for Ohio State.
“We are at a critical time in our nation’s history, maybe even in the world, where higher education has come under attack. Some people even wonder about the value of an undergraduate or graduate degree,” he said. “And I believe that this is the institution among a few others that can actually change the narrative of what the future of higher education is in this country. And I want to be part of that conversation. I want to be part of that conversation with each and every one of you.”
The senate session included a presentation on the mental health needs and services at the university. Experts also answered questions about where to find resources and areas of improvement.
Micky Sharma, director of the Office of Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service, discussed the breadth of services provided to students, including group sessions, drop-in workshops and immediate support services.
Bernadette Melnyk, Ohio State’s chief wellness officer, talked about faculty and staff mental health and well-being and the university’s five-year strategic plan on health and wellness. The Wexner Medical Center’s chief well-being leader, cardiologist Laxmi Mehta, discussed strategies to promote a culture of wellness among health care professionals and combat burnout.
“Over the last year and a half, we developed a strategy for well-being at the medical center and also started the implementation process,” Mehta said. “Our mission, really, is to be a model academic medical center that promotes well-being, practices well-being, and promotes professional and personal fulfillment.”
Student government, staff and faculty group leaders also spoke about mental health concerns and some of the solutions they would like to see the university implement.
Carter said the challenges facing students, faculty and staff are similar to what he saw when he served as a vice admiral in the U.S. Navy.
“A lot of the challenges that we had in uniform were very similar and not totally shocking to me. I will tell you right up front: I care about this,” he said. “This is important. This is a great community and I came to this job because I know how well you all take care of each other.
“I just really appreciate the conversation, the candor, the ability to not be afraid to speak up and say where the challenges are.”