5 Ways the University of Calgary’s Thrive Priority Support Network can help you help your students

What is the Thrive Priority Support Network?

In fall 2016, the Student Success Centre launched the University of Calgary’s Early Alert program, Thrive Priority Support Network (Thrive) campus-wide. As part of the Campus Mental Health Strategy, Thrive identifies students experiencing academic difficulty and helps them connect with resources to get the right support at the right time.

“Often patterns of declining grades or marked changes in classroom performance signal that a student may be struggling with something else in their life,” shares Shermin Murji, the Thrive Priority Support Network administrator. “Students that we see through Thrive can struggle with everything from unexpected financial issues to health problems. We’ve been able to connect with hundreds of students and introduce them to the right campus resources to address their needs, whether that’s the SU Wellness Centre, Financial Aid, program advising, or academic support.”

Instructors and teaching assistants play a key role in assisting students’ access to just-in-time supports, as they are often the first people to notice when students start struggling. Since keeping track of all the resources available for students can sometimes be a daunting task, Thrive was also designed to support faculty in finding the support their students may need.  Here are 5 ways Thrive can support you in helping your students:

1. Faculty concern form

The Thrive faculty concern form provides faculty and teaching assistants with an opportunity to identify students they feel may be at-risk academically.

“Signs like not showing up to class or patterns of requests for deferrals or extensions can all be signs that a student is having a hard time,” says Murji.

Instructors and teaching assistants can alert Thrive to these issues by completing the confidential concern form, which is conveniently located in their faculty centre or D2L homepage. All that is required to complete the form is a student name, ID number, and selection of specific behavioural changes from a checklist; this information is then combined with grade data to determine if the student is struggling in other academic classes and settings.

“Students who were identified through the concern form were very likely to come in for support last semester, so we appreciate faculty taking the time to submit their concerns,” Murji notes.

2. Provide a direct referral for students you are concerned about

Sometimes instructors or teaching assistants may be unsure if a student needs support from Thrive. In these cases, Shermin encourages faculty members to contact her directly.

“Faculty often call or email after recognizing that a student has experienced a change in performance or behaviour. It can also be difficult to determine where to send a student for support. I always encourage faculty members to reach out so we can find out how to support the student together – having someone to talk with will not only help identify appropriate resources for students, but offer support to faculty members as well,” shares Murji.

3. Resource for helping you find other resources

In addition to providing a resource for helping students, faculty members also often use Thrive as a way to identify resources and discuss best strategies. Many faculty members connect with students at a level where students disclose personal challenges and academic difficulties. It can be helpful to have someone to debrief with and discuss available resources and supports for those students. Sometimes you just want to get more information about specific resources and opportunities that students can pursue to address their struggles. Thrive is a resource to support faculty members in finding other resources for academically at-risk students.  However, if you encounter a student who poses a risk to her/himself or others, you can reach out directly to the Student-At-Risk Team at sar@ucalgary.ca or campus security.

4. Make your student feel like a part of the community

One of the Campus Mental Health Strategy’s six principles is to create a campus community. Data sources, such as the National College Health Assessment and the National Survey of Student Engagement, often demonstrate that students feel alone and isolated. While classrooms can engage students in academic learning and conversations, they can also provide opportunities to continue developing a sense of community. Referring students to Thrive or providing them with information about it provides them with one more connection to know and engage with on campus.

“Students regularly comment that they appreciate the effort and interest the University of Calgary, and specifically faculty, makes to reach students and support their success,” Murji says.

5. Normalize help seeking behaviours

Reducing stigma for mental health concerns is a priority for many faculties and departments across the institution. Offering pro-active support provides positive role modeling and normalizes the act of asking for, and receiving, help. Bell Let’s Talk Day expanded the conversation on campus, and Thrive can continue to spread the word. Inviting Thrive administrators to speak to your students about the Network and its purpose further supports this goal. In March 2018, there will be a launch of videos highlighting individuals from across the University of Calgary, including administrators, staff, faculty, and students, sharing their stories of seeking help.

For more information about Thrive, contact Shermin Murji at 403-220-7471 or Shermin.murji@ucalgary.ca, or visit http://ucalgary.ca/ssc/faculty/thrive.

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