Mental Health Project Celebrates 10 Years

The Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning, a curricular project that integrates reflective dialogue on health and wellness into academic courses, celebrated its 10th anniversary this October.

The project, which is run by the Center for New Designs in Leadership and Scholarship, was created by an initial gift of $250,000 from the Charles Engelhard Foundation. Since the project began in 2005, its professors have implemented it in 328 courses, which have been taken by 9,874 unique students.

The project has also been continually funded by the foundation, receiving a portion of a $3 million grant to the CNDLS in 2010.

The Engelhard Project seeks to foster the values of cura personalis by infusing topics on campus health into course curricula.

Around 20 classes per semester include a component of the project, for which professors receive a stipend to invite guest lecturers and develop wellness-related course content. Professors can apply to CNDLS to implement an Engelhard component each semester.

CNDLS Assistant Director Joselyn Lewis said that while the basic model for implementing Engelhard topics in the classroom has remained consistent over the past 10 years, the acceptance of conversations on health issues in academia has greatly improved.

“The program really has grown and expanded when we started this 10 years ago. … The idea of well-being was thought of as sort of a touchy-feely thing that you didn’t do in relationship to academic content,” Lewis said. “It’s been pretty cool to see, in the last 10 years. … It’s a much more salient and approachable topic.”

Chief of Staff to the Office of the President Joe Ferrara said the project has been valuable in drawing attention to relevant health issues on campus over the past 10 years.

“The Engelhard Project is an extraordinary effort that has significantly deepened our ability to support and care for the well-being of our students,” Ferrara said.

Classes that participate in the Engelhard project include discussions on topics on wellness in relation to the subject of the course.

Philosophy professor Karen Stohr has used the Engelhard project in two of her courses —”Introduction to Ethics” and “Bioethics” — for the past several years.

In her “Introduction to Ethics” course, the Engelhard component includes a discussion on sexual assault with Jen Schweer, the associate director of sexual assault response and prevention services, and a subsequent, ungraded reflection.

“It’s about building a community in which sexual assault is not tolerated,” Stohr said.

In her “Bioethics” course, Stohr chose a discussion on the use of stimulant medications such as Adderall as a form of cognitive enhancement.

“We discuss the ‘high achiever’ environment at Georgetown and the culture that leads students to resort to such practices just to keep up with their lives,” Stohr said.

Stohr said that the Engelhard topics in her classes provided an opportunity for students and faculty to come together and discuss how complex issues of health and wellness are present in the Georgetown community.

“I believe that the study of ethics should affect the way we live, and so I look for Engelhard topics that bear on the experiences of Georgetown students and ethical problems that they face on a routine basis,” Stohr said. “That means that I aim to integrate the mental health issues into the course material as much as I can.”

Lydia Bubniak (SFS ’18), who is taking a course with an Engelhard component, “Environmental Ethics,” said that while she is aware of her course’s implementation of the project, its goals have yet to be fully realized. In her course, Bubniak said that the Engelhard component entailed a viewing of a TED talk on the topic of happiness.

“I haven’t seen that much application of the Engelhard initiative. None of our classmates are really that sure what it’s about. We just kind of know vaguely it’s about wellness,” Bubniak said.

Above all, Lewis said that the Engelhard project has been and will continue to be an important part in fostering discussions that are relevant to students on an individual level.

“I think what we hope is happening is that students are finding ways to connect all the complex and complicated things that are going on in their lives, outside of their coursework,” Lewis said. “The academic content feels more relevant and tied, and that people’s complexities and struggles are sort of being honored and raised up as something more valuable.”

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