ALC 2015: MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart SM ’86, PhD ’88

JOHN CHISHOLM: Good morning, everybody I hope you’re feeling energized and inspired by a great program yesterday, as I am, and that you are ready for our second day of ALC For those of you I didn’t get to meet yesterday, I’m John Chisholm, your President and Chair of the Alumni Association for this year, and it is my pleasure and honor to introduce this morning’s keynote speakers Cindy Barnhart, SM 86, PhD 88, is Ford Foundation Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chancellor of MIT The Chancellor has responsibility for graduate and undergraduate education at MIT, student life, student services, and other areas that impact the student experience She and Provost Marty Schmidt, to whom the faculty reports, are the Institute’s two most senior academic officers Together, they advise the President and participate in strategic planning, faculty appointments, resource development, and Institute resources and buildings Cindy likes to say that she’s responsible for all things students Professor Barnhart is joined today by two undergraduate women who have been deeply committed to the Institute and our focus on student life and learning Together, they’ll offer us a view of student life today and their goals for the future So please welcome me– join me in welcoming Cindy Barnhart, Lorraine Wong, Class of ’17, and Ariella Yosafat, Class of ’16 Welcome, ladies [APPLAUSE] CINDY BARNHART: Thank you Thank you, John, for that kind introduction It’s a pleasure to be here with you and with this room full of exceptional members of the MIT community So to our alumni volunteers, thank you for serving as ambassadors to your fellow alumni and for all the work you do to keep our connections to each other and our community so strong So I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear from our students today and to address one of the biggest challenges facing higher education in these times– mental health and wellness I’m pleased to have the opportunity to tell you about the new MindHandHeart Initiative and the work we’re doing to build a stronger, healthier community So let me get started I’ll begin by introducing my co-panelists They are smart, creative, and extremely committed to enhancing mental health at MIT It’s an honor to share this stage with them So first, Lorraine Wong Give them a wave She’s a member of the Class of 2017, and she’s pairing women and gender studies with Course 6 as her majors Lorraine believes in advocating for student mental health and de-stigmatizing mental illness She is also a crisis hotline volunteer at Samaritans, Inc., in Boston She has signed up to be a co-chair of the MindHandHeart working group that will focus on ways to increase help-seeking behaviors And Ariella Yosafat– she’ll graduate this academic year with a double major in brain and cognitive science and biology, 9 and 7A Ariella has been involved in Active Minds since her freshman year, because she’s had family and friends who were afraid to get help for their mental health issues She wanted to de-stigmatize mental illness and create a culture at MIT where people aren’t afraid to ask for help, no matter the situation Ariella is serving as our student co-chair of MindHandHeart’s mental health and substance abuse working group So I promised you they were impressive, and they will show you this clearly in the next few minutes So without any further delay, I’ll turn it over to them ARIELLA YOSAFAT: Thanks so much for coming It’s a pleasure to be here Thank you, Chancellor Barnhart, for introducing us

We have a brief presentation about what it is we do on campus and why it’s so important So I’m really excited to talk to you all and talk about this topic So why do we care about mental health, especially on college campuses? One in five adults experience mental illness in a given year, and one in 17 are living with a serious mental illness So this is a really prominent issue in our society And you know, being in a college campus, and being in a place where so much is happening and there are so many innovative and creative people, it can be difficult to see this issue, especially if you’re not experiencing mental illness But this problem affects all communities At MIT, 30% of students in the graduating class will have seen mental health and counseling services at least once I’m not saying that’s the problem The problem is not that they’re seeking help It’s just that mental health issues affect everyone And one of the scary statistics is that suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24 The suicide rate is slightly lower on college campuses, because it tends to be a safer environment, but it is still an issue Approximately 1,100 students on college campuses die by suicide every year And so it’s really a universal issue that we’re trying to address And in a two-week period, 16% of college students report feeling hopeless, and 54% report feeling so overwhelmed by everything they have to do, and 10% report feeling so depressed it is difficult to function And when you have these problems, it can really be difficult to be a functional college student And so addressing these issues and making each student feel supported is a really important goal of ours So when we talk about the MIT environment specifically, we have a unique situation We’re so– you know, we pride ourselves on being so challenging And that can be great I mean, some people– the people who come to MIT come because they want that challenging environment in order for them to learn and them to gain the skills that they need to be great community members So it can make you thrive But if it’s the wrong balance, and if you’re feeling so overwhelmed by everything that you have to do, it can make you suffer, and you can spiral into a pattern that you don’t want to spiral into And that can hurt you going forward, and we really, really don’t want that And so one of the most important issues that we’ve been addressing is how to recognize the stress, both in yourself and others, and how to then get help and return back to being a functional MIT student and thriving within this community So with that, I’m going to turn it over to Lorraine, who’s going to tell you a little bit about what Active Minds does LORRAINE WONG: So Ariella and I are both in Active Minds, and we’ve been in this club since our freshman years Active Minds at MIT is one of over 400 chapters at college campuses across the nation that work to reduce the stigma around mental illness and to increase conversation around mental health on the campuses So here at MIT, we’re just one part of a bigger picture across all college campuses And our chapter is focused, this year especially, on increasing student awareness that there are students here working on mental health and wellness, and that we’re trying to use a student voice to make changes or to make people feel more supported at MIT And this is our events for this year and for past years and for future years So every year we do a couple of these So depression screenings is something that we bring to students in the Student Center or somewhere that’s very accessible for them And we often pair those with things that are less high-stress for students, such as therapy dogs And then we see that knowing that students like cute things, or like things that are really easy, actually helps them to seek help So we try to make things as accessible as possible We have a lot of QPR trainings, which are Question, Persuade, Refer Those are suicide prevention trainings for students in crisis And we have all of these– you can read them What we are focusing on right now is that September through October is National Suicide Prevention Month, so we’ve had a couple of events already in the past, including a film screening of Here One Day, which is a story about a woman whose mother suffered from bipolar disorder and died by suicide So it talks about the effects on family, and that was this past week And lastly, this is our mission So here at MIT, Active Minds focuses

very much on peer outreach, on making sure that students can reach out to other students, that we talk to other students and make them aware that it’s OK to reach out for help, and to remove the stigma around mental health issues– about talking about mental health, about talking about mental illness, and about talking about just student wellness in general And mostly we do that by connecting students with other resources on campus, such as student support services, mental health and counseling, other students– we have Peer Ears as a group now, which are students trained to listen to other students And I’m going to turn right back to Ariella ARIELLA YOSAFAT: So I’m going to briefly discuss how to talk to a student– I’m just going to put these all up there– about a mental health issue And this can apply both when you talk to somebody specifically or just in a general context– you know, how to talk about mental health in a way that’s going to be productive And so first thing is, since this is still a sensitive topic, if you’re talking to somebody specifically, you want to be discreet about it It’s a hard topic to talk about And if somebody comes to the table and they want to share their story, that’s great But it’s still– you know, it can be sensitive Most importantly, and I think these next three kind of are all in the same boat, is to be non-judgmental, and ask open-ended questions, and to just really be willing to discuss a broad range of topics in the conversation and to be open and to not be so judgmental in having that conversation– like, oh, MIT students shouldn’t have a mental illness Not like that So we just want people to be engaged in a really open and honest conversation about this And one thing that’s really important for both alumni and students– and everybody on campus– is to be aware of the resources MIT has fantastic resources, and we’re adding more So just to be aware of these resources– not only when somebody specifically asks you for help, but just so you can direct somebody, so you know as a representative of your school what it has to offer So there are some other tips on there that might apply more to talking to a specific person, but they’re very– they’re useful to know, and it’s an important skill to know, and you just want to make sure that you respond in a way that will increase that person’s willingness to get help rather than shut them down So I think we’re going to hand it back to Chancellor Barnhart, but thank you all so much [APPLAUSE] CINDY BARNHART: So I just want to say a little bit about a new initiative at MIT, the MindHandHeart Initiative, which is a bit of a mouthful, but it’s meant to capture that this is an initiative for MIT based on what MIT is, the values and principles of MIT So we have our own twist on this particular initiative, and I’ll give you a little sense of what that is Before talking about it, I wanted to give you some background In the spring, we administered to our students a healthy minds survey And these are the results from the survey What you see in the red bars are the responses from MIT And in the gray are the responses from the other schools, the averages over the other schools in the nation that took the same survey The first thing you see is that the red bars and the gray bars kind of look alike So what it suggests is that what we’re facing here at MIT is being faced nationally It’s a challenge that is being faced by higher education across the country The second thing you see is the prevalence of mental health issues here and across the country And it’s sobering You can see that major depression– about 9% of our student respondents

said they suffer from that in the last year There are– pick any set of statistics here, and it’s incredibly sad and troubling And it’s a huge motivator for us here at MIT to do something A little more data These I picked out– this survey is rich with data I picked these out because they are specific to MIT, and I think they provide a focal point for us for some of our activities So for example, if you look at the top chart, we’re comparing MIT, again, with the national respondents And the pink-red colors are who agree strongly or agree with the statement “at my school, students’ mental and emotional well-being is a priority.” And I can’t actually see the numbers, but I’m thinking, if I remember correctly, it’s less than 50% of our students agree or strongly agree with that That says to us, that’s an area we need to work to change Another, I think maybe the most striking, result from the survey for me– well, it’s hard to say most striking Another striking is on the bottom , Now, the yellow, kind of gold colors– again, they’re the strongly agree or agree And you see that about 2/3 of our students– and here there’s a gap with the national, a big gap 2/3 of our students say, at my school, the academic environment has a negative impact on students’ mental and emotional well-being I think that there’s so much we need to understand about that, and I also think there’s so much we can do about that So armed, sort of, with this data, as well as lots of knowledge about our community, we’ve had students, staff, faculty working to learn about this problem and trying to do something about this problem What we see is typical of MIT We have lots of activities all over, but they weren’t integrated or coordinated in any way– which is fine in some ways, but we felt we’re not really leveraging all the passion and interest in doing something when these things aren’t coordinated So what we did then is we said, OK, we’re going to take some immediate steps and some longer-term steps The immediate steps were mostly focused around providing our students with increased access to support services So we have increased staffing in mental health and counseling We have increased staffing in student support services And I think importantly for the students, this has allowed us to increase the number of hours of drop-in times So we’ve opened a new office in Building 8 where students can drop in for mental health consultations, and we’ve doubled the number of hours that student support services have for drop-in hours Another thing we heard from our students was a barrier to seeking help was fear of being forced to take a leave from MIT and then having to go through the re-admission process There’s a lot of fear around the re-admission process So I’ve charged a committee to look at our policies around re-admission and work to make changes to ensure that we have the transparency that students need and that our policies are as fair and supportive as possible And then the last thing that I want to talk about is this longer-term work, which is our MindHandHeart Initiative So the idea of the MindHandHeart Initiative is to, as I said, bring all the different people in our community– our alumni, our students, our staff, our faculty– to come together around this topic of mental health and well-being on campus So the MindHandHeart program, at its core,

is something called the Jed/Clinton Foundation Health Matters Campus Program This program by the Jed and Clinton Foundation is focused on mental health and substance abuse and trying to use best practices and learnings to reduce incidences of suicide on campus and reduce incidences of substance abuse We decided that while this would be our core and we would join the program– so we joined over 100 other schools who are part of this program– we also decided that we wanted it to be broader, that we wanted to also address sort of general well-being at MIT So on the next page, I’ve listed here the working groups that are kind of the– that’s where things happen in this MindHandHeart Initiative And the working groups have been initially selected based on research that shows that if you can work to address some of these topics, or any of these topics, you can work to push forward your agenda of reducing the incidences of suicide and improving overall well-being at MIT So you see here we have things like increased help-seeking We have mental health and substance abuse– I’ve already told you that Lorraine and Ariella are involved in this Each working group has students, staff, faculty, and has a staff and a student co-chair Academic performance, I think of as being related to the data point I showed you So if our academic environment is having such a negative impact on our students’ well-being, it would be in this working group that we try to understand that and try to figure out what we can do So I’ll just give you a really quick example of something that’s happened already, so that you can have a sense of what might be the output of these working groups So last semester, the electrical engineering and computer science department did a survey over the course of the semester of the workloads that their students were experiencing And what they found is probably no surprise to any of you There are periods of time of extreme workload, and there are some classes where the workload is multiples, in terms of number of hours spent, of what it is supposed to be for 12-unit classes So a couple things they did was– I was at the EECS faculty meeting last week They presented to their faculty the results of the survey, and they listed, in order of decreasing number of average hours students spent on the class, class by class And so they were shining a light on this problem, and they were pointing to all the faculty in the department that you need to solve it Because what you do in your class has certainly an impact on students taking your class But what maybe faculty don’t pay enough attention to or certainly they don’t pay enough attention to is when you do that in your class, and someone else does it in their class, and someone else in their class, you’ve created a situation that is really difficult for our students So it’s EECS, so what do they do? One thing they did was they put together a software package where– yeah, surprise, surprise! It was really cool, though, because what they did was– so you type in what subject you’re teaching, and then it will pop up four other subjects that have the maximum overlap in the composition of the class So you’ve now got like five subjects where the students in your class are likely to be taking those other classes as well And then they put all– they got the syllabi for the upcoming semester, and they put all the lab assignments, problems sets, exam schedules on the screen And so immediately you could see where

there are these pain points of everything happening at the same time And so the faculty went in and started moving things to spread it out So that’s just one example of things that can be done to try to improve things here And I think there are thousands of such examples We have seen– over the last year, which has been incredibly difficult, we have seen an outpouring from our community of interests in trying to help and trying to do something And so this MindHandHeart Initiative is designed for exactly that, to draw people in so we can have their ideas and their energy tapped to do something So to do something– here’s the last line How can you help? Well, one of the things we have done is we created, sort of in typical MIT style– a MindHandHeart Innovation Fund And the idea is, there are so many ideas out there So how about if we provide this Innovation Fund? Anyone can write a short proposal of what their idea is with a budget and apply for funds to do this So it might be that faculty want to supplement what they’re doing in their research on the impact of sleep on well-being by creating some sensors that our students might wear to provide data about sleep patterns for our students It might be that a student has an idea like “tell me about your day, MIT” and wants some funding to make that happen So that’s the purpose of the Innovation Fun We also have a campaign that’s been launched– and I think you received this postcard We have encouraged our faculty and staff to post this so that students know it’s OK to ask for help And you can ask me And I’ll help you do what Ariella and Lorraine said I should do and help direct people, students, to where they can get help You can learn more about us on our website, the website, and you can also go to my website–– to find the more detailed results of the Healthy Minds study And finally, we’d love to hear from you, and I have here the email address you can send your thoughts and your ideas to us So with that, I will sit down and start to engage in dialogue with the people you really want to hear from, Lorraine and Ariella [APPLAUSE] So the way we thought we would do this is, I would ask a few questions of Lorraine and Ariella, and we could engage in dialogue for a bit And then we’ll open it up to all of you to hear what you have to say OK, so what I’ll do is, I’ll just throw it out, and you can decide who wants to answer it OK? All right So I thought, how about if you begin by telling us a short story that you think best illustrates student life at MIT today and what makes it special, what makes it unique, and what makes it difficult LORRAINE WONG: I’ll take this one So every student’s life is so different But from my personal experience, I live on East Campus and it’s a really close community All of our students live in a dorm their first year still So we have like 10 new freshmen on a hall, and they always gather in one of our lounges We have a lounge by the kitchen, and everyone cooks together sometimes We also just sit in our lounge At like 11:00 PM, we have hot chocolate together People are p-setting on their 1802, 801 p-sets They’re studying Their first exams were this past week, and our freshmen freaked out over them But they were all studying together Other people were playing music I dragged my blanket out from my room, and I was napping in the lounge And people are just happy to work together, happy to be together and just figure out how to be adults and how to be individuals by having that network of friends living with you or coming by close to you

And I think that’s what really makes MIT special– that we have communities that foster such connectedness and such really deep friendships that go way beyond like freshman year or sophomore year And people– we have alumni coming back home and visiting us on our hall at 11:00 PM And it’s just really fun to have friends that care about you so much right with you CINDY BARNHART: Do you want to talk about what makes it difficult? LORRAINE WONG: I think people find many different things difficult. I focus less on academics and more on life in my own life, so– life sometimes really throws curveballs at you This past week was really hard for me So half of the reason why I brought my blanket out to the lounge was just that I wanted to spend time with people and not focus on academics or on life or on anything else And I think I was feeling that Our freshmen were feeling the first exams back to back on Thursday and Friday And those are the General Institute Requirements, so all of our freshmen were taking both of those classes back to back And I think having work and figuring out that you have to figure out how to do all this work on your own is really hard, and it makes it difficult But I think as the year goes on, people realize that they should rely on each other more That’s what makes us more collaborative ARIELLA YOSAFAT: I can comment on that One of the things I really like about having that hall structure– and I live in a different dorm, but I think it applies to most– is that we don’t have freshman-only dorms, and we don’t have places where you go for a year and then you leave A lot of students stay in their residence halls or go to a fraternity and sorority, but in all of those places they’re upperclassmen who have been through the same things that you’ve been through They’ve taken these General Institute Requirements They’ve had their first frightening career fair So they can talk to you and say, it’s going to be OK I got through this And yes, it was difficult, and sometimes it felt like I wasn’t going to get through it But I did, and here are some tips, and we support you So I think what’s really unique about MIT is that we have that mixing of different class year, and the ability to tell freshmen and to show them that it’s going to be OK CINDY BARNHART: So what do you think is the biggest issue facing students at MIT in 2015, and how can we address it? ARIELLA YOSAFAT: So I think you addressed a lot of these, or what we were thinking, in your presentation about MindHandHeart And really that academic issue and its effect on mental health, I think, especially coming from an Active Minds perspective, is something we want to address And so I was just thinking as you were presenting the EECS data and the plan to coordinate schedules, how useful that would be just MIT-wide, and how useful initiatives like that would be MIT-wide And I’m sure there are 1,000 other amazing ideas out there, and using this initiative to get those ideas out of students and to get them engaged is– I think we should be focusing on that And sometimes it can be hard to engage students, because they’re involved in so many other things So finding a way to not increase their stress, but still get them to contribute to the community, is one of our challenges But it’s also one of our opportunities CINDY BARNHART: I agree That’s a huge challenge, and we see it across the board So, you know, I said there was this outpouring of interest and support in wanting to do something But the reality is, students are really busy Faculty are really busy Staff are really busy Everyone is really busy And I think that will be part of our challenge in the MindHandHeart Initiative– is to somehow keep people engaged and keep the focus on this and keep moving forward with that So do you think that this is the biggest issue facing students at MIT, or are there other issues you would put up near the top or at the top of the list? ARIELLA YOSAFAT: I think there are– every student faces different issues, and we want to make sure that we’re addressing all of them But I certainly think, coming from an Active Minds perspective, that mental health is up there And it’s something that has had so much attention drawn to it this year that it’s really important for us to start coming up with workable solutions And I think a lot of different issues tie into each other and and they all should be addressed

So you know, MIT sleep patterns and increasing well-being will also affect mental health and will also be affected by academic demands So it all ties together And I think that if we work from multiple angles, that’s really what’s going to help solve this issue CINDY BARNHART: OK, so what do you think the most important message is that you want students to know about mental health and wellness at MIT? LORRAINE WONG: I believe that students don’t always think that there is going to be someone there to catch them if they need help And I would counter them, greatly or gently or in whatever way will make them seek that help, and say that there are people here who really care And a lot of people want you to get help And I think so long as we say that as many times as we can and in as many ways as we can, then hopefully students will understand that it’s really true, and people really care, and they will be here to help if you need it ARIELLA YOSAFAT: I’m just going to say what Lorraine said It’s so important– you know, that campaign about it’s OK to ask for help It’s just so important to show in so many different ways that everybody is supporting– faculty, staff, you know, fellow students, graduate students CINDY BARNHART: So we– in the survey, some of the data show– there was a question about, when you needed help, why didn’t you reach out for help? And it was really interesting to see the responses The most frequent response– and it was something close to 60%– was, students said they thought they could handle it on their own And this was different from, again, the national response We were much higher in feeling– our students feeling that they could handle it on their own So I think that the campaign of, it’s OK to ask for help, is an important message for our community in particular So this is maybe a question on the minds of the audience And that is, how do you think MIT alumni can support Active Minds and the MindHandHeart Initiative? ARIELLA YOSAFAT: I mean you gave a great list of ways they can learn more about it If you’re close by, you can come to our events We really want to reach the entire MIT community Supporting the campaign, supporting the initiative, either by learning more about it or donating to it so that students can have the funds to do their projects within the campaign– you know, there are just so many ways And this being actively engaged in what’s going on, and being aware of how this can really affect student lives, is important LORRAINE WONG: I think also bringing to your own communities and your own connections within MIT’s community to make sure that you also help de-stigmatize mental illness and mental health, because we know the conversation has been to changing a lot on campus recently, but as students we don’t really know how that conversation has been changing back where you all come from And to make sure that all of MIT’s community knows that we want to talk about mental health now, and we want to change the climate here about help seeking and students’ health, would be really great and important to get that message to as many people as possible CINDY BARNHART: Thank you both So I’d like to open it up to the audience There are– if you just go to the microphones on either side, we’ll just sort of process you from side to side AUDIENCE: Hi, good morning I find this very near and dear to my heart, because I just got an email recently from the parent of a student who was forced to withdraw for mental health reasons And I think a very, very important thing that the Alumni Association can do, with the permission and approval of the staff, because when I was contacted by the parent, I did contact the staff to see what I could and could not do The mother was distraught She was a single mother Her son was admitted to MIT, he had to withdraw, he was depressed, he was cut off, all his friends were away at college, he was home– he was just isolated and asked what I could do Our club in northern New Jersey stepped up I contacted people I spoke with the mother We invited the young man, while he was home, to participate in all of our club events

We invited the young man and his mother to come to our functions We had an open house for admitted students We invited the young man to come and join the panel of students to speak about the first semester at MIT He had to withdraw after his first semester, but we included him I connected him with alums that lived in his area who invited him to come and meet with them and help in their offices I spoke with the mother numerous times The young man was home for a year and a half and just returned to MIT this semester, and I really give credit to this for all of our club But I just got an email from the mother, and she said– I won’t mention the name– he’s doing well and is going back to MIT Can’t tell you how many times our conversations gave me hope and kept me believing So I think that our whole club stepped in to include this young man and his family while he was home to have that connection to MIT, because he did plan to hopefully come back So I think that– I don’t know what your group can do, but if you have a student that is forced to withdraw for mental health reasons, if it’s allowed’ by the Institute, if the local club in the community where he or she lives can be notified so that we can hopefully step in and provide some sort of MIT connection and inclusion in our activities so that this young man or woman will still feel that hope and connection to MIT in the belief that they will, as with this young man, who’s back this semester, will do So I think that’s a wonderful thing the alumni can do to support students who were dealing with this issue and have to withdraw for some period [APPLAUSE] CINDY BARNHART: Thanks for sharing that, that’s just so great AUDIENCE: That made me feel– CINDY BARNHART: Right AUDIENCE: –when I got this email from the mother I actually cried I forwarded it to a lot of our club members about this CINDY BARNHART: Well, it’s exactly that kind of thing, that MindHandHeart is all about, is tapping into these great ideas AUDIENCE: Thank you very much CINDY BARNHART: That can make a difference AUDIENCE: Our club was wonderful, and I appreciate everyone in our club who stepped up to help this family CINDY BARNHART: That’s great Thank you Yes? AUDIENCE: My name is Paul Green Can you hear me? I can’t tell if this is on OK Class is ’73, graduated in ’74– there’s a story there I think there’s another thing that we as alumnae and alumni can bring to this discussion and I’d like to put it on the table, which is that many of us had trouble at MIT I’m tempted to ask where the heck were you 40 years ago As someone who was very reluctant to ask for help and certainly had my share of trouble, what we can bring to the table is we made it through the cursed crucible, we’ve had great lives, great careers, wonderful children, and yet we had the same dark thoughts or flunked classes And with the indulgence of my fellow alums, I’d like to ask you to raise your hands if you ever dropped a class, flunked a class, or had the professor tell you, I’m going to pass you, but you don’t deserve it OK? So if I made a point here that this is– I don’t quite know how we can be engaged I happen to live locally– some of us do some of us don’t– but I think there is a message we can bring to the current students that says, it’s going to be OK Whatever problems you’re having, it’s going to be OK We went through that, and maybe if a few of you didn’t raise your hands, maybe your roommates went through it or a good friend went through it And so find a way to get us more actively engaged is what I would say CINDY BARNHART: Well, I have one way already to suggest So on the It’s OK to Ask for Help website, one of the things we’re doing is we’re videotaping people’s stories and putting them on there so students can hear from people who have been through this before them and came out the other end successfully So that would be a wonderful thing, for you to tell your stories, if you’re comfortable sharing them, with our students on the website ARIELLA YOSAFAT: Yeah, that’d be fantastic! There are so many good ideas out there CINDY BARNHART: So if you’ll grab the micro– I’ll go to this side Thank you AUDIENCE: Sorry, hello

Thank you, Cynthia, for your candor in bringing us up to speed with what you’re doing I’m interested in any further thoughts for something about the life skills development How can we help students in this critical age range find meaning and ways to create joy? Because those, I think, are two of the big life skills CINDY BARNHART: Right Yeah, so you notice that was one of the working groups in our MindHandHeart initative We agree– and maybe more importantly, the Clinton Foundation has shown that this is really important So it’s a working group Anyone who wants to help us with that working group, anyone who has ideas, we are looking for help AUDIENCE: Up here CINDY BARNHART: Over– AUDIENCE: I’m up here Sorry CINDY BARNHART: OK AUDIENCE: Sorry Hi, I’m Tim, class of ’85 I was interested by that east campus story And I’m not a health professional, but I would assume isolation can be a big multiplier for issues and problems? CINDY BARNHART: Yes AUDIENCE: And I am aware of the fact that, for lack of a more elegant description, tragic things happen less often where there is a smaller, tighter community in terms of living group, and that’s not a compare and contrast, just a fact– you have a support group My question is, within the framework of this initiative, is there a component of training– you referenced upperclassmen– so if everybody’s having hot chocolate, and somebody knows this person has never showed up for that, an upperclassman knocked on your door and says, you know what? You can take a five minute break from that problem set It’s going to get done Come out here, have a smile, have a laugh That’s the question CINDY BARNHART: Oh, absolutely I don’t know if you want to reflect on that? LORRAINE WONG: I think that’s a great idea I think each living group tries to do that differently and I think a lot of us do But I also think that some of us get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to do that We see the same group of people in the lounge having hot chocolate or doing their work or whatever and we sometimes forget that to go check in on people that we haven’t seen that much I think that’s maybe a culture shift of something that we feel responsible for ourselves, but we also feel like we should support everyone else So we somehow make students remember to go reach out not just when they’re in trouble or having issues, but also when they feel like their friends are That’s a large component of what active minds does, it’s like how to help a friend So we try to make people more cognizant about the lives of others around them I think that the MindHandHeart working group on connectedness could potentially go look at individual communities and which communities utilize tools like this and skills like this and how that’s affecting individual students within those CINDY BARNHART: Yeah, absolutely So the connectedness working group is all about that And it’s interesting, because one thing about our living communities are they’re all different And so that’s good and that’s led to, in some ways– so one of the things with connectedness, it will identify what different groups are doing Make it known So things that work well and are effective can be shared and maybe adopted in more of the communities I had a conversation recently with a student who is in a fraternity And what he said was– they have a group of 30 young men at the fraternity– and he said, you can’t go unnoticed That’s part of what they’re about, is not letting you go unnoticed And so he was telling me about the different kinds of things they do to keep people connected And so I think we have a lot we can learn from practices in our community And I think we just need to put effort into sharing those so that everyone knows about what seems to work well and what doesn’t OK, I can take one more question AUDIENCE: Yes, good morning I hear a lot of suggestions to treat symptoms and while you’re gathering data about quizzes or problems, I would make some suggestions that there’s structural ways to address the problem One of the stress for MIT students is generated by their very competitive nature and the extremely competitive nature of the Institute And there are some structural things that allow that to be very exaggerated For instance, people are very proud when they take enormous overloads And they’re allowed to do that And that’s often why people end up dropping courses, because they shouldn’t have been taking

that many courses to begin with When I was a student, there were two semesters of pass/fail, now there’s only one, so I think that has added more stress and that’s in the last few years I think there’s some structural issues that– while you’re collecting data And well, you just mentioned the fraternities I lived in an independent living group and it was better to be a freshman there than it is to be a freshman in dorm, and you can’t do that anymore because, just what this student’s said to you, it’s very hard when you have dinner in one place with 30 people– you notice the people, you can’t hide for days In a dorm, you can hide for weeks as it turns out So I think there’s some structural issues that the Institute can control and it doesn’t require these things to make changes at the cause rather than trying to later fix the symptoms So I’m going to need you to comment on– CINDY BARNHART: That’s absolutely true And some of the structural things are probably more obvious than others, but some of the ones you’ve listed– as simple as– or it may be obvious as it seems, like, well why not just limit the number of units a student can take? Turns out there are a lot of faculty who will argue in different directions around that one And you know, academia, like the word mandate, seems to not be in our vocabulary But we are absolutely looking at structural issues And there is a strong culture here and I’ll let Lorraine and Ariella speak to it One of the things that a student really eloquently wrote was about sort of this culture of suffering and glorifying it So what this student was suggesting is, well why don’t we say things like, sleep is for the strong, not for the weak You know? And things that may seem pretty obvious but go against the culture And so these are all really important things I think ARIELLA YOSAFAT: Yeah, I would totally agree And I think a huge part of that is the student voice If students hear from other students that, oh, it’s bad to only be taking this amount of classes and oh, you’ve got more than seven hours of sleep at night, then that perpetuates the culture But if you have students like me who say, OK, I’m only taking three classes and I’m perfectly happy with that and I got my eight hours of sleep last night and I’m a healthy, functional individual because of it, then that helps to combat that other sort of culture of suffering And we can get that from students and I think can also get that from alumni If you guys talk about your experiences and talk about, OK, one semester I took five classes but I dropped one and then I took four and then I was much happier, or this semester I got more sleep than I had ever gotten before and that was really, really helpful You guys can also help to get rid of that culture of suffering JOHN CHISHOLM: Mind, Hand, and Heart invite alumni to be part of their Ask For Help campaign today in the mezzanine lounge from 3:00 to 4:30 to be photoed and to share your stories So let’s thank Chancellor Barnhart, Lorraine Wong, and Ariella Yosafat [APPLAUSE] We have a 30 minute break now Refreshments or coffee will be downstairs on the ground floor See you at 10:30