USF Awarded SAMHSA Grant to Support Mental Health Resources for Students

Joliet, Ill. – Providing mental health resources that meet the needs of students is an important area of focus institutions at all levels of education. The University of St. Francis (USF) is pleased to announce that its efforts to provide mental health resources to its students will be enhanced thanks a three-year matching grant through the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

“We were aware that our students, having navigated the challenges presented by COVID-19 for the past two years, were in great need of support. Many students come to campus with lack of awareness about the things they can be doing day to day that have a great impact on their mental health. This grant will greatly help us to raise their awareness and take positive steps forward” said Mollie Rockafellow, Ed.D., dean of student life at USF and grant project director.

The two primary goals to be addressed through the matching grant include increasing the university’s capacity to identify at-risk students and improve mental health services for all college students, including those at risk for suicide, depression, or serious mental illness (SMI)/serious emotional disturbances (SED), and to prevent and reduce suicide and mental and substance use disorders by increasing awareness of resources and creating a campus culture surrounding mental health that is culturally competent and promotes help-seeking behavior.

Efforts funded through the grant began earlier this fall and have enhanced the university’s partnership with Advocate Aurora Health.

“Advocate Aurora Health offers amazing counseling support for our students, both in-person on our campus and in virtual formats. We believe this grant will help increase overall mental health while also building a safety net for when students need additional support in working through mental health challenges,” Rockafellow added.

Ultimately, Rockafellow is grateful for the positive impact that the matching grant will have on USF’s campus community.

“The grant committee is very appreciative that this grant will support our work with our campus community. We know that this grant will allow us to have a positive impact on our USF students teaching them skills that they will be able to carry with them their entire lives. We have an amazing population of students who have varying levels of history working toward a positive mental health experience. Creating spaces and engaging with students on this topic will greatly impact their success as they graduate and contribute to the world through service and leadership,” Rockafellow said.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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USF Awarded ComEd Green Region Grant to Support Prairie Restoration

ComEd Green Region Grant award banner

Joliet, Ill. – Once covering over 21 million acres, less than 0.1% of Illinois’ native tallgrass prairie remains. A $10,000 matching grant awarded to the University of St. Francis (USF) and its ‘Reestablishing Illinois Prairie Land: Ongoing Tallgrass Prairie Restoration at Charlotte Codo Prairie in Frankfort, IL’ project through the ComEd Green Region Grant program looks to reverse that trend.

The Charlotte Codo Prairie, gifted by the Codo family to USF, is a local prairie restoration site approximately 15 miles east of Joliet. The restoration was initiated by the Codo family in 2014 and is maintained by USF today. Currently, this 47-acre property houses 24 acres of restored tallgrass prairie. Tallgrass prairie fields are used by USF faculty and students for research and educational purposes, including studying biological diversity, learning species identification, and contributing to future restoration practices. Codo Prairie is a site of active restoration.

“We plan to expand the acreage of the restored prairie in a multi-year, multi-stage project,” said Chloe Lash, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at USF and project director for the university’s ComEd Green Region grant.

“Seventeen acres of alfalfa field on the property will be the next stage of prairie restoration at Codo. While restoring native tallgrass prairie, we also wish to expand public engagement at Codo,” Lash said.

The project, supported by $10,000 in matching funds by USF, will be pursued through four stages, including (Stage 1) the establishment of native plant seed gardens, (Stage 2) the expansion of community outreach at Charlotte Codo Prairie, (Stage 3) the harvesting seed from the seed gardens, purchasing seed to supplement harvested seed, and planting of the native seed in the alfalfa field (using current best practices for prairie restoration), and (Stage 4) the planning of controlled burns at the restored site. The ComEd Green Region grant will support efforts for Stages 1 and 2 of this multi-phase project.

Lash sees the benefits of this project reaching beyond USF.

“This project will not only benefit the University of St. Francis (USF) community but will engage the broader local community in prairie restoration. USF faculty and students will continue to use Codo Prairie for engagement in scientific research and education. Beyond USF, the Codo Prairie Committee is working on establishing approval processes for research by universities and other scientific groups beyond USF affiliates. We are also working on making Codo Prairie more accessible to the public through community partnerships and long-term plans for the property,” Lash said.

Ultimately, Lash sees the restoration of native Illinois habitat in Will County as the ultimate goal and is grateful to the ComEd Green Region Grant program for helping USF to embark on that journey.

“We are so thankful for the support from the ComEd Green Regions Grant. This award will allow us to build on our educational efforts at the Charlotte Codo Prairie and will support the next stage of prairie restoration at this USF property. Increasing prairieland will support local pollinators, enrich local biodiversity, improve soil health, and assist in climate resiliency research. We are so excited to contribute to restoring native Illinois habitat in Will County,” Lash said.

For more information on the ComEd Green Region Grant program, visit www.openlands.org/greenregion.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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USF Awarded CIC NetVUE Grant to Support Two Publication Projects

Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF) was recently awarded a $40,000 grant through the Council of Independent Colleges’ (CIC) NetVUE Grant for Reframing the Institutional Saga that will allow Joliet’s university to create two publications, one comprised of faculty essays and another comprised of student essays that will focus on both its past and its future.

“This CIC NetVUE grant challenges the university to reexamine its historical narrative in order to craft and articulate an institutional vocation going forth that responds to the needs of the present and future,” said USF Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Beth Roth, Ph.D. “To undertake this challenge, we proposed two publication projects. The first is a volume of 100 essays by faculty who share personal vignettes of how teaching and service align with the university’s core values of respect, service, integrity, and compassion in the past and in the future. The second book is a companion volume that collects student writing and artistic contributions on how our core values shape the way they engage with current situations, such as the pandemic, structural racism, the immigration crisis, and climate change.”

Funding through the grant will allow for a two-year production timeline that includes writing retreats and group meetings, and will culminate with a presentation event for the campus community in spring 2023. USF English and foreign languages professor Kathryn Duys, Ph.D., will oversee the projects and head the projects’ overall leadership group.

“Consistent with the Franciscan tradition of honoring each individual entity, this project to shape our vocation will arise from the broad community of teachers and learners to gather discrete experiences and collectively assert that USF is a privileged place of compassion and wisdom, a sanctuary university dedicated to sustainability, racial justice, and civil dialogue,” Duys noted.

The NetVUE grant award comes at a welcome time for USF as it prepares to close a centennial celebration that spanned all of 2020, but that was also heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last spring and as part of the centennial celebration, Roth invited USF faculty to contribute to a volume of essays modeled after NPR’s “This I Believe” series. The goal was to receive contributions from 100 faculty for our 100 years that would showcase the university’s commitment to teaching and learning. However, just as USF’s centennial celebrations were affected by the pandemic, so was this project.

“Like most universities, all USF classes went fully remote in late March. Faculty focused intensely on learning new technologies, sharing expertise with colleagues, maintaining quality standards, and helping students stay on track to meet their academic goals amidst all the changes that began in the spring and have continued well into the fall. Despite the increased workload and rapid pace of change, we did have 18 faculty who contributed essays to the centennial project by the June deadline, but our faculty’s focus was heavily pointed toward academics,” Roth said.

In light of this, Roth said that this new grant opportunity could not have come at a better time for USF.

“The CIC NetVUE grant for Reframing the Institutional Saga will allow USF to reboot this book project and raise the bar. We had just begun celebrating our centennial in 2020 when the pandemic suddenly compelled us to rethink what we do, reinvent how we do it, and reconsider why,” Roth said.

“The publication projects that we proposed will result in two tangible books, but it will also create a repository of digital content ideal for redistribution over a number of channels and platforms as podcasts, digital narrative projects, and social media posts, recrafted in student internships before being passed to USF Marketing,” Duys added. “This new discourse will support curriculum redesign with new pedagogies and strategies to engage our communities in projects that will prepare USF graduates to critically and creatively ‘contribute to the world through service and leadership’ (USF Mission Statement).”

The $40,000 grant supported by the Council of Independent Colleges and Lilly Endowment, Inc. is the second award USF has received from CIC NetVUE (Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education) this year. In June, USF received a $10,000 NetVUE Professional Development Award to fund a yearlong initiative (July 1, 2020–June 30, 2021) designed to foster the exploration of vocation and mentoring in our curricula and co-curricular activities.

“We are grateful for the opportunities provided by NetVUE that challenge us to examine our institutional identity and guide students to lead lives of purpose and meaning,” Roth offered. Duys added, “We look forward to sharing our book projects with the community.”

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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