Mert Dilek

In November, Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews announced that the Wellness Project — an initiative to promote mental health and wellness on campus — had selected 12 out of 50 applications for the project’s student wellness grants, which can provide up to $1,000 in funding for student projects.

Established at the beginning of this semester, the Wellness Project is tasked with advancing students’ well-being through “innovative programs, opportunities for self-discovery and growth and the cultivation of a compassionate campus culture.” Individual undergraduate, graduate and professional students, as well as student groups, were eligible to apply for the grants by Oct. 16. The chosen applications represent a variety of initiatives across many of Yale’s schools. According to Goff-Crews, the grants represent only one aspect of the project. Members of the Wellness Project Committee — composed of 22 students, faculty and staff — are also working with the Office of LGBTQ Resources, Yale Health, Yale Dining Services and other branches of the University to enhance student wellness at Yale in various ways. Still, Goff-Crews, committee members and student grant recipients interviewed all expressed their excitement about the projects supported by the wellness grants, which range from a graduate mental health focus-group study to bonsai tree workshops, a DeStress Fest on Science Hill and a gong meditation concert.

“These grants represent inspiring ideas for wellness submitted by students and student organizations from across the University,” Goff-Crews said. “I am excited about their potential to benefit Yale College, graduate and professional school students and to help shape a culture of wellness at the University.”

According to Director of Communications and University Events Heather Calabrese, students who applied for the grants were notified of the committee’s decisions by email on Nov. 13 and will receive formal letters with more details about their awards by the end of the semester. Applications for funding were reviewed by a subcommittee of the Wellness Project Committee based on project feasibility, community impact, target audience, student affiliation by school and the project’s relationship to wellness. The subcommittee then recommended the selected projects to the entire committee for final assessment.

Bryan Yoon FES ’18, facilities and healthcare committee chair for the Graduate Student Assembly, said he has received funding for two proposals he submitted on behalf of the GSA. One is called DeStress Fest on the Hill, an event for science graduate students that will feature therapy dogs, snacks and stress-relieving activities on Science Hill. The other project will be a focus-group study which aims to identify causes of stress within the graduate student population. Yoon said the GSA received $450 for the DeStress Fest and $1,000 for the focus-group study — less than the original proposals requested — and added that the GSA is looking for other ways to secure additional funding and support. Yoon said the Wellness Project also gave the GSA advice and feedback during the drafting of his proposals.

Audrey Luo ’17, co-president of Mind Matters, an undergraduate group that aims to raise awareness about mental health issues at Yale, said her organization received funding to host Kay Redfield Jamison, a prominent Johns Hopkins University psychiatrist who has suffered from bipolar disorder since her early adulthood. She added that the funding will allow the speaker event to be larger in scale and reach an audience beyond Yale College.

“[Jamison’s] illness started when she was in college,” Luo said. “That is very relevant to Yale — at least to undergraduates — in the sense of dealing with [mental illness as a student] and also with stigma because that’s everywhere.”

Janine Stockford GRD ’19, who submitted a proposal to host a gong meditation concert on campus, said she received $1,000 in funding, the full amount she sought. Stockford added that musicians from the Conduit Center for Sound Meditation & Wellness, which provides sound meditation services, will come to Yale in the spring to help students engage in a “unique musical relaxation experience.”

Aneesha Ahluwalia ’16, a member of the Wellness Project Committee, said she was glad that the selected projects will target different audiences and have different goals, adding that she hopes the initiatives will reach a lot of people within Yale community.

“The Wellness Project aims to cultivate and promote both mental, physical, social and emotional well-being on campus, and it is nice to see that there are initiatives that will address each of these components,” she said. “There are also some specific initiatives that aim to bring in speakers or host workshops to foster dialogues about well-being on campus, which is another goal of the Wellness Project.”

According to Calabrese, all grant recipients will be required to complete a brief report on their project’s impact before the end of the spring semester. She added that the report will be used by the Wellness Project Committee to determine the appropriateness of future funding initiatives.

Ahluwalia said the grants encourage students to take initiative and get involved in shaping the wellness culture on their campus.

“I think it is incredibly important for students to be involved in the Wellness Project, and to identify where they feel there are gaps in what is currently being offered by the University,” she said. “There are a lot of wonderful and promising initiatives that were proposed and these grants may be the only possible source of funding for them, so I hope that the grants continue to be offered.”