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Home » CTLI News » The Vermont State Educator – November 2023

The Vermont State Educator – November 2023

November 2023 | Issue 4 | Volume 1 | Previous Issues

Mental Health, Wellness, and Safety

This month, we’re focusing on health, wellness, and safety including emphasizing the resources VTSU provides for students around mental health and wellness.

I recently attended a webinar series that reminded me that so much of the work we do in higher ed is hearts and mind work. Put another way, education is as much about the people as the content. The panelists earnestly talked about the ideal of actualizing the full humanity of each person in the academy, and even though we often fall short of this ideal because we work in flawed institutions, it is still important to strive for this ideal. What do we dream of and imagine for and with our students, for ourselves, for our colleagues, and for our institutions? What would it look like for students, faculty, staff, and administrators to come closer to this vision?

One panelist (a well-respected and established researcher in higher ed) suggested that the metrics we so often use for evaluating the success of colleges – graduation and gainful employment rates – aren’t lofty enough. Rather, she said, these should be the bare minimum measures of institutional success – it’s what we have promised to do, but if our gainfully employed graduates aren’t closer to fully actualized humans, have we truly succeeded? What new measures of success would we establish? What ways would we address problems and barriers within our institutions if we focused on every individual thriving?

A wooden sign with the word THRIVE in all capital letters in front of a bright blue sky and sand dunes.

I was inspired by the vision the panelists were encouraging us to dream of and somewhat frustrated by the limits of my own imagination – being so steeped in the present realities and culture of higher education. One thing that I find exciting about teaching spaces is that we as faculty have a lot of power over those environments; we may not always be able to change the structures of our institutions or the systems of higher ed, but we can change the structures of our classrooms, policies, practices, and interactions with students. Therefore, reframing one of the big questions helped me see some possibilities: What would it look like if my classroom focused on every individual thriving (myself included)? I then began to consider how this emphasis on thriving would influence learning. I immediately identified some changes I will make to my teaching. I will start out by asking my students to think about what it would look like for them to thrive in the class. I will be curious if students think that thriving is ambitious and unattainable or possible. How do we thrive in periods of intense stress, which inevitably come with college? How do healthy boundaries play a role in thriving? How do we support mutual positive emotional energy without being inauthentic or falling into toxic positivity? I will also shift my mid-semester conferences with students to earlier in the semester (I’m thinking around week 5) to learn more about my students’ early experiences in the class, identify challenges or barriers to thriving, and learn more about their successes, questions, and goals.

If burnout is a depletion of energy, how do we rekindle energy for ourselves and our students through the structures of our classes on a pathway toward thriving? Share your ideas with us in the CTLI, and we will compile them into a future newsletter.

In addition to the resources in this newsletter, this month, we wanted to share a few announcements:

The CTLI now has a permanent website address on the Vermont State domain. If you previously bookmarked our website, update your bookmark to You can also find our website via the Vermont State website by clicking on the main menu and choosing ‘Info for Faculty and Staff.’

Save-the-date(s): With the support of the Castleton Title III grant, all faculty that teach in the Gen Ed are invited to attend a January retreat on either January 9 (via Zoom) or 11 (in person – location TBA). A stipend attached to attendance/participation will be offered. We are figuring out room/food/campus for the January 11 in-person session. You could hold both days, for now, until further details are announced, but you should only plan to attend one of the two options.

Are you teaching a course in the F2F+ modality in the spring semester? Would you be interested in your students using iPads during the course? If so, a limited number of devices are available for a semester loan to students. Any faculty that use iPads in their F2F+ course also must agree to encourage students to participate in surveys and/or focus groups to collect feedback on the device usage. Please contact the CTLI to express your interest.

With deep respect for the work of Vermont State University’s faculty,
Jen Garrett-Ostermiller
CTLI Director

Faculty Spotlight

In this issue of the Vermont State Educator, we are highlighting the background, experiences, and perspectives of Johnson-based professor, Emily Tarleton. Dr. Tarleton is a registered dietitian who has spent the majority of her career teaching, conducting, and facilitating high quality and innovative translational research and we appreciate her contributions to the Vermont State community. 

Please tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to VTSU.

I grew up in New York and moved around the northeast for school and work until finally settling in Vermont in 2006. I spent over a decade running clinical nutrition research trials at The University of Vermont. As a registered dietitian, nutrition and health have always been my passion and I realized my favorite part of research was interacting with people. Teaching in Health Sciences at VTSU was an opportunity to combine everything I love: nutrition, health, teaching, and connecting with new people. But I still love research as well! My current research projects focus on the role of nutrition in maintaining independence as we age. When not on campus, I take my dog for long walks, enjoy amazing food at the restaurants in Stowe, volunteer for Meals on Wheels, work on crafting projects, and travel to see family throughout New England.

What important lessons have you learned from VTSU students that have shaped you as a teacher?

The lessons I have learned are to listen and to remember the importance of balance. While it can be difficult to meet the needs of every student, it is often pretty easy to make minor adjustments that allow for just enough flexibility to decrease anxiety and stress for students, but still meet course outcomes. Speaking of course outcomes, I have learned to balance what I feel I need to accomplish in a class with student interests. Allowing space in the syllabus to dive into topics students are engaged with makes for a much more fun and memorable class. And the topics of interest change each year, so I stay engaged as well!

What advice or tips do you have for faculty members who recently joined our new university?

Meet people and ask questions. We have amazing and wonderful people on our campuses and, at the same time, so much is changing. I have worked in various sectors of health care – hospitals, outpatient clinics, public health- and never have I enjoyed the people that I work with more than I do here. Everyone is welcoming and willing to help. But understanding who to reach out to or who is in charge of what can seem like a moving target with all that has occurred over the past few years. So know you are not alone if you are confused! Just ask and we will work together to find the answer.

As the theme of this month’s newsletter relates to health and wellness, are there any methods you use to support students who could benefit from accessing the university’s wellness services?

With the understanding that not all students feel comfortable approaching their instructors for help, I always include important VTSU links on the course home page, including the student success and wellness services links. I also post information on wellness center hours on my office door. Especially for new students, knowing what resources are available and where to find them is essential. I have even walked students over to the wellness center so they know exactly where it is. I teach several courses that cover topics in health and wellness. I incorporate different health self-assessments into class with follow up on where to access help and resources if needed. Class guest speakers from community organizations, such as the Clarina Howard Nichols Center, Vermont Department of Health, and The Pride Center also connect students to resources outside of campus. Also in my classes, we discuss barriers and supports to changing behavior and to accessing care. By understanding the personal, interpersonal, and community level impacts of health behavior, students can empathize with, and act as support systems, to other students.

Are there strategies that you incorporate in the classroom that assist nervous students as they prepare for high stakes assignments?

Many of my high stakes assignments are semester long projects with multiple submissions. In lower level courses, this might be a multi-step project with the opportunity to incorporate feedback for points in the next submission. In an upper level class, I often use in class assignments that mirror concepts in larger projects as an opportunity to address gaps in knowledge and questions. I think consistent use of Canvas also helps nervous students. It allows them to look ahead at assignments and monitor their grade all semester. I always include grading rubrics so that students can see where to focus their efforts. I find grading rubrics are not only helpful to students, but they also force me to ensure instructions align with the grading rubric and that assignments align with course outcomes (not to mention they help ensure I am grading based on standard criteria).

Recommended Chronicle of Higher Education Articles: Flexibility, Anxiety, & Wellbeing

In February of 2023, Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Beckie Supiano wrote an article titled Course Correction on the topic of student requests for greater flexibility in college classrooms, framed around the topic of student mental health. The narratives in this article likely feel familiar – a general sense of student expectations for high flexibility (with due dates, attendance, participation) while instructors struggle to track on the individualized requests and keep the learning on pace. One idea that emerges from this article, attributed to Karen Costa, is to imagine flexibility and structure at two opposite ends of a continuum, and if our policies and practices land squarely at either end of this dichotomy, we’re probably not serving our students well. Finding the sweet spot with both flexibility and structure for your classes may require some trial and error, as described in the article, not just in terms of the course policies but also how you communicate them to students. As you read this article, what ideas resonate? Are there microadjustments you can make to your course to find a better balance between structure and flexibility?

An image of a double-headed arrow with Flexibility on the far left and Structure on the far right, showing a false dichotomy. The arrow is overlaid with a green box in the middle of the arrow with the words "blended flexibility and structure." The figure is captioned "Courses don't have to be designed with flexibility or structure; this is a false dichotomy. A balance of both will serve both instructors and students."

For her article, Supiano interviewed Sarah Rose Cavanagh, a psychologist, professor, and educational developer who has contributed significantly to the conversation about pedagogy in modern higher education through conference sessions, web classes, and her published work. Last May, Cavanagh then wrote an article in the Chronicle titled The Best (and Worst) Ways to Respond to Student Anxiety, clearly extending the thinking she was ruminating on when interviewed by Supiano, drawing on her own personal experiences as someone with clinical anxiety and her expertise as a researcher in psychology. This nuanced article explores, more, the idea of classroom structure and adds insight about how safety is critical for students with anxiety to perhaps face some of the barriers of anxiety in the college classroom, particularly around participation and presentations. How do you see anxiety showing up for students in your classes? What do you think of Cavanagh’s claims and suggestions?

Finally, Cavanagh wrote another piece called They Need Us to Be Well, focused on the wellbeing of faculty members especially in the face of burnout, born in part through navigating the challenges of student mental health issues. Cavanagh’s own research suggests that ’emotional contagion’ plays an important role in college classrooms, noting that “[Students’] emotional experiences during learning mirror our emotional experiences during teaching.” So if instructors are tired, frustrated, demotivated, that may translate to mimicked emotions in students, which will be a challenge for learning. Cavanagh’s article, published in May at the start of last summer, advocates for faculty to truly take a break to rejuvenate. But she also offers suggestions for reinvigorating teaching by connecting to your core values, including Lindsay Maslow’s prompt of “When someone compliments your teaching, what is it you most hope they’ll say?” As we near the final month of the semester, what are some ways you can take care of yourself in order to show up for your students with the kinds of emotions you hope they emulate? And as you think toward your spring classes, are there structural changes to make them more sustainable or shifts to assessments that you truly look forward to grading and providing feedback?

Please connect with us in the CTLI if you would like some ideas or a thought partner to manage the many pedagogical decisions that you are navigating. We are here for you.

Campus Partner – Health and Wellness

This month, we are pleased to share insights on student wellness, which have been provided by Vermont State University’s Director of Health & Wellness, Kate McCarthy. 

Mental health among college students is a growing concern. The transition to college life, academic pressure, financial challenges, and social issues can contribute to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Fortunately, we have resources in place to provide assistance to students who are in need.

Access to Services

Each of the Vermont State University campuses has Health and Wellness services. Through transformation we have expanded services on some of our campuses and now offer more on campus counseling and access to Registered Nurses. With our new model we can support students across campuses, which allows us access to more resources to manage student needs.

All students have access to licensed mental health providers and registered nurses. Students can access services either in person on their home campus or through telehealth. Consultation is also available to faculty with one of our providers. The best way to connect with health and wellness is through email Information is also available on our resource page.

Health and Wellness Staff

  • Director of Health and Wellness: Kate McCarthy
  • Staff Counselors: Jennifer Echarte and Moira Sheridan
  • Registered Nurses: Andy Chase
  • Staff Assistant: Matt House
  • Associate Director of Health and Wellness: Martha Coulter
  • Staff Counselor: Duncan Snitkin
  • Coordinator of Advocacy, Activism and Nonviolence Education: Amy Miller
  • Registered Nurses: Marj Kryhill, Sandy Brukowski, Jodi Hayes and Claire Molner
  • Senior Staff Assistant: Jeanean Dunlop
  • Staff Counselors: Aimee Rozum and Renee Schulze
  • Registered Nurse: Megan Whitaker
  • Staff Assistant: Johanna Kennedy
  • Staff Counselor: Ashley Stackowitz
  • Registered Nurse: Brenda Shattuck
  • Services are accessed via tele-health

In addition to campus-based resources, students can also be connected to services by emailing

How Can Faculty Help?

Faculty members play a crucial role in supporting the mental health and well-being of college students. Here are some ways in which faculty can provide support:

Be Approachable
  • Open Door Policy: Let students know they can come and talk to you about any concerns they have.
  • Approachable Demeanor: Create a friendly and open classroom atmosphere where students feel comfortable discussing their issues.
Be Informed
  • Know the Resources: Familiarize yourself with the mental health resources available on campus and in the community. Direct students to these resources when needed.
Be Understanding
  • Flexible Policies: Understand that students might face challenges. Be flexible with deadlines and attendance policies when appropriate.
  • Empathy: Show empathy and understanding. Sometimes, just acknowledging a student’s struggle can make a significant difference.
Promote a Supportive Environment
  • Inclusive Language: Use inclusive language in your lectures and discussions, making all students feel accepted and respected.
  • Encourage Peer Support: Facilitate group discussions or group projects that encourage peer support and interaction.
Educate and Raise Awareness
  • Educational Initiatives: Integrate mental health awareness into your curriculum or classroom discussions.
  • Guest Speakers: Invite mental health professionals to speak in class or during special events.
Identify Signs of Distress
  • Training: Provide training for faculty to recognize signs of distress in students.
  • Referral: If you notice a student struggling, refer them to appropriate campus resources without prying into their personal lives.
Self-Care and Well-Being
  • Lead by Example: Take care of your own mental and physical health. When faculty members demonstrate self-care, it sets a positive example for students.
Promote Stress-Reduction Techniques
  • Mindfulness: Introduce mindfulness or relaxation techniques in the classroom.
  • Encourage Breaks: Allow short breaks during long lectures to help students relax and refresh.
Collaborate with Support Services
  • Collaboration: Work closely with counseling and support services on campus to provide seamless support to students.
  • Feedback: Provide feedback to support services about the needs of students you encounter.
Follow Up
  • Check-Ins: If a student has confided in you about their mental health, follow up with them to see how they are doing.
  • Encourage Continuous Support: Let them know that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and encourage them to continue accessing support services.

Remember, every student is different, and the support they need may vary. Being understanding, empathetic, flexible and willing to help can make a significant impact on a student’s well-being!

Campus Partner – Public Safety

The Vermont State Public Safety teams strive to promote and maintain a secure environment on each of our VTSU campuses. In addition to the information shared below, a complete list of resources and policies are available on the Vermont State University website.


Vermont State University has four Associate Directors of Public Safety.  Emile Fredette is responsible for both Randolph and Williston Campus.  Michael Palagonia serves the Johnson Campus, Keith Molinari serves the Castleton and Killington campuses, and Brian Michaud serves the Lyndon Campus.  Cumulatively the Associate Directors of Public Safety Directors have over 100 years of Public Safety experience.   You are encouraged to reach out to any of the Associate Directors should you have any questions or concerns about safety on your campus.


“The mission of the Vermont State University Department of Public Safety is to foster a safe, supportive, and inclusive campus environment by building partnerships, solving problems, and working collaboratively to preserve peace, and provide safety services equally to all members of the community. “ 

Contact Information

VTSU-Johnson Public Safety 

VTSU-Lyndon Public Safety 

 VTSU-Randolph Public Safety 

 VTSU-Williston Public Safety 

If you are unsure which Campus Public Safety department to contact, please email

Emergency Notifications

The Vermont State College System consolidated emergency notification system was rolled out in July and is available to all students, staff, and employees.  This is a shared service with CCV.  To access the system, visit this link.  They encourage everyone to review the information on file to ensure that is it accurate.  You can also sign up for additional campus/site notifications here.  Encourage students you interact with to do the same.  An informed community is a safe community. 

Criminal Activity or Suspicious Individuals

If you observe a crime in progress or behavior you suspect is criminal, immediately notify Public Safety. Be prepared to provide as much of the following information as possible: 

  • WHAT is happening? Are weapons involved?
  • WHERE is it occurring?
  • WHO is involved? How many people are involved? Has anyone been injured? Describe, if possible, the height, hair color, facial features and clothing of those involved. 
  • If vehicles are involved, WHERE are they headed? Cite direction, vehicle description (model, color, and year), and license plate number. 

Do not approach or attempt to apprehend the person(s) involved. If possible, stay on the phone with Public Safety until officers arrive on the scene. You can provide additional information as it becomes available or as the situation changes. 


Vermont State University utilizes Run. Hide. Fight. as the active shooter response protocol.

RUN: Evacuate If Possible 

  • If there is considerable distance between you and the gunfire/armed person, quickly move away from the sound of the gunfire/armed person. Move far away until you are in a secure place to hide. 
  • Leave your belongings behind. 
  • Keep your hands visible to law enforcement. 
  • Take others with you, but do not stay behind because others will not go. 
  • Call 911 when it is safe to do so. Do not assume that someone else has reported the incident.  

HIDE: Hide silently in as safe a place as possible

  • If the shooter is in close proximity and you cannot evacuate safely, hide in an area out of the armed person’s view. 
  • Choose a hiding place with thicker walls and fewer windows, if possible. 
  • Lock doors and barricade with furniture, if possible. 
  • Turn off lights 
  • Silence phones and turn off other electronics. 
  • Close windows, shades and blinds, and avoid being seen from outside the room, if possible. 
  • If you are outdoors and cannot RUN safely, find a place to hide that will provide protection from gunfire such as a brick wall, large trees or buildings. 
  • Remain in place until you receive an “all clear” signal.

FIGHT: Take action to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter

  • As a last resort, fight. If you cannot evacuate or hide safely and only when your life is in imminent danger, take action. 
  • Attempt to incapacitate or disrupt the actions of the shooter. 
  • Act with physical aggression toward the shooter. 
  • Use items in your area such as fire extinguishers or chairs. 
  • Throw items at the shooter if possible. 
  • Call 911 when it is safe to do so. 

Immediately after an incident, wait for local law enforcement officers to assist you out of the building, if inside. When law enforcement arrives, students and employees must display empty hands with open palms. 

Coming Soon

Public Safety be rolling out a new mobile safety app during the Spring semester that will offer more safety tools.  Stay tuned for more information.  In the meantime, we recommend that you program the Public Safety phone numbers into your phone for quick access in the event you need to reach Public Safety.  If you are witnessing a violent crime, have come across a severe injury or fire, always call 9-1-1.   

Teaching Tip: Trauma Informed Teaching Practices

“Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being” (SAMSA, 2022, March). As Carello and Butler remind us, “[n]ot only do students arrive at college with a trauma exposure history, but some also experience trauma while there” ( 2014, p. 157). The effects of these experiences on students’ well-being, approaches to learning, and engagement in our courses may be bleak. To counter these effects, we must recognize trauma in ourselves and our students and ensure that we help them feel safe, empowered, and connected.

Signs of Trauma in Classes
  • Difficulty learning, being attentive, retaining information, synthesizing ideas
  • Not attending class or not attending class attentively
  • Difficulty with emotional regulation
  • Increased anxiety about school tasks that normally students have found manageable (tests, group work, speaking)
  • Withdrawal and isolation (Hoch et al., 2015, as cited in Davidson, 2017)
What is Trauma-informed Pedagogy?

Instructors who are hesitant to implement trauma-informed teaching may believe that doing so entails diluting the curriculum, lowering standards, or being mental health experts. These are all myths.

Trauma-informed pedagogy recognizes that we and our students have past and present experiences that may negatively affect both teaching and learning. ‘‘Trauma-informed educators recognize students’ actions are a direct result of their life experiences. When their students act out or disengage, they don’t ask them, ‘What is wrong with you?’ but rather, ‘What happened to you?’” (Huang et al., 2014).

Trauma-informed pedagogy displays empathy. Meyers et al. (2019) explain that teachers display empathy when they “work to deeply understand students’ personal and social situations, to feel care and concern in response to students’ positive and negative emotions, and to respond compassionately without losing the focus on student learning. Teacher empathy is communicated to students through course policies as well as the instructor’s behavior toward students.”

A Trauma-informed Approach

In using a trauma-informed approach, instructors maintain consistent and high expectations while helping students build competency and confidence to counter negativity with positive experiences. As Carello and Butler suggest, instructors should recognize “student emotional safety” as essential to learning, realize that “a trauma history may impact your students’ academic performance, even without trauma being a topic in the classroom,” and refer students to counseling when needed (2014, pp. 163-164).

Reasonable Goals for Instructors

  • Maximize the possibilities for educational success
  • Raise awareness of long-term pandemic stress and trauma
  • Destigmatize trauma and seeking help
  • Direct students to sources of support
  • Practice and model empathy
Course Design
  • Optimize the atmosphere: Make class a place for relationship building, experiencing success, and practicing the behaviors of resiliency.
  • Be clear and consistent: Make expectations and daily class experience clear, predictable, and comfortable. Include choice, control, and opportunities for students to share their concerns and experiences.
  • Create opportunities for student empowerment: Emphasize strengths and resilience, and encourage choice making. Build community and connections in your classroom by encouraging peer contact and by supporting networks and campus community involvement.
  • Open the door to articulation of fears: Use a quick writing assignment or survey to help students work through their fears in a logical and rational way. Learn where the fear originates in order to support the fear.
  • Foreground the relevance of cultural differences: Support different perspectives and interpretations on trauma and be prepared to acknowledge mistaken assumptions based on your own cultural window. Ask questions and listen to your students
  • Support growth and resilience: Empower students by giving supportive feedback to reduce negative thinking. Acknowledge the wide range of situations that individuals come from and offer support in identifying concerns and resources. Share your own experience of educational and other struggles – failing builds resiliency.
  • Recognize and mitigate the possibility of retraumatization: Consider whether your assignments or class materials have the potential to trigger certain students, and develop strategies to mitigate this risk (trigger warnings, options).
Make Referrals

Vermont State University has a number of student support services available. Review these resources with your students and also directly refer individuals. Although contact information will vary by campus, options for support include:

  • Academic Advising
  • Career Advising
  • Wellness Center
  • Office of the Dean of Students
  • Academic Support Services

It’s important to acknowledge that not only students can be affected by trauma, but instructors as well. What can instructors do to manage their own anxiety?

  • Consider and acknowledge if you have experienced or are experiencing trauma
  • Seek help
  • Seek community among colleagues and friends
  • Practice kindness to colleagues so it comes back to you
  • Box teaching work — it has its time and place
  • Box university work — it too has its time and place
  • Practice self-congratulation for accomplishments and good work
  • Share experiences with trauma and feelings with colleagues, gaining the capacity to empathize.
  • Name, own, and talk about our own trauma with others, in meetings and one-on-one’s.
  • Recognize that sharing and caring enables academic growth.
References and Additional Resources

Carello, J., & Butler, L. D. (2014). Potentially Perilous Pedagogies: Teaching Trauma Is Not the Same as Trauma-Informed Teaching. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation15(2), 153–168. 

Davidson, S. (2017). Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education: A Guide. Education Northwest.

Huang, L. N., Flatow, R., Biggs, T., Afayee, S., Smith, K., Clark, T., & Blake, M. (2014). SAMHSA’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach (SMA No. 14-4884). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Imad, M. (2020, March). Hope Matters: Ten Teaching Strategies to Support Students and Help Them Continue to Learn in this Time of Uncertainty. Inside Higher Ed

Imad, M. (2020, June). Leveraging the Neuroscience of Now: Seven ways professors can help students thrive in class in times of traumaInside Higher Ed.

Meyers, S., Rowells, M. W. , and Smith, B. C. (2019). Teacher Empathy: A Model of Empathy for Teaching for Student Success. College Teaching67(3), 160-168.

Minahan, J. (2019, October). Trauma Informed Teaching

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2022, March). Trauma and Violence. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Citation: Trauma-informed Pedagogy. Montclair State University Office for Faculty Excellence. Retrieved May 3, 2023 from


This teaching guide, which has been modified from its original form, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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“Many thanks for creating and delivering a worthy learning experience. I’m excited about incorporating these new techniques into my classes. ”

Fall 2023
VTSU Workshop Attendee