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Carolina Housing collaboration brings wellbeing coaches to Hinton James residents

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Bikes sit at the main entrance of Hinton James Residence Hall on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023.

This year, Carolina Housing is partnering with the UNC School of Social Work to provide a new resource to support Hinton James residents: WellBeing Coaching. 

The program allows students who live in the first-year residence hall to meet with two WellBeing coaches who are master's students in the School of Social Work. They meet one-on-one to discuss challenges the resident might be facing, including difficulty managing stress, time, academics and relationships. 

One of the WellBeing coaches, Devon Pelto, is also a coach for another peer well-being program already offered within the School of Social Work. She said her role as a WellBeing coach is an internship for the program and is an extension of the work already being done.

Pelto described the program as a way for students to talk through challenges they are facing with a nonjudgemental third party and make action plans for tackling those challenges. 

“It's really just a thinking partner helping people see things from all different kinds of perspectives,” she said. “So it's really not me giving advice, it’s more of asking them questions so that they can bring their own wisdom out and get clarity on whatever it is.” 

Megan FinCannon, associate director of residential living at Carolina Housing, said WellBeing coaches provide more support than resident advisors, but the program is less formal than the University's Counseling and Psychological Services.

“We're hoping having WellBeing coaches that students can access in the residence halls can help bridge that gap and maybe make it where less people need to go to CAPS,” they said. “You talk through some of the things you needed, you got your feet underneath you and now you're good to go.”

FinCannon helped launch the WellBeing program in Hinton James and said the idea for the program came from meetings with the Residence Hall Association in 2021, which advocated for more support for students. 

“It seems like a lot of us students seem to be struggling,” Pelto said. “And we're just hoping that this is one small way that we can fill that gap between what students need and what's actually available for them on campus.”

Although Carolina Housing began providing coaching to Hinton James residents in the spring, this semester marks the first full academic year the service will be offered. 

FinCannon said Hinton James was chosen to host the two coaches because it has the largest first-year population on campus. 

Undergraduate mental health is often not taken seriously enough, Pelto said. One reason many first-years face mental health challenges is because of the transition to college. She said compounding issues like living away from their families for the first time, navigating a university and managing adult responsibilities can make stress pile up for students.

By placing the coaches in a first-year residence hall, FinCannon said they are trying to help students develop a habit of asking for help when they need it. 

First-year student and Hinton James resident Bree Lavender said the program could help students who don't feel comfortable talking to someone who they have to see regularly.

"With my RA, I have to know her the whole year, so some people might find that awkward talking to someone that they’re going to see a lot," she said. "But for these wellness coaches that you might never see again, I could see how it would kind of be easier, to me at least, to be with a stranger.”

Lavender also thinks the coaching could be better advertised to students. She said she has only noticed it mentioned in a few places and in emails — which she said many students do not read.

Pelto said students who want to connect with a WellBeing coach can fill out an intake form, which is accessible on QR codes posted throughout the residence hall.

"Even the smallest ways of prioritizing mental health and offering more and different kinds of resources can go a long way," she said.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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