King Hall Wellness Initiative Supports Student Health
Law school can be stressful, and it's not unusual for students to find that caring for their own physical and mental well-being has taken a back seat to concerns over final exams and job interviews. That's why UC Davis School of Law has established the Student Wellness Initiative to help ensure that students maintain wellness as they work to reach their potential as individuals and legal professionals.
"Our goal is for students to be as successful as they can possibly be," said Hollis Kulwin, Senior Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. "We want to provide them with the tools they need to do that, and one of those tools is wellness."
Launched during the 2014-15 academic year, the Wellness Initiative is a series of programs designed to help students find a proper balance that enables them to succeed academically, personally, and professionally. This year, the initiative includes events ranging from presentations on how to manage stress and balance multiple responsibilities to discussions of mental health and substance abuse, as well as popular "Going to the Dogs" sessions that bring canine companions to the King Hall courtyard for stress-relieving interactions with students.
"We're trying to provide a broad range of programming, because the topic is quite broad," said Kulwin. "Some students are most interested in serious mental health issues, while others are more interested in practical advice about ameliorating stress. We've done anti-sexual violence education, alcohol education, mental health screenings, mindfulness seminars, and many other things, and they have all attracted interest."
Additionally, the School of Law has announced that a full-time, on-site psychologist will be made available to meet with students beginning in the Fall 2016 semester. Kulwin said that it is envisioned that the on-site counselor will provide individual and group therapy as well as wellness programming. While the majority of the counselor's time will be devoted to King Hall students, some attention will also go to UC Davis Graduate School of Management students, who will come to King Hall for services.
In a separate but related initiative, a group of students has formed the King Hall Wellness Committee. Launched during the Fall 2015 semester, the committee is seeking to improve access to mental health resources, improve the King Hall Wellness Room, and destigmatize mental health issues. Members include Becky Vorpe '16, Stephanie Hay '16, Asya Sorokurs '17, Sylvia Cunningham '17, Roya Bagheri '17, Rachael Hiatt '17, Emily Peterson '18, and Dane Jones '18.
The King Hall Wellness Committee has organized events including a March 3 panel discussion on managing mental health in law school and the legal profession that featured Professor Jasmine Harris, and plans are in motion for a "town hall" discussion of mental health issues later in the semester. The King Hall Law Students Association also has sponsored wellness-related activities including yoga and fitness classes at King Hall, and a staff group organized by Events Manager Gia Hellwig has offered fun runs and other activities under the auspices of the UC Davis WorkLife and Wellness program. King Hall professors also have led weekly meditation sessions open to students, staff, and faculty.
Wellness has also become part of the Law School curriculum. Angela Harris, one of the nation's foremost critical race theory, feminist legal theory, and civil rights scholars and the Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality, has taught a seminar on "Mindfulness and Professional Identity" that explores the impacts of stress as well as meditation, yoga, and other techniques for mindfulness and stress reduction. Harris said the mindfulness course is part of a "broadening of the law school curriculum" that has taken place in recent decades.
"We've seen critical race theory emerge, courses on law and economics, law and science, law and policy, and legal theory explode, and I think that larger vision of what law is all about is part of the reason we have this course today," said Harris.