Terri Zeilenga, assistant dean for Student Affairs, has played a crucial role in building the college’s plan for students to return to campus this fall. As the college’s director of Wellness, Health & Counseling Services, Terri has focused on both the physical and mental health of students as they navigate through the challenges they have faced during the pandemic.
“Research tells us – and so do our students – that one of the most challenging pieces has been the isolation from friends and the support systems students have developed on campus,” she says. “We are offering virtual opportunities for individual counseling, group support, telehealth, and workshops on topics such as how to stay connected, managing anxiety, and more.”
Read more about Terri and her passion for helping students succeed and flourish at CC, heading into the fall.
CCC: How long have you been at CC?
TZ: I recently celebrated my 20th anniversary as a member of the Columbia College team.
CCC: What is your role at the college?
TZ: I work in Student Affairs as an assistant dean and I oversee and have the privilege of working with my professional colleagues in Student Health, Counseling Services, Prevention and Wellness programming and the TRIO Student Support Services program. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I also provide some of our counseling services and appreciate getting to know and support individual students.
CCC: How have you observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of students?
TZ: Research tells us (and so do our students) that one of the most challenging pieces has been the isolation from friends and the support systems students have developed on campus. Having difficulty connecting with others in person can lead to feeling lonely, depressed and anxious. The lack of structure when students are not physically on campus can impact a student’s engagement and productivity in academics. Of course, the financial stressors, family job and health issues, and uncertainty about the future can also impact mental health.
CCC: What tools are available to students if they are struggling with the mental health side of the pandemic?
TZ: In our Wellness, Health & Counseling Services offices, we are offering virtual opportunities for individual counseling, group support, telehealth, and workshops on topics such as how to stay connected, managing anxiety, and more. Students in the TRIO Student Support Services program will be offered a large number of opportunities to connect with their advisors, other students, and participate in workshops and cultural activities. We also provide information on various topics and organizations that students can engage with online which are not a part of CC, but provide helpful information and support. For residential students, our residential life staff are a supportive resource, are always willing to listen and know what resources are available.
CCC: If you could give one piece of advice to parents before their student comes back to campus, what would it be?
TZ: Just one? I have two and will offer both! First, encourage your studen to get involved. The college will be offering creative programs to encourage engagement and connection. Second, show your CC Cougar pride by wearing your mask and following the recommendations for social distancing.
CCC: What opportunities will students have so they can have a sense of community despite social distancing?
TZ: The Student Affairs team will be offering both in-person (with appropriate physical distancing and other precautions) and virtual activities. Some of the events we have planned include:
- Monthly, outdoor, CC You at the Movies series.
- A Social Distancing Hour which will provide virtual opportunities for getting to know classmates.
- A virtual HEY DAY, which will highlight student organizations and other local agencies with which students may want to get involved.
- Sprinkle the Gate (A welcome for new students); various workshops; support groups and more.
CCC Is there anything else you would like to add?
TZ: Please tell your student that it is always okay to ask for help. There is no shame in needing support, and in fact, we all need to support each other during these challenging times.