Faculty voice:

Rob Roznowski: Centralizing resources for student mental health

Jan. 22, 2020

Rob Roznowski is the head of acting and directing in the Department of Theatre. As an Academic Advancement Network Leadership Fellow last year, he created a central resource for faculty to help their students access mental health resources. Read the final report on his time as an AAN Leadership Fellow.

A new initiative that started in the 2017-18 academic year, the Leadership Fellows program creates year-long partnerships between mentors, or current administrators, and fellows, or faculty at least five-years post-tenure. This program involves both a shadowing experience and work on a project developed jointly between the mentor and fellow.

Mental health is not my area of expertise, but teaching is what unites all of us working at MSU. Our mission is to create the next generation of fearless trailblazers; this generation needs our education to reach them in new ways based on their struggles with mental health. The importance of this project laid in our common goal of education.

I had two mentors for my project. The first was the invaluable Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore who was my mentor for the year and then my dean, Christopher Long from the College of Arts and Letters. They guided me on my project. I regularly updated them on my meetings with various individuals and offices and they offered guidance. What really impacted me was the doors that a title can open. I met with many people who I might not otherwise have access to.

My year as an AAN Fellow was great. The chance to shadow and meet regularly with Dr. Jackson-Elmoore felt like a gift. Each meeting was a new way to look at possible ways to examine issues from the upper administration point of view. It was a chance to deeply reflect on where my strengths and weaknesses lie and a real opportunity to examine how decisions and discussions are disseminated. She and everyone at the Honors College were thoroughly helpful. I think looking at a different college’s structure and way of working was really eye-opening.

Upon personal reflection, I realized that my initial impetus for the project, not knowing where to turn following my dealings with a student in distress, was understood universally across the university. Each person I met with realized the importance of such work. Most were surprised that MSU did not have resources organized for easy access, but all were eager to assist.

This project also revealed my tenacity and work ethic, for better or worse. In my application for the AAN Fellows program, I mentioned one of my strengths and weaknesses: my lack of patience. This project, and Dr. Jackson-Elmoore’s careful guidance, taught me that patience is necessary while also not losing focus on the end result.

The end game was finding a person who could make decisions and, in doing so, I returned to the first few offices I began with. I now realize that circuitous route was necessary to gain a depth of knowledge and to create consensus. In each interaction, leadership and management styles were revealed to me. And those numerous meetings allowed me to see the evolution in my own leadership style. Examining those interactions has greatly affected my leadership both currently and in the future. I find myself more patient, thorough and quiet, which is a big step.

My interest in the work I was doing was already being done by so many others with the creation of the Green Folder, the JED program, CAPS and other places. I had assistance from so many. We piloted the EAP training program last semester and the response was great. In that training program, created by Jonathan Novello, we discovered a lot. So many from all over MSU wanted to get in a room and share their frustrations at not being able to help the students we deal with daily.

I was really considering if a move to administration was right for me. I love teaching so much that I wondered if I moved further away from it – if that was a good idea for me. I discovered it might not be the right fit, but I do love the idea of large project-based leadership. So, that program really helped me find some clarity.

I learned that leadership takes many forms. There is overt leadership and then there are ways to lead from within.

Don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help. Get access to the resources.

Repurposed from MSU’s Academic Advancement Network website.