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July 1, 2016

Endowment enhances student mental health care

When Barbara and Mark Gerson helped establish the Social Science Scholars Program through generous contributions, they knew that meeting the needs of those students would be a priority. Now, their latest gift to MSU goes above and beyond by creating the Gerson Family Mental Health Initiative endowment.

For more than 60 years, the MSU Psychological Clinic has offered assessment and psychotherapy for adults, children, couples and families in the Greater Lansing community. High quality services are provided by licensed psychologists and advanced doctoral student trainees who are supervised by licensed psychologists. MSU clinical psychology faculty are heavily involved and invested in all aspects of the clinic. It maintains a focus on services for individuals with limited resources and limited options for mental health care.

Still, with all the good work the Psychological Clinic has accomplished, it has been operating with limited funds and a part-time director position. The gift from the Gersons will allow greater access for MSU students in particular.

Under the direction and clinical expertise of Natalie Moser, the Psychological Clinic will now provide the Social Science scholars with a comprehensive prevention and intervention-based mental health program that offers state-of-the-art, specialized care via set-aside, reserved time for the scholars. While this will provide immediate support for the scholars, in the long run this program will serve as a baseline for the greater MSU student population with a vision of helping students around the world.

“All students need to know that high quality mental health services are available to them when they need support and guidance,” Mark Gerson said. “The stigma around needing mental health care is slowly being overcome in this country, and students struggling to cope with the challenges they face at this age need to know their university will be there for them when they face mental health challenges.”

Moser, because of the Gerson endowment, will now be dedicated full time to the clinic. As a result, she will have time needed to personally place any Social Science Scholars Program student appropriately into one or more of three available options when services are needed. Depending on the level of care required, a student may attend mental health seminars open to all scholars, enroll in a weekly group therapy experience, or participate in individual psychotherapy.

“I can’t thank the Gersons enough for their extraordinarily generous gift which will allow our clinic to implement an outstanding, one-of-a-kind, comprehensive mental health initiative to the Social Science scholars and provide me with the time needed to organize, manage, and evaluate this program,” Moser said. “I am truly excited to be a part of the development of this much needed and valuable project and hope to help grow this initiative campus-wide and beyond.”

Barbara Gerson, a graduate of the Department of Psychology within the College of Social Science and native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, enjoyed a successful sales and marketing career, regularly receiving top sales honors throughout her years with the Construction Division of Owens Corning Fiberglas Corporation and Master Builders Technologies. Mark Gerson, a successful real estate investor and developer, is a graduate of the University of Southern California, but both say he has become a true member of the Spartan family.

While living in California, the Gersons remain active in College of Social Science activities such as the Dean’s Board of Visitors. They are active philanthropists and social activists with involvement over the years in many humanitarian projects including serving as executive producers of The Hunting Ground, a documentary addressing the issue of sexual assault on college campuses across the country.

“Barbara and Mark believe in supporting students by providing them the necessary tools for academic achievement, which involve mental and emotional support services,” said Juli Wade, professor and chairperson of the Department of Psychology. “Their generosity will not only enable us to begin this exciting new program for the Social Science scholars, but our hope is that it will provide a lasting model for mental health support for undergraduates.”

In addition to what this endowment may mean for the future of psychological services for all college students, it also provides opportunities for research and training for graduate and undergraduate students within the Department of Psychology.

“Ultimately, we want to see expanded services for all students,” said Barbara Gerson. “Helping students with crisis management, developing intervention plans when necessary, and providing ongoing and consistent clinical support is of the utmost importance when discussing student success in the classroom and in life. We want to see the Department of Psychology, the College of Social Science and Michigan State University become national leaders in this area.”

Reused with permission from the College fo Social Science