Defining student well-being – and why it matters to K-State

Posted May 12, 2022


When Kathleen Hatch arrived on campus eight months ago to take on the role of Morrison Family associate vice president for student well-being, one of her first goals was to start a conversation at K-State about what exactly “well-being” is. 

“Well-being is an incredibly large and complex concept,” Hatch said. “It needs to be relevant to this community.”

Hatch said the university is focusing on six core dimensions of well-being in order to help K-Staters be successful:

  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Career
  • Financial

“It’s finding a path to be your best self,” Hatch said. “How can we equip people to handle the challenges and the speed bumps? One size doesn’t fit all — it has to be very individualized.”

And it’s not just about undergraduate student well-being, either — the well-being of graduate students and all members of the K-State community matters too.

“We can’t impact student well-being if our faculty and staff aren’t, if our family aren’t, if our alumni aren’t,” Hatch said. “We’re the sum of all of us.”

At first glance, factors like financial and physical well-being may not seem to have an immediate impact on student success in the classroom. However, a high grade point average doesn’t have much meaning if a student is struggling to afford food or is skipping routine health exams, preventing them from operating at their best level.

According to a recent American College Health Association national collegiate health assessment, K-State data indicates that students overall are facing more challenges, more stressors, and more diagnoses of depression and anxiety.

“More and more students are emerging with real needs,” she said. “It’s urgent – we have a real responsibility to be informed, and to have action.”

So, what is the solution?

Obviously, there is not a quick, overnight fix. But the conversation is beginning, Hatch said, and that’s what matters.

The university is bringing together a team of organizations like Lafene Health Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Recreational Services and Powercat Financial to collaborate on helping students. Good nutrition, preventative medical care and financial stability are all important building blocks in the foundation of academic success.

Once students have the support they themselves need, Hatch said, they can be empowered to look out for others and help others access resources.

“We change the stigma,” she said. “We talk about it as a significant part of the journey. It is an essential ingredient to student success.”

So far, Hatch has had opportunities to speak to the K-State Alumni Association board of directors and the KSU Foundation board of trustees about student well-being. She’s encouraged by efforts like the Foundation’s recent All In day of giving, where over 1,200 donors contributed to increasing access to mental health services at K-State.

Hatch said that one of the best ways K-State alumni and friends can help promote well-being on campus is by starting with their own personal well-being: if you’re emotionally, mentally and physically healthy, you’ll be more equipped to see people in need and to help the university you love.

Another key to well-being is to foster well-being at a community level.

“We ultimately nurture well-being through the understanding of the interdependence of where we live and our relationship to the larger ecosystems — our state and wider society,” Hatch said. “We have more empathy for others, and perhaps more kindness and generosity and gratitude.”