If University of Rochester students feel stressed, have a roommate problem, or are feeling any kind of academic or personal pressure, they can now take the first steps to get help by turning to their smartphones.
The CARE Network, a nationally recognized student support system launched full-time at Rochester in 2011, has launched a new smartphone application this fall called the CARE Resource Center that can connect students more quickly with the many wellness resources available on campus. The mobile app, which became available during orientation week in August, serves as a comprehensive guide to student support offices when students have a personal concern, whether it is academic, emotional, financial, physical, sexual, social, or spiritual.
"We wanted it to be as easy as possible for students to get their foot in the door," says Erin Halligan, CARE's main coordinator, who oversaw the app's development. "We realized that if we were going to reach our students, it would be through technology."
Halligan collaborated with students to create the app to make the valuable student support resources that already existed on campus more visible and accessible. While Halligan worked with a developer on the logistics of the technology and recruited University departments to buy into the resource center, representatives of the Students' Association on campus ran focus groups on what concerns to include and how the app should be designed.
"By developing this app ourselves and incorporating student feedback both on matters of technical layout and actual content, we were able to cater it directly to Rochester students' needs," says Antoinette Esce '15, who was the Students' Association Wellness Coordinator last year.
Students that use the app are directed to a list of offices on campus using the GPS coordinates on their smartphone, which are embedded into the app in conjunction with Google Maps. If they desire to contact an office, such as University Health Services or other offices devoted to student wellness, they can use the app to send emails with the text asking for help already filled in for them.
"The majority of concerns we see involve students that are struggling academically—not going to class, missing assignments, or emailing the professor with significant concerns—but these are sometimes reflective of a student's mental health," says Halligan. "Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or eating disorders are the second most common concern."
The app also provides an opportunity for a network of thousands of University staff, faculty, students, and parents to submit a CARE report on behalf of a student. These non-disciplinary reports allow Halligan to reach out to students, identify their needs, and get them help—often in the form of an adviser, a therapist, or a mentor.
Last year, the CARE Network was recognized as a "Best Response to Student Intervention" and "Best Practice for Behavioral Intervention Teams" by the Educational Advisory Board, a Washington D.C.-based organization that analyzes best practices in higher education.
In addition to this national recognition for the larger CARE Network, the app was recently lauded by Liz Rothenberg, a practice manager on the board, who says it's "something that truly stands out. It's really meeting students where they are."
The mobile app supports early interventions that save students and counselors time and effort. It is the only one of its kind that is both preventative in nature and helps students tackle issues ranging from low-level issues like roommate problems to much more urgent concerns.
"We are trying to find students who may be headed for trouble at the earliest possible moment so we can help them get back on track as quickly as possible," explains Matthew Burns, dean of students.
The CARE Network is managed by the Office of the Dean of Students' Center for Student Conflict Management. Halligan, who holds a master's degree in mental health counseling, was hired to manage the CARE Network full-time in 2011. She co-chairs the new College Wellness Committee to continue to incorporate student feedback into the CARE Resource Center.
Halligan is currently working with her developer to make the app available for use at other colleges and universities. "Since the app was created by a college, for college, it lends itself well to adaptation by other institutions," adds Esce.
Anyone who would like to know more about purchasing the CARE app can contact Erin Halligan directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.