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The Jean and Christopher Callahan Fund for Student Success supports students when, where and how they need it the most. Designed for maximum flexibility and responsiveness, the fund may be used to support initiatives that benefit wide swaths of the student body or to respond quickly to individual student needs as they arise. Services may include an emergency fund to assist students in crisis; funding to supplement student internships; training, workshops, classes or other interventions that benefit student health and success; physical spaces to promote wellness; emotional support animals to interact with students; reporting and research projects that shed light on student mental health and wellness; and more.
When we first envisioned the establishment of a fund that would support students in times of need as a way to honor founding dean Christopher Callahan and his wife, Jean, the word “coronavirus” was not yet part of our daily vocabulary, and we would not have dreamed that the world would turn upside in the way that it has in the past few weeks. But it has. As a result, many Cronkite students, along with all of the rest of us, now face challenges we could not have imagined until very recently.
These new challenges magnify existing ones. In recent years, college administrators across the country have become increasingly aware of the major role that mental health and emotional well-being play in student success. Students lead increasingly complicated lives. Many shoulder significant financial burdens, struggle with family obligations and personal relationships, or deal with mental health issues or disabilities. At the same time, evidence suggests that they are more isolated and have fewer coping skills than previous generations. The result, in part, is a well-documented rise in levels of stress, anxiety, depression and even suicide among the college population.
Thanks to Chris Callahan and his genuine compassion for students, the Cronkite School already is a leader in addressing these issues. One of his early innovations was the appointment of a full-time staff person to serve as Director of Student Success, who pays close attention to student well-being outside the classroom. He devoted the entire 2019 faculty and staff retreat to ways in which to support the emotional and mental health of students. He also led efforts to launch a yearlong reporting project examining escalating rates of suicide among Arizona’s youth. Most recently, the school designated a “quiet room” for use by downtown campus students, faculty and staff when a brief respite is needed.
All of this stems from Callahan’s unwavering Students First! ethos. Every decision he has made over the past 15 years has been driven by a deep and singular commitment to the success of his students – in their classes, in their extracurricular activities and professional experiences and, of course, in their careers. Students have always been his highest priority, and there is truly nothing he is more passionate about.
As we seek to provide our students with the critical support they need today and in the future, and as we concurrently honor the enormous legacy our founding dean has built at the Cronkite School, we invite you to join us in contributing to the Jean and Christopher Callahan Fund for Student Success.