Transformational Gift to Support Student Mental Health

Transformational Gift to Support Student Mental Health

Back row, from left: Anthony Tasso, deputy director of the School of Psychology and Counseling; Tiffany Walker, University director of Student Health Services; Benjamin Freer, director of the School of Psychology and Counseling; Michael Avaltroni, interim president of FDU; Andrea Melchiorre; Ethan Dawson, FDU graduate student; Jason Amore, senior vice president for University advancement; and Mary Sakin, executive director of alumni and external relations for Silberman College of Business. Front row, from left: Christopher Rodriguez and Roselena Bressler, Silberman College of Business students.

February 17, 2023 — Andrea Melchiorre, an FDU graduate student, and her husband, Anthony, have pledged a major gift to help fund the FDU program called “Transforming College Campuses” (TCC), an initiative to support student psychological well-being. Their gift will provide fellowship opportunities to FDU graduate and undergraduate students.  

“We are very grateful for this gift and the support and confidence the Melchiorres have shown in the institution,” said Interim President Michael Avaltroni. “Increasingly today, issues concerning mental health are preventing students from achieving their goals and reaching their potential. We need to provide greater support to help them cope and continue pursuing their dreams. With the help and inspiration of this gift, FDU’s powerful new program will have a significant impact on student well-being and success.”  

Andrea Melchiorre is studying in FDU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA program on the Florham Campus. The Melchiorres’ son, Jake, is also studying at the Florham Campus. Andrea Melchiorre said, “We are proud to partner with FDU on this transformational project. We are confident that this innovative program will provide FDU students with unparalleled support in mental health and well-being as well as the guidance to develop the personal skills necessary for young adults to successfully navigate college life and beyond.” 

Benjamin Freer, director of FDU’s School of Psychology and Counseling, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially increased the stressors and challenges faced by young adults on college campuses. It has never been more crucial to develop effective and innovative educational, preventative, and interventional approaches to college student mental health.”

Part of FDU’s response to this challenge is the creation of TCC, led by co-directors Tiffany Walker and Stefanie Ulrich. The program has two primary aims: 1) to support the mental health needs of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s undergraduate students; and  2) to foster two pipelines: a) undergraduate students to pursue professions key to student well-being and success (e.g., clinicians, student affairs staff), and b) graduate student clinicians to develop expertise in the needs of this unique population.

Four people standing together

From left: Walker, Freer, Melchiorre and Tasso.

Walker, who is the University director of Student Health Services, said, “This project prioritizes the reduction of the stigma that is associated with discussing one’s own mental health and seeking help. Through the development of multiple opportunities for connection throughout the University, including graduate to undergraduate students and University staff to students, the program will foster an inclusive community that emphasizes mental health literacy and psychological well-being. This project also adapts a collective and community-centered approach to student healing and well-being” 

The project will embed graduate students in a mandatory course for first-year students, Transition to University Life. The graduate student will then remain paired with the students in this course for the first two years at the University.  

Ulrich, who directs FDU’s Center for Psychological Services, added, “This will foster an environment of caring, support, and ongoing mentorship during the years in which retention is at its most vulnerable. It is hoped that through this dynamic and unfolding relationship, the undergraduates will develop curiosity and enthusiasm about the mental health area of study, while the doctoral students will develop expertise in college student mental health. In so doing, we hope to generate undergraduate students who develop an interest in behavioral health as well as aim to graduate a new generation of doctoral-level psychologists with experience in how to best support the emotional well-being of young adults at college.”  

Over five years, TCC is expected to support 26 graduate and 48 undergraduate student positions.

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