Fourteen projects funded by Year of Emotional Well-being

The Year of Emotional Well-being has distributed its first round of grants to support interdisciplinary projects that involve many parts of our University and broader community, and that foster community, collaboration and conversation around restoring and enhancing emotional-well-being.

The Year of … initiative is a project of the provost’s office, which selects a new theme each academic year. This Year of Emotional Well-being steering committee is chaired by

Jay Darr, associate dean for student wellness, Division of Student Affairs; Jamie Zelazny, assistant professor of nursing and psychiatry, School of Nursing; and Harmony Arungwa, social action co-chair, Black Action Society.

Awards of up to $5,000 are given out to support projects from faculty, staff, students and administrators. The award recipients will be asked to submit a brief report to by May 30, 2023 and also will be encouraged to share their activities at the Celebration of the Year of Emotional Well-Being in April 2023.

The deadline for the first round of proposals was Dec. 1, and the second round just closed on Feb. 1.

The 14 projects receiving funding are:

2023 Super Analytics Challenge — Finale Planning: Katie Bennett and Christopher Barlow, staff in the Katz Graduate School of Business. The focus of the 2023 Challenge is leveraging data to address topics related to mental health, with particular focus on frontline workers and labor supply, such as difficulties attracting, retaining, and incentivizing that workforce.

BCAP Youth Arts Program: Michelle Khattri, student, David C. Frederick Honors College. This is an opportunity for Pitt students and the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh community partner to instill emotional well-being practices through art therapy.

Don't Be Lonely at Work: Linda Tashbook, law librarian and Lori Molinaro, University Senate administrator. The University Senate Mental Wellness Task Force proposes to reduce workplace loneliness for faculty and staff at all of the Pitt campuses.

Giving Voice and Making Space: Understanding Concepts of Emotional Well-Being in Order to Support Researchers and Their Fields of Study: Bridget Keown, faculty, Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. The Gender and Science Program is dedicated to promoting representation in research fields by offering comprehensive support for students from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and identities, with the understanding that the success of future research relies on emotional well-being of our researchers. This project addresses several interrelated structural and methodological problems that challenge these goals.

Integrating Attention to Emotional Well-being into Healthcare-focused Forums: Lisa Parker, faculty, Center for Bioethics & Health Law. Following on programs for the Year of Data and Society that examined how data can inform and improve humanistic healthcare and the health humanities, the programming proposed this year will demonstrate how: Attention to emotional well-being is integral to providing appropriate healthcare interventions; the humanities provide resources complementing professional mental healthcare; data-informed research can serve humanities-based approaches to promoting emotional well-being; and individual and community well-being are interconnected and served by a focus on meeting the emotional and identity-constituting needs of individuals within myriad communities.

Joy is an Act of Resistance: Timothy Maddocks, faculty, Department of English/ Public and Professional Writing Program. “Joy is an Act of Resistance” will include a literary series and community events facilitated by Sampsonia Way Magazine designed to celebrate and explore the powerful idea that the expression of joy is a practice we can cultivate individually and in our communities. Sampsonia Way Magazine is the in-house magazine for City of Asylum, edited and promoted by Pitt undergrads.

Love Data Week 2023: Year of Emotional Well Being: Dominic Bordelon, faculty, University Library System, and Melissa Ratajeski, faculty, Health Sciences Library System. The computational aspect of research can be a source of great frustration and anxiety for students and faculty alike. Negative affective states such as confusion, frustration, and anxiety have been shown to occur frequently in novice computer programmers while coding, and certain negative states and state transitions have effects on performance. The annual Love Data Week, which runs Feb. 9 to 17, will emphasize healthy learning and professional development: it’s not about being the perfect coder or making the perfect plot, but about starting where you are, and doing what you can with what you have.

Mental Health Champion Certificate Program: Bernadette Smith and Ahmed Ghuman, staff, University Counseling Center. Each year in the United States, approximately 1,100 college students die by suicide and roughly 24,000 college students report a suicide attempt. Positive contributors to well-being and mental health include supportive relationships with care providers, access to physical and mental health care, and connection to community support. The Mental Health Champion Certificate Program, hosted by the University Counseling Center, is designed to provide staff, faculty and students the knowledge, awareness and skills to support the well-being of our diverse student body.

Scholarship and Self-care: Strategies to Improve the Well-Being of Single Mothers in Higher Education: Christine McClure, staff, Health Policy and Management; Tammeka Banks, staff, School of Education; and Victoria Lancaster, staff, Business and Operations. While there is no data available on the number of single mothers working at the University, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 77.6 percent labor force participation rate for mothers who were single, widowed or divorced. It is reasonable to suggest that a considerable number of single mothers are employed at the University and many may be experiencing single mother-related stressors that are negatively impacting their well-being. This project will provide a series of well-being workshops focused on single mothers and those interested in learning how to provide support. The workshops will provide the mothers with a safe place to interact, while participating in enriching discussions on relevant topics, and to engage in self-care activities.

Stay Ready Medical Education: Marrissa Muchnock, student, David C. Frederick Honors College. The pandemic illuminated the public’s mistrust with medical science, understanding of medical services, and disparities in mental health treatment. Pittsburgh is a medical metropolis, yet many have limited understanding of their medical safety net, the emergency response system. This project aims to educate the general public on an essential resource while providing a continuing education tool for health providers. This project will produce an episode of “Stay Ready,” following a diverse night class for Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training. The first episode focuses on the mental health of health care workers and patients.

“Struggling in Silence” Documentary: Kevin Smith, faculty, Film & Media Studies. “Struggling in Silence” is a documentary that addresses student-athlete mental health awareness. It is told through the experiences of two student-athletes, Marley Washenitz, an athlete on the Pitt women’s basketball team, and Tre Tipton, a former member of the Pitt football team. By using the voices and stories of current student-athletes, “Struggling in Silence” resonates with other student-athletes, while providing cautionary examples of mental health concerns.

The Art of Healing through Poetry and Connection: Carolina Hernadez. Darrelstan Ferguson, Don Joseph and Luana Moreira Reis, all graduate students from the Addverse+Poesia student organization. We use poetry to help heal and uplift marginalized and underrepresented social groups, including women, Black, Indigenous and disabled people, and the LGBTQ community. We view poetry as a powerful means of self-expression that anyone can practice or engage with in order to gain a sense of well-being. Addverse+Poesia was founded on the premise that poetry is a tool for social intervention and activism because it has the capacity to empower oppressed peoples in the context of their histories and current realities.

The Sleep Center: Emma Zaret, undergraduate student, School of Nursing. This project proposes the implementation of a Sleep Center in the Victoria Building for nursing students who are balancing classwork, clinical rotations and often paid work in area hospitals. This room will be transformed into a calm and relaxing space for nursing students to go to when they need a quick nap to recharge before they continue with their studies.

Writing and Healing Arts: Stories Can Make Us Whole: Lori Jakiela, faculty, Pitt–Greensburg, Creative & Professional Writing Program. According to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, the United States (and beyond) is facing an epidemic of loneliness. This, coupled with the political divisions in our country, the ongoing effects of a global pandemic, climate crises and more, has left many people feeling lost and isolated. As evidenced by the Story Center at Berkeley, and the national/international StoryCorps project, one thing we can do for one another is share our stories. By coming together in storytelling, we can alleviate loneliness and help one another heal. This project proposes a week-long celebration of the power of stories — with readings by poets and writers, performances by songwriters, workshops in both digital and traditional storytelling that would be open to the wider community, and more. We would couple these events with other wellness activities, such as a writing workshop that incorporates yoga and meditation into the writing practice. What we are envisioning is a festival that would bring together our students, faculty and staff, and the broadest swath of the community.