A mysterious informational campaign has appeared across campus. Business cards and stickers with three aliens are appearing in academic buildings and bathroom mirrors displaying facts about first-year students.
One card reads, “Over half of past KSC freshmen though that everyone else seemed smarter than they were.” The cards list no other details, there is no contact information or organization name. They simply state a fact, coupled with cartoon aliens surrounded by the words, “Feeling different? You’re not alone.”
The informational campaign is the design of the counseling center. Director of the Counseling Center, Brian Quigley, explained the outreach campaign was the result of a year of preparation. “There is a psychologist out of Stanford [Gregory Walton], who has done a number of studies, mostly with underrepresented students, around self doubt that can lead to sudden and major life decisions around being enrolled in college,” Quigley said.
Quigley said that Walton’s research shows students who have negative thoughts, such as “I am not the smartest person here,” can lead to rash decisions if such thoughts are confirmed by a poor quiz grade.
After reading Walton’s research, Quigley carried out a non-scientific survey on campus. The survey was distributed to first-year students through seniors.
Quigley said, “We polled almost four-hundred students. We asked how often they had those particular thoughts.”
The results of the non-scientific poll were then analyzed and the findings were applied to the cards, stickers and window clings, which were then dispersed throughout campus.
Quigley said, “If I’m out I bring some of that stuff with me and stick it around, I feel a bit like a vandal sometimes.”
Quigley was able to share a story about how students are responding to the campaign.
“I had a really cool experience that was much more individualized. I was standing in line at the student center at Lloyd’s grabbing a coffee. I went to dress my coffee up and she said ‘what is that?’ The logo is a little curious and interesting so I went into my spiel and told her all about the initiative and the rationale behind it.”
Quigley continued, “Then she read the statement, ‘eighty percent of students think such and such’ and she said ‘that’s me.’ I said, ‘And you’re not the only one.’ She thought that was pretty cool.”
“It didn’t change her world, but in that brief moment just seeing that statistic helped her recognize that the fear she is carrying around doesn’t have to be so profound because it’s not just her. The fear isn’t the problem, it’s the belief that ‘I’m the only one’ that becomes the problem for the self-esteem and sticking it out through college,” Quigley added.
Hannah Schmidt, a first-year student at Keene State, had seen the cards around campus. “I have used the counseling center as a resource before so I think that their tactics are pretty useful,” Schmidt stated.
Schmidt continued, “It’s nice to know that most freshmen are going through the same thing. The first two weeks [were overwhelming]. After that it was much easier. Once I got a solid friend-group and learned more about my teachers and my professors it was much easier.”
Fellow first-year KSC student Rebekah Chasse had not seen the cards, but did think the program was an effective and comforting endeavor.
“It’s a nice little pick-me-up. It’s another positive to someone’s day,” Chasse said.
When asked if she felt overwhelmed she responded, “I feel challenged, but it’s nice because I know people that feel that way,” Chasse added.
The “Feeling Different?” campaign is among many the counseling center has implemented. According to Quigley, the counseling center is changing the way they carry out their mission.
“The counseling center for about four or five years now has really worked hard at revising the mission of who we are and what we do on campus. The short of it is, we too become a centralized-resource to Keene State College. We want to be sure that students who come to Keene State, they pay a counseling fee whenever you register for class. Our philosophy is that fee entitles every student to something from the mental health professionals who are on this campus,” Quigley said.
Fanny Kelley, KSC’s director of student accounts, said full time students pay “$170 per year, or $85 per semester” in counseling fees.
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