Wellness Center ‘reorganizes and restructures’

Navigating through a national mental health crisis with multiple vacancies

Kayla Barrett / Photo Editor

Keene State held an all-campus meeting on Nov. 14, 2022, in which KSC President Melinda Treadwell presented a plan to tackle the college’s budget deficit as well as increase enrollment numbers in the coming years. During a Q&A session held after the presentation, long-time Wellness Center employee Forrest Seymour raised concerns that the college was not doing enough to ensure that vacancies in the center were being filled in a timely manner. 

Jennifer Ferrell, the associate vice president for student engagement, said that her role in connection with the Wellness Center has to do with the vacancy created when the former executive director of the center left last summer. “I’ve been a little more hands-on in working with the team to move forward,” she said. 

“We have a number of vacancies, a couple of which have been filled, so last summer our executive director took another opportunity, we had a vacancy from our training director, and we had a vacancy from our administrative assistant,” she stated. 

She added, “We were able to hire a new senior administrative assistant who just started Jan. 6…and we’ve hired another mental health counselor who will begin on Feb. 20, so that’s also exciting.”

Ferrell also confirmed speculation that Seymour planned to retire come June of this year, but noted that the college does not look to fill positions of staff members while they still occupy a position. 

Seymour, who currently holds the position of Assistant Director of Emotional Health Programming & Outreach, has been working for the college since 2006. The Equinox requested an interview with Seymour, but he declined and referred The Equinox to Jennifer Ferrell.

The Equinox also reached out to Chief Medical Officer Barbara Berthiaume and Assistant Director of Counseling Services Beth Aronson at the Wellness Center for an interview, both declining and referring The Equinox to Jen Ferrell. 

Ferrell noted that she was in the midst of “a reorganization of sorts and a restructure of The Wellness Center.” 

On Mar. 31, 2022, The Equinox reported that Keene State would start the process of academic reorganization, in which certain administrative and staff positions are cut or merged together in an effort to address budgetary issues and reduce administrative burden. Similar to the academic reorganization process, Ferrell said that she worked last fall to merge two positions – one of which was held by a staff member who left – into one position, and then promoted a current staff member into the new role. 

Ferrell said that the college doesn’t have a specific student-to-staff ratio in mind when looking at staffing needs, but does look at the number of appointments and the type of appointments to determine areas of increased need. “Even though our student population and student enrollment has been declining over the last few years, the need for the services has not declined at the same percentage,” she said.

In a 2021 study, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health reported that the average caseload for a full-time college counselor was 120 students, with some centers averaging more than 300 students per counselor. 

The Wellness Center staffing list on Keene State’s website only lists one staff member with the specific designation of “counselor”, which prevented The Equinox from calculating a counselor-student ratio. It appears that other staff members not designated as counselors may perform the same duties as one traditionally would. 

“We are really in a mental health crisis in our nation at this point, and so being able to provide services…I would say that the challenges have become more complex and that acuity has been much higher, so things that may not have been as much of a challenge are amplified now,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing that our team has been seeing.” 

Nathan Hope can be contacted at


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