Commons Connect is a new initiative that brings campus resources to first year students through anonymous walk-in conversations. The program officially launched right after students returned from spring break. VSG’s Health and Wellness Committee sought to increase exposure of resources for first years, as many of the offices are located on main campus.
Samantha Garfield, Chair of the Health and Wellness Committee, emphasized the importance of accessibility to these resources as a first year student.
“As committee members were meeting with different resources and learning more about them, it seemed like there was a real need on Commons and a space on Commons which is very difficult to find,” Garfield said. “And I think we just learned how receptive the different institutions and resources were as well as how eager Commons was to sort of house this kind of a project.”
Commons Connect is modeled similarly to Let’s Talk, which offers walk-in consultation with PCC counselors. Forging relationships with representatives from these campus resources can ease the transition from Commons to main campus for many students. Rachel Smith, a senior on the Health and Wellness Committee, worked to implement this initiative and ensure first year students have access to individualized resources.
“It’s really nice to be able to have one-on-ones with someone you’re comfortable with and someone who is an expert in a certain subject area that you care about as well,” Smith said. “I think that’s a very important thing.”
In addition to accessibility, another barrier that Commons Connect seeks to eliminate is any stigma there may be surrounding the utilization of these resources. The anonymity of this initiative provides students with a way to seek resources without concerns about others’ perceptions.
“The idea is that as a first year you’re exposed to representatives from these different institutions so that they become a little more accessible and that you form a relationship with some of the staff there ideally,” Garfield said. “And you are able to tell your friends that these are really useful resources.”
Garfield and Smith expressed the possibility of expanding both the resources offered as well as the hours they are available. One of the key concerns moving forward is increasing awareness of Commons Connect and reaching out to students about how this program could work best for them.
“Vanderbilt has so many resources and I think if we can improve on the communication of those resources and the accessibility of those resources, we would have a much more unified campus and a campus that for sure emphasized well-being,” Smith said.
Student feedback was an essential part of the implementation process for Commons Connect, and both Garfield and Smith encouraged students to share how to improve this initiative so it is most beneficial for them. The ultimate goal is that increased exposure to these resources will bridge the gap between Commons and main campus, creating a more accessible environment for all students.
“The best way to learn about resources is to interact with them,” Smith said.