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Robertson School Pilots New Zone Training

Nov 15, 2016

Posted in: News

By William Lineberry

The Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture recently became the first school at VCU to create and pilot a new type of faculty and staff training designed to assist students suffering from emotional and mental distress.

The Robertson School launched the first “Support Zone” training session for faculty and staff in late October with a total of 20 full-time faculty, adjuncts and staff completing the inaugural hour-long information session.

The new zone training was created in large part by Joshua Smith, a public relations professor in the Robertson School of Media and Culture, who identified a gap among the other VCU training sessions offered to faculty and staff.  

“There was a need that I saw while teaching in my first semester,” Smith said. “The university is very good about offering training for students that fall into certain categories such as Global Zone for international students, Green Zone for military students and Safe Zone for LGBT students, among others, but there was a deficit where we didn’t have a zone for students dealing with emotional distress or crisis.” 

‌With no formal training available for faculty and staff to support students experiencing emotional and/or mental conditions, Smith decided he could help fill this void and began working closely with the Division of Student Affairs.

Smith reached out to Kyle Dailey, associate dean of University Student Affairs, for assistance in building the new training program. Between the two, a blue print was designed for a plan of action for University faculty and staff members.

The Robertson School Diversity Committee, chaired by Clarence Thomas, Ph.D., then approved and opened the Support Zone training to all faculty, adjunct instructors and staff, making it the first School at VCU to offer a program educating employees on the best practices of helping students who suffer from mental and/or emotional distress.

“In the Robertson School, we are deeply committed to our students’ success and well-being,” said Hong Cheng, Ph.D., director of the Robertson School and advertising professor. “This Support Zone training has effectively equipped our faculty and staff colleagues with the necessary knowledge and information on how to help needy students, for physical or mental reasons, in an appropriate and timely fashion.”

In the spring, Smith said, his PR Campaigns and Graphic Design classes will partner with University Student Affairs in a different capacity to create awareness about Support Zone training within VCU. Smith hopes the campaign will generate interest among other schools and departments at the University to encourage participation across the campus.

“I want faculty to feel like this is a must-have training, whether they’ve just begun their teaching career, or have been working with students for the past twenty years,” Smith said. “I want faculty and staff to feel good in knowing that there is always more we can learn and do in order to provide the best possible support for our students.”