Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Beth Rous


Students entering college are increasingly presenting with complex mental health conditions that negatively affect their college experiences. This mixed methods action research study was designed to assess the current level of faculty and staff member’s abilities with respect to, comfort with, and role in identifying and responding to students who exhibit signs of emotional distress (e.g., anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation). Specifically, this study was designed to evaluate faculty and staff understanding of skills, techniques, and resources that can support them in this work, identify an appropriate professional learning experience (i.e., intervention) to increase the level of comfort in this area, and evaluate the professional learning experience to determine its effectiveness to inform any changes that could be made to the experience to better meet the outcomes.

Faculty and staff on college campuses provide an important resource for students, often serving as natural helpers in identifying and responding to students who may be experiencing emotional distress. These faculty and staff are often familiar with student’s behaviors, and can readily recognize changes in those behaviors and provide a direct response to the student, and important referral to clinical professional staff when necessary.

This dissertation is a report of a mixed methods action research study that explores professional learning opportunities for faculty and staff aimed at positively impacting their ability to support students experiencing emotional distress. Findings indicate positive changes were made with regard to faculty and staff knowledge of strategies, understanding of their role, and perceived preparation for working with students experiencing emotional distress. Findings also suggest these professional learning opportunities may be useful in equipping faculty and staff to be better prepared to support these students and reduce the likelihood that these issues become more severe.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)