2019–20 Annual Report - University of Houston
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Supporting Student Success

The Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services supports students to provide a foundation for academic and personal success.

We take a holistic approach to building a healthier student body by offering programs and services that address mind, body, and spirit. Several of our departments are dedicated to offering services that also support addiction recovery and overall well-being, as well as supporting veterans on campus and parents who need childcare.

Stepped Care Model reduces CAPS waitlist to zero

counseling session

Every year, more students were seeking out help at Counseling and Psychological Services.

From 2017 to 2019, demand for CAPS services went up 50 percent for unique clients, and 40 percent for appointments across the board.

CAPS was operating like an emergency room, said Dr. Norma Ngo, director of CAPS. “We were prioritizing the most distressed students while a waitlist existed for individual counseling. Although students who were in crisis were seen immediately, students seeking individual counseling for routine or less urgent issues experienced extensive wait times upwards of two months during peak times.”

That waitlist is now zero.

Recognizing that the way they were operating was not sustainable, CAPS implemented a new clinical model, and in Fall 2019 introduced the Stepped Care model, a new best practice service delivery model utilized in more than 100 other counseling centers across the nation.

“Our goal was to reduce or eliminate wait times for individual counseling services,” Ngo said.

They succeeded, using the basic tenets of the Stepped Care model:

  • Recognizing that not every student is comfortable, needs, or benefits from traditional individual counseling. This is NOT a “one size fits all” model because it focuses on individual differences.
  • Treatment intensity (or levels of service) can be either stepped up or down depending on on unique factors (e.g. level of distress, need, goals, motivation).
  • Students are assessed in real-time via multiple triage points and this supports changes to their needs, emotional state, and situation.
  • This model allowed for scheduling immediate case management and crisis management follow-up appointments to assist with stabilization and referrals for students who need urgent care or need to be referred out for more specialized or resource intensive treatment than what can be offered at CAPS.
  • Emphasizes strengths, resiliency, empowerment, shared responsibility and is solution-focused.

After implementing Stepped Care, CAPS effectively eliminated the waitlist for students seeking individual counseling, Ngo said.

Students were able to be seen at their time of need and treatment options were recommended uniquely suited for each student.

“We were able to more efficiently serve students by reducing the total number of appointments per student, allowing for existing resources to be used more effectively for more students,” Ngo said.

Cougar Cupboard helps UH students facing food insecurity

Cougar Cupboard food Cougar Cupboard office

UH Wellness lightened the load for some University of Houston students this year. Cougar Cupboard launched in January this year, easing the burden for students facing food insecurity — or the inability to afford enough nutritious food to fuel a regularly healthy lifestyle.

Even after closing down for a few months because of COVID-19, Cougar Cupboard has given away thousands of pounds of food to hundreds of students who have signed up for the Food Scholarship Program. It also got a big boost from the Cullen Trust for Higher Education this past summer, which donated $100,000 to efforts at UH and the Houston Food Bank this year to help University students and members of the community who are in immediate need of food assistance.

“With food insecurity higher than ever in these unpredictable times, we have had many students write and leave us comments to say how grateful they are for our services,” said Vaishnavi Dusi, the graduate coordinator for the program.

Launched in partnership with the Houston Food Bank’s Food for Change market network, the cupboard is available to all enrolled undergraduate or graduate students who may need access to additional food.

Cougar Cupboard is located on the first floor of the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center in UH Wellness, suite 1038 (4500 University Dr.). Because of the pandemic, the program is currently doing “Grab and Go” bags, where students RSVP online and then do contactless pickup of 30 pounds of groceries each week. They’ve also partnered with United Way to use the Door Dash delivery system, providing a no cost grocery drop off to students who live within a 10 mile radius of campus.

“With the help of Door Dash, we are able to provide to students who are either high risk or live with someone high risk or lack reliable transportation,” Dusi said.

When Cougar Cupboard reopens, it will be stocked full of fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen and refrigerated foods, and dry goods.

To utilize Cougar Cupboard, a student must attend a one-time market orientation hosted by Cougar Cupboard staff and complete a short application for the Houston Food Bank’s Food Scholarship Program.

While statistics on food insecure college students can vary greatly, the Center for Law and Social Policy estimated that 20 to 33 percent of students at four-year colleges experience food insecurity.

As personal finances have been devastated by the coronavirus, about 40 percent of people visiting food banks nationwide are first-time recipients of food assistance, according to estimates from the food assistance nonprofit Feeding America.

Dr. Richard Walker, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, said the gift from the Cullen Trust for Higher Education came at a very critical time, as many students have been struggling with finances and food insecurity during the pandemic.

“But even before the pandemic, many students faced financial challenges impacting the quality of their nutrition, and this public health crisis has only compounded the problem,” said Walker said. “As a University community, we are committed to helping our students get through this difficult time.”

By the Numbers

A number of our programs and services achieved remarkable results in the 2019-2020 Fiscal Year in their efforts to support students’ mental, physical and spiritual well-being. These are some of those results.