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Voices on Mental Health present: Fall 2015 Professor Awards for Mental Health and Disability

Brian LozenskiEducational Studies

“He specifically mentioned mental health and stress resources on his syllabus, and supported the idea of his class being a place to work through challenging ideas in a safe space. He was also very approachable.”

Vittorio AddonaMathematics

“I took epidemiology with Victor, and I had lots of anxiety about taking my first math class since receiving a diagnosis for my learning disability. After meeting and establishing a plan for the semester, I immediately realized how impactful Victor’s openness, flexibility and genuine love of knowledge would be on my learning experience. He constantly checked in, asked questions, offered accommodations — [he was] consistently invested, but not intrusive — and helped me discover a passion, and aptitude for data and statistics that I would have otherwise never explored.”

Jenna RiceInternational Studies

“She specifically brought up her own experiences with difficult issues in class, letting us know that we are all human and have struggles and emotions and unknown things, and that this is okay to talk about in an academic setting.”

Michael McGaghieMusic

“Mike is incredible. Again and again and again, he advocates for seeking help and being open and honest about your feelings and how you’re doing emotionally and mentally. Not only that, but Mike also reminds everyone often that we are loved — by him, by our friends and family, by our peers, etc. Somewhere, somebody loves us. Sometimes I think Mike just knows when I’m having a bad day, because he always gives his speeches during those rehearsals. I have honestly been in some terrible, dark places during my time on campus, and Mike’s sincerity and support has kept me afloat and stopped me from doing some pretty stupid things. Thank you so much, Mike.”

Harry Waters, Jr.Theater & Dance

“Harry is always so open with us, and encourages us to put ourselves out there and support one another. I’ve been having a difficult time over the course of the semester and after letting stuff out during a particular class through a suicidal character, Harry approached me. He gave me a hug and talked to me about how I need to remember that people love me and that resources exist for me. I didn’t even have to say anything for Harry to understand that I was struggling. I was fine dealing with it on my own, but he reminded me that I didn’t have to, and that he was there to create a safe space for me here on campus.”

Paul DoshPolitical Science

“When I expressed I needed an extension because of challenges related to my mental health, he was supportive, inquisitive and understanding of my experience. Paul is adept at making students feel comfortable approaching him with challenges that they have whether they be related to mental health, spirituality, school or their personal lives.”

Karen SaxeMathematics

“Karen is honest, approachable and understanding. She is willing to work with me while still holding me to high academic expectations. I greatly appreciate Karen as a person and a professor, and I hope to work with her more in the future.”

Joan OstrovePsychology

“In addition to helping me access campus resources, Joan offered herself and her office as a place where I could talk through problems, or just as a place to come and cry and feel supported. She has checked in with me when she knows I am going through a rough spot, in person and via email, and goes out of her way to show me that she cares about me personally. In addition, Joan is a vocal advocate for increasing and improving mental health and disability support for Macalester at large.”

“Joan has always been flexible, accommodating and compassionate in regards to my disability. She has gone above and beyond what I would expect from any professor to help me take care of myself. I am beyond grateful for her support, and I know that she has improved my health and well-being.”

Brad BelbasEducational Studies

“Although Brad is not currently a professor, he was a very understanding one while I had him. Not only does he support helping ALL students in any way he can but he is especially understanding of individuals with mental health issues and/or disabilities. Most people don’t know that he is the one behind converting textbooks for students on campus and helping students with disabilities access technology that can help them. He has tirelessly shown his commitment to students through accommodating them, through his job, and through advocating in staff and faculty groups. He truly deserves this award as someone who is WAY under-recognized at Macalester for all of the amazing work he does.”

Paul FischerChemistry

“Professor Fischer is one of the most understanding educators I have ever met, especially when it comes to my disability. He is flexible, available and has unique life experiences that have made him extremely empathetic. Rarely have I felt so comfortable as a student with a disability as when I was in Professor Fischer’s class.”

Eric WiertelakNeuroscience

“Eric has done more to advance my college career and personal ambitions than any other person on Earth. His continued commitment to helping me succeed, and his supernatural patience when I have struggled, are the reason I identify as a young neuroscientist-in-training. Eric was my favorite professor and mentor well before my disability issues came up; since then, he has only become more helpful.”

“I really appreciated that Eric let anyone who needed it use extended time on his tests. I have accommodations for extended test time, but it can be hard to remember to always schedule exams with the MAX center in advance. It was nice to know that at least for Eric’s class, I could just finish it in his office after.”

Erik DavisReligious Studies

“Professor Davis is obviously a popular, well-respected and extremely capable academic character in the Macalester community. On top of that, it should be known that as an educator and as a human being Erik is one of the most compassionate, empathetic and insightful people on campus — this observation comes after my having 5+ years at Mac and perhaps 20 different professors. The ability to listen well and ‘see around corners’ perhaps best characterizes Erik’s unique talents, and I’m so grateful that he shares them with our community.”

Jaine StraussPsychology

“Professor Strauss is very approachable and sensitive to her students’ mental and physical health. She is sympathetic to the vulnerability of students who need accommodations due to stigma around mental health. In response to this, she supports students with all types of disabilities and offers up ideas that allow them to provide their best work and most accurately demonstrate their understanding of the subject matter.”

Dave EhrenMathematics

“Professor Ehren is very supportive and understanding of students who need accommodations and is approachable. He is happy to help students figure out the logistics of their particular accommodations, rather than leaving them to sort it out entirely on their own, so that students can spend more of their time studying and practicing for his tests.”

Daniel TrudeauGeography

“Dan was patient and open to working with me to figure out creative options to make sure I passed his class.”

“I experienced a serious dip in my academic form. One of my close friends had taken their own life towards the end of the semester, and it seriously affected my ability to complete assignments as well as my quality of work. This professor really went out on a limb to help me succeed in the class. He understood the difficulty in my life and suggest alternatives in order to boost my academic performance.”

David BressoudMathematics

“Earlier this semester, I was having trouble with sleeping and medication and I fell behind in my homework. He was very understanding and gave me extensions as well as offering to help in any way that he could. I also had a similar situation last year when I had fallen behind partly due to depression, and he invited me to talk to him about the issues I was having with the course and giving me very helpful ways to get back on track. I have found him to be a very caring and understanding professor.”

David ShumanMathematics

“I had missed a decent amount of homework and class due to depression and he was very understanding. He helped me when I had fallen behind and he made it clear that he understood why this was happening and that he did not blame me for it.”

Ronald G. BrisboisChemistry

“When I was first trying to sort through the disability accommodations process, I felt pressure to justify my ability status to professors and prove somehow that I truly did need accommodations. But when I met with Professor Brisbois, he focused what I needed him to do and how he could help me, without pressuring me to disclose medical information or justify myself. He has been by far the most supportive professor I have in terms of my disability and mental health, and I know I can always talk to him if I need support, advice or an advocate.”

Sarah WestEconomics

“Professor West was always available to talk during a particularly dark semester for me during my sophomore year. She never let any bias get in the way of my learning and career goals, and always treated me as a human first putting my emotional needs ahead of my academics. Without her help I do not know where I would be today. I no longer study economics, but I still learn valuable lessons from her every semester.”

Christina ManningEnvironmental Studies

“This professor continually not just asks about how I’m progressing on my work, but how I’m feeling. When I was sick she continually worked with me to reduce stress and understand the content material.”

Claude PeloquinGeography

“He helped me to develop a schedule that fit my needs. I had a breakdown this past semester, so I had to take some time off. When I came back he worked with me to get me back on track without getting stressed.”

Brigetta AbelGerman

“She is just an amazing person. Britt is one of the most caring professors I have ever had in my life.”

Ernesto Ortiz DiazHispanic Studies

“I was so humbled by Ernesto’s willingness to work with me and help me get through the semester. He really went beyond what I expected, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t still be at Macalester if it weren’t for his support.”

Patrick SchmidtPolitical Science

“Patrick has been phenomenal with his understanding and accommodation of my ADHD. He respects my diagnosis and works with me to assure that all tests and quizzes are administered in a way that gives me an opportunity to succeed [as much as] my classmates. He never seems bothered by accommodating me; rather, he is one of the most understanding and accommodating educators I have ever had the privilege to know.”

Elizabeth ErnstComputer Science

“Professor Ernst has been incredibly accommodating of my ADHD. Computer Science quizzes are administered online and have strict time cut-offs, which makes them tricky to administer to a student with special accommodations, yet she always collaborates with me to make sure that I have an equal opportunity to succeed. She doesn’t treat my learning difference like an obstacle, and I feel immensely lucky to have her as a professor.”

Marcos OrtegaBiology

“When I approached this professor during my junior year, he told me to feel welcome to come to his office for advising any time. During my senior year, I was very stressed and anxious so, remembering his offer, I emailed Marcos and asked if he could advise me. He remembered who I was and gave me great advice from his personal experiences. He continues to reach out to students who feel their perspectives may not be understood by other faculty. He attended an Adelante! meeting in which he gave advice from his personal experience and told the attendees that his door is always open.”

SooJin PateAmerican Studies

“SooJin doesn’t work here anymore, but I had to nominate her anyway. I was in her class during a semester I was really struggling to stay in school, and I was so touched by her willingness to listen to me and work with me creatively to figure out a way I could get the work done for her class.”

Jessica SalvatorePsychology

“Jessica was extremely helpful when my depression was making attendance difficult, making sure I was still handing assignments in and not falling behind on any material. She met with me individually and was the first person at Macalester who listened to me talk about my mental health altruistically and was very helpful in offering to connect me with campus resources. I know that I can always go to her if I need help.”

Brian EvansDance

“Brian created space in his class for us to acknowledge how we were doing, whether we were having a great day or struggling. He really strived to create an atmosphere of honesty and support, and I really appreciated that.”

Blanca Gimeno-EscuderoHispanic Studies

“I was in Blanca’s class two years ago. She is such a kind person and really listened when I explained to her what I was struggling with that semester. I remember I went to meet with her one time, and at the end of our conversation she said that the most important thing was my health. That meant a lot to me at a time when I was feeling a lot of guilt and shame about falling behind in her class.”

Leah SandHispanic Studies

“Leah was very compassionate and easy to approach about what I was going through. She was supportive and worked with me to find a way to do my best in her class. It was during a pivotal semester in my time at Mac, and I really appreciated her support.”

January 29, 2016

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