“Every day is a good day. Every day that we are working towards the benefit of this university is a good day,” said Shippensburg University President Laurie Carter Wednesday afternoon.
Carter sat down with members of The Slate staff to provide information and updates on recent events and campus initiatives.
This year, the president said she is focusing on wellness — of the mind, body and spirit. This includes initiatives through Ship Rec, Dining Services and the Counseling Center.
Carter has started leading spin cycling classes at the Ship Rec, which comes in addition to the center’s “diverse” fitness schedule.
Dining Services hired a nutritionist and has worked to remove plastic straws from the dining halls — a cause close to Carter’s heart.
“As someone who believes that it’s just like taking care of your body, you have to take care of your home. The environment is our home,” Carter said.
“Wellness is the mind, body and spirit connection,” Carter said. “It’s just really important to me that folks understand even during their college years how important it is to be aware of their nutrition.”
According to Carter, a search has begun for two additional mental health counselors to join the staff at the Counseling Center on campus. She also encouraged students to use other resources on campus to talk through issues, as not everyone needs to be in the counseling center. This decision comes as Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), a neighboring school, cut mental healthcare for budgetary reasons.
“It’s absolutely critical,” Carter said in response to the importance of the availability of mental healthcare on college campuses. “I talk to students and they talk about the stresses they feel, not just academic stress, but life stress and all of the things they have to balance today.”
“I think it’s unfortunate that HACC felt that they needed to do that for budgetary reasons,” she said citing her understanding with the current landscape of higher education.
“Here at Ship, we need to make that investment because it’s really a part of student success,” Carter said.
With the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s freezing of tuition, Carter said the university worked with the budget and enrollment challenges it was facing to help students succeed in the classroom.
The university added more scholarship dollars including book scholarships, which Carter said were campaigned for by the campus organization Enactus. SU also added lower cost housing in McLean Hall and eliminated laundry fees in the residence halls.
“It is estimated to save students over $300,000 a year,” Carter said.
She also said it will benefit the overall success of students as well. By eliminating laundry fees, Carter hopes students who went home every weekend to do laundry will stay on campus and become more involved in campus life activities.
“The more connected a student is to a campus, the more successful they will be,” Carter said.
Carter also discussed Isaac Dietrich’s “Raider Way” initiative, following incidents of students using racial slurs against one another on campus. Dietrich is the Student Government Association vice president of internal affairs.
“I was thrilled that they developed this initiative,” Carter said. “I am fully supportive of it.
“Not all of the work can be done by the administration, nor should it be. We have got to do this together,” she said.
Carter addressed the events that transpired in late September and early October that shook the SU community. She called the incidents “unfortunate” and said they have raised the level of consciousness on campus.
The ripple effect of those events have been both negative and positive, according to Carter.
“One of those ripples is that we are aware that the work that we have to do has to be done with a greater sense of urgency,” Carter said.
“Hearing the different perspectives on each incident and how those incidents impacted those individuals has really opened up areas for us to be able to address some of the issues from, I think, a more impactful perspective,” she added.
During times of crisis, SU follows a predetermined plan, according to Carter.
“We make the best decisions we can make given the information we have. Keeping in mind that the most important thing is always the safety and security of the students and the university and the institution,” she said.
“Does that mean that we always get everything perfect? No. But we sure work really hard to make sure that we are never putting anyone at risk,” Carter said.
“We work on [communication] every day. We talk about it every week because communication is critical,” she said. “All we can continue to do is the best. We can always strive to do better and better.”