Penn State Brandywine’s Care Team helps faculty, staff and students connect

MEDIA, Pa. — Ever since the Penn State Brandywine campus was founded in 1967, faculty, staff and students have been working together to make it a safe and supportive environment. One more recent example of the campus community in action is the Brandywine Care Team.

The Care Team is a program that combines student intervention work with resources and support for campus employees. Its mission is to assist with maintaining the welfare, health and safety of students on campus by working with faculty and staff to reach members of the campus community in need of support or guidance.

“We started noticing that many faculty and staff members knew students who needed help, but weren’t sure how to engage them properly,” said Jennifer Toadvine, a Care Team member and clinical counselor at Brandywine. “We wanted a platform that would give them some next steps.”

Faculty and staff, utilizing an online form, can alert the Care Team when they notice a student with an emotional, academic or financial struggle. The Care Team reads each alert, assesses the need and works to connect the student with resources that will best meet that need.

“In our first year, we assisted coworkers with 52 reports,” said Care Team member Laura Evans, assistant teaching professor of human development and family studies (HDFS) at Brandywine.

The issues reported ranged from financial troubles and mental health issues, to academic stress and personal needs. This year, the Care Team has already fielded many more requests for help.

“We used to meet biweekly to go over the reports,” said Christine Brown, associate teaching professor of literacy and education and American studies. “This year, we met weekly.”

Although the Care Team works with students in difficult situations, it is not a crisis intervention program. Rather, the team sees itself as a liaison between students, faculty and existing intervention programs, such as professional counseling, police services and Brandywine’s Behavioral Threat Management Team.

By connecting students, faculty and staff with appropriate help, the Care Team hopes to alleviate the pressure that faculty and staff might feel when confronted with students’ personal troubles.

“I have noticed fewer anxious coworkers at my office for sure,” said Toadvine. “Care Team is really here for the faculty and staff who want to do a good job of teaching and mentoring, but don’t know what to do with certain problems that arise.”

The Care Team emerged on campus during a pivotal point in Brandywine’s history — the campus’ first year of housing full-time residential students. As Brandywine becomes “home” for many of its students, the team plans to become an even more intentional part of campus life.

“In the past, students dropped in and out for classes and weren’t totally present here — but now, many of our students are,” said Michael Sturm, lecturer in HDFS and Care Team member. “That means we need to operate in turn.”

“Ultimately, if faculty and staff feel more supported in their roles with students, we will be able to better support our students,” Evans said. “We’re always looking for what we can do to take new steps.”

For more information about the Care Team, visit the team’s webpage