Background: High rates of COVID-19-related deaths, burden, and mitigation challenges in the Hispanic community reduce college students’ chances for optimal mental health and wellness during this vulnerable developmental period. Hispanic students face significant COVID-19-related disruptions in their living situation, social support network, finances, school environment, and social activities, which compound the typical relationship, financial, and academic stressors among college students. College leaders, faculty, and student health center stakeholders within Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) have voiced concerns about the exacerbation of poor mental health and well-being among students since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, there is a lack of student-centered information to implement or evaluate campus mental health and wellness programs focused on outcomes that are meaningful to them. Moreover, college leaders noted a gap in fully engaging students in the process of implementing and evaluating mental health and wellness solutions that best meet their needs and address outcomes that are important to them.
Proposed Solution to the Problem: Engaging students as equal partners in research that focuses on mental health and well-being since the pandemic holds strong promise for identifying and implementing campus programs that are acceptable and have a positive impact on outcomes that are most important to them.
Objectives: The long-term goal of this project is to increase student stakeholder and scientist capacity for engagement in patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR) and comparative effectiveness research (CER) at Hispanic Serving Institutions. The aims are to: (a) increase students stakeholder knowledge and skills for PCOR/CER focused on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and well-being among Hispanic college students and (b) increase PCOR/CER capacity among scientists at HSIs.
Activities: The project team will achieve these aims through a partnership between the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), a premier research institution, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), one of the largest HSIs in the nation, to complete the following activities:
• Create a two-part training for students to engage in PCOR/CER focused on COVID-19 mental health and well-being informed by the World Café approach
• Conduct PCOR/CER faculty workshops informed by a modified Community Engagement Studio model for HSI researchers
• Identify PCOR/CER topics related to mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic
• Develop a blueprint for an infrastructure supporting student engagement in PCOR/CER at HSIs
• Disseminate project findings to HSI leaders and PCOR/CER professional communities
Projected Outcomes/Outputs: The team anticipates impactful short- and long-term outcomes related to the project. Short-term outcomes include: (a) a blueprint for an infrastructure supporting sustained student engagement in PCOR/CER; (b) improved PCOR/CER capacity among UTRGV faculty; and (c) a list of PCOR/CER topics on the impacts of COVID-19 on student mental health and well-being. Expected long-term outcomes include advanced capacity for PCOR/CER focused on mental health and well-being at HSIs and a national model for student-centered research at HSIs.
Patient and Stakeholder Engagement Plan: The project and implementation team will engage students and scientists using several evidence-based engagement tools that are grounded in the principles of reciprocal relationships, co-learning, partnerships, transparency, honesty, and trust, including the World Café model, Photovoice, and the Community Engagement Studio model. In addition, the team will create opportunities for students and scientists to engage with each other throughout the project period using the Blackboard organization platform.
Project Collaborators: Project activities will take place at UTRGV. The project planning and implementation team consists of scientists from Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), a scientist from UTRGV, and student stakeholders from UTRGV. The student stakeholders are graduate students from diverse degree programs with different approaches to mental health and well-being (e.g., clinical psychology, rehabilitation services, and counseling), and they will participate in all aspects of the project, including meeting twice per month to plan, implement, evaluate, and disseminate project activities. They have been involved in a number of mental health and community engagement research activities and student leadership activities. The team, with input from a UTRGV leadership advisory board and PCORI-funded BCM investigators, will collectively prepare college student and scientist stakeholders at UTRGV to engage with each other in research focused on understanding and addressing student mental health and well-being-related outcomes that are important to students.
Ashley Butler, PhD
Suad Ghaddar, PhD
Baylor College of Medicine
Last updated: January 20, 2023