How can institutions better support the ‘whole person’ through their time at college?

What makes good support in the age of Covid? Lindsay Green of Marymount Manhattan College sketches out how you could adapt your practice to better support the ‘whole’ student.

3 min readPublished: 16 Mar 2021

What makes good support in the age of Covid, with all the anxiety and instability it’s brought? In this article, Lindsay Green of Marymount Manhattan College sketches out how you could adapt your practice to better support the ‘whole’ student.

Supporting students on a larger level than just accommodation allocation can bring greater benefits to students and your department.

The “whole person approach” is one that takes a look at the student as a person; a person with a disability, a person in the classroom, a person who participates in social events, a student-worker, and a person who will enter the workforce.

Each characteristic of a person’s experience should be supported from how they study, to how they interact with College staff. Having an approach that broadens support may bridge the gap for students who feel left out or overwhelmed by college in general.

We’re all busy, but it doesn’t take much

Adjusting support may seem daunting and many of us operating offices that are small and extremely busy but you could start with simple additions to conversations and check-ins with students.

When meeting with a student during an intake meeting, I try to obtain a wide variety of information about the student; their disability, the courses or programs they are in, their goals during College, their goals for receiving accommodations and where they see themselves at the end of their collegiate experience.

This information helps me get a better idea of who they are, how they identify with their disability and what their challenges are on campus. From here, I can develop strategies and goals with the student and put them on a path for discovery of their own self-motivation and development.

I also tend to ask students during check ins and mass email updates if there is anything that they need assistance with and open up my email and my office for them to reach out. If I don’t have the answer for them, I either find it or put them in contact with the appropriate office.

The golden rule

Supporting students starts with letting them know they have an advocate on campus and somebody that wants to see them succeed. Another way to support holistically is to offer workshops and master classes that will extend their view on themselves and their community, such as ones on the disability community, disability law, disability identity and language and study skill building.

Many students have stated that they feel isolated on campus due to their disability. But having the Office of Disability Services support them not just in the classroom but in all of their endeavors on campus has helped their confidence and more.

A quick tip for remote support

During this period of remote learning, I’ve implemented “office hours” - set times where students can virtually drop in to chat, vent or ask a question. This simple extension of our office has shown to be a great support to students who feel isolated or unseen. Supporting them through the trials, the triumphs and the moments of frustration is important in guiding each student to reach their goals.

The overall goal of this method of support is to help students understand themselves better, gain strategies to communicate effectively with their professors and other staff, to develop strategies to manage their disability symptoms, and to get comfortable requesting accommodations post College.

By keeping these goals in mind, you can deliver truly transformational experiences for your students.

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