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President Jim Gash Discusses Student Mental Health on Future U Podcast

President Jim Gash on the Future U Podcast

On Tuesday, September 19, 2023, president Jim Gash (JD '93) joined hosts Jeff Selingo and Michael Horn on the podcast Future U to discuss the mental health crisis among students as well as Pepperdine’s efforts to proactively support students through its RISE (Resilience-Informed Skills Education) program

Tackling the most pressing conversations around higher education today, Future U invites the top thought leaders in the industry to explore the ever-changing landscape of universities and the future of education. Salingo is a New York Times best-selling author, a higher-education strategist on university innovation and leadership, and an award-winning columnist. Horn is the author and co-author of multiple books, white papers, and articles on education.

This past spring, Selingo attended the Milken Global Institute Conference in Los Angeles where he moderated a conversation among university presidents, including President Gash, regarding student mental health and what universities are doing to address the issue. “In 2019, a survey of Pepperdine students found that 65 percent had felt overwhelming anxiety and 44 percent had felt so depressed that it was difficult to function during the semester,” shared Selingo. In response to the widespread challenges impacting student mental health,” the University launched the RISE program to help students build resilience.

RISE seeks to build the physical, cognitive, social, life skills, service, and spiritual resilience of our students by providing them with frameworks that can be used to navigate life’s difficulties. “It’s an eight-week program where [students] focus on the various aspects of being resilient,” explained President Gash. “And so you can think of it in terms of physical health, cognitive health, social life, spiritual life, service, and life skills. Those [are] the six modules. And for each of those, at Pepperdine, we ground those ideas in our faith as well as in psychological research and counseling. What we do is ensure that [students] have the resources available to not fall into a distressing situation with mental health, but to prevent that from happening.”

President Gash also spoke about the impact of “cancel culture” on student well-being and the importance of higher education institutions exposing students to a variety of ideas, as well as to people who may have views that differ from their own. “We bring to campus people who are on both sides of potentially, or even definitionally, polarizing topics to have conversations so that light can be generated,” he said, adding that students have the power to connect with people they may disagree with by showing grace and openness to those differences. “You’re going to encounter people that [will say] or [post] things that you think are contrary, not only to your political beliefs, but to your religious beliefs, and you’re not going to say, ‘You are canceled.’ You’re going to say, ‘Tell me more,’ or ‘Help me understand.’”

Listen to President Gash’s episode of the Future U podcast, “Building Resilience in Students, Deliberately,” on all major podcast platforms.