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Changes aim to Strengthen Student Health and well-Being

PULLMAN – With the health and wellness of students being one of Washington State University’s highest priorities, Student Affairs is taking new steps to increase students’ access to the care they need by expanding resources, streamlining processes, and creating a new leadership position focused solely on health and well-being.

Increased focus on student health

Coinciding with a national trend at colleges and universities, WSU began strengthening its services around health and well-being before the COVID-19 pandemic. Ellen Taylor, vice chancellor of the Division of Student Affairs, said the pandemic further amplified the need for WSU to provide students with a more robust suite of health services, which has become an area of major focus for her team.

“The demand for these services keeps growing,” Taylor said. “We’re looking to divert some of our attention and resources upstream to focus on prevention, education, and building students’ skills and resilience to navigate life’s inevitable bumps and challenges.”

This work has already been felt by students in many ways: a more streamlined approach to making appointments at Cougar Heath Services (CHS), being part of discussions that impact the student health fee and student insurance plan, having access to free Narcan Nasal Spray at the CHS pharmacy, and participating in a LGBTQ+ task force examining ways to bring more inclusive care to CHS. This fall, students will have access to new digital mental health resources.

Taylor said as colleges and universities work to center student well-being in co-curricular and curricular activities, designating someone to take point in providing leadership in this area has become standard practice across the country.

New leadership

The increased emphasis on student health at WSU has led to the creation of a new leadership role in Student Affairs: the assistant vice chancellor for student health and well-being. The role, filled by Joel Schwartzkopf, will focus on improving student health, increasing access to health and wellness services, and building new partnerships. Schwartzkopf will continue to serve as executive director of Cougar Health Services. He will also oversee University Recreation, in line with a vision that extends beyond health care to an overarching well-being focus. 

“Joel’s leadership has been outstanding,” said Taylor. “He stepped into his role in Cougar Health Services in the middle of the pandemic and made impactful operational changes. I feel the time is right to elevate his role within the division and the university.”

Adding Schwartzkopf to the Student Affairs executive team allows him to share his expertise and lead interdisciplinary initiatives related to student well-being, which permeates most of the work of Student Affairs.

Schwartzkopf is excited to expand his role at WSU. He recently served on a panel at the annual American Health Care Association (ACHA) Conference that discussed how universities can leverage the visibility and voice student health departments acquired during the pandemic.

“It’s an exciting time instudent health,” he said. “I enjoy being able to help shape policy, and at WSU, I believe we have opportunities to make small changes that can have a huge effect downstream in keeping students healthy and in the classroom.”

Schwartzkopf’s role at CHS has grown to become more public facing as he interacts regularly with local health providers and Pullman Regional Hospital. His role also involves forming critical partnerships and collaboration with academic colleges, as well as WSU Athletics.

As assistant vice chancellor for student wellness, Taylor said Schwartzkopf will be in position to expand his reach and build relationships with the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and the other health science colleges at WSU Spokane. He will also explore opportunities to expand resources and services for students across the university system, including the Pullman campus.

“As we work to engage with our partners both internally and externally, Joel will help make sure student well-being is at the forefront of all our strategic conversations moving forward,” she said.

Schwartzkopf has served as executive director of CHS since 2020 and was recently elected to the ACHA national board of directors as treasurer. Prior to coming to WSU, he worked as the interim associate executive director of Colorado State University’s Health Network and has been a licensed physician assistant (PA) since 2006, working in urgent care and ER medicine.