Held at John Jay College | 11.15.19

Exploring how students, faculty, and administrators can contribute to the mental health and academic success of students on their campus.

The Steve Fund, an organization dedicated to the mental health and emotional wellbeing of students of color, partnered with CUNY in using principles of design to support the improvement of mental health and academic equity throughout CUNY, the largest urban university system in the United States. The mental health and academic progress of students can be undermined by intersectional challenges and disparities in areas in their lives such as housing, food security, disability and chronic disease, sexual and reproductive health, immigrant status, access to health care and child care. This conference built on recent Healthy CUNY initiatives to engage students, faculty and staff in promoting mental health and the Steve Fund’s history of organizing convenings on equity in student mental health on diverse campuses and provided an opportunity for teams of students, faculty and administrators from each of CUNY’s 25 campuses to explore campus mental health more deeply. Participants discussed the impact of student characteristics, life circumstances, and campus cultures on the mental health of their students.

A Conversation with CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez and Executive Vice Chancellor José Luis Cruz, at the Steve Fund/CUNY conference

“As CUNY’s first Latinx Chancellor, he deeply understands both the strengths and challenges our students face.” Matos Rodríguez thanked The Steve Fund for their support and partnership, and all of the CUNY attendees—leadership, faculty, staff, and students—for coming to the conference.

“What we find is that many students of color are suffering in silence because they are half as likely to seek services or receive treatment compared to their white counterparts.”

—Dr. Annelle Primm, Senior Medical Director


Interview with Dr. Annelle Primm, Steve Fund, Senior Medical Director

Interview with Jay Wang, Youth Advisory Board Chair

Interview with Taytum Dunn, Youth Advisory Board Member

Convening Report from John Jay College


Colleges within the City University of New York (CUNY) system are some of the most diverse schools in the country. Our students are bright, determined, and focused on getting the education they need to better themselves, their families, and their communities, but our students of color, immigrant students, LGBTQ+, and disabled students can face some very daunting and specific challenges based on their identities and their situations. To help better understand those challenges and empower our communities to enhance the mental health and emotional well-being of our diverse student population, CUNY hosted the “Diverse, Gifted & At Risk” Conference on November 15 at John Jay College with the support of The Steve Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving mental health for students of color. 

“To ensure our students’ academic success, we need to understand the distinct mental health challenges our diverse student populations face on a daily basis.” —Karol V. Mason

John Jay President Karol V. Mason first welcomed everyone to the College, then she talked about how resilient our students are, but how they still need help. “They’re juggling jobs, academics, families, and all of life’s demands, while still finding time to help others. Regularly facing those challenges—and navigating life as a person of color, an immigrant, a disabled person, or a member of our LGBTQ+ family—can take an emotional toll on our students,” said Mason. “Right now, there’s a high level of anxiety, uncertainty, and concern within our immigrant-student population as they watch the Supreme Court consider the future of DACA. At our most recent Town Hall meeting, students with disabilities voiced their concerns about facing a future job market that might not recognize their considerable talents. And, according to the most recent #RealCollege Survey, 48 percent of our CUNY students have recently experienced food insecurity. To ensure our students’ academic success, we need to understand the distinct mental health challenges our diverse student populations face on a daily basis.”

Pictured: Dr. Michael Lindsey, executive director of McSilver Institute at NYU Silver School of Social Work

Pictured: Conference participant engaged in breakout session.


“To ensure our students’ academic success, we need to understand the distinct mental health challenges our diverse student populations face on a daily basis.”

—Karol V. Mason
President, John Jay College