January 3, 2023


Professor Paula Nurius, UW School of Social Work associate dean of transdisciplinary scholarship, is part of a multidisciplinary research team working to adapt and evaluate a preventive-program delivery system to support better mental health for college students. Funded by the UW Population Health Initiative, the team will study how to help students access programs to strengthen their resilience skills and build social connections, leading to better overall health and social equity.

The rise in mental health issues among college students, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, continues to be troubling. This project evaluates a six-week mental health preventive program called Be REAL (Resilient Attitudes and Living), facilitated by the UW Center for Child & Family Well-Being.

The team will adapt an online Be REAL facilitator training program which partners with campus staff currently providing counseling, student services and other related campus support. By using existing personnel, the delivery of services can be streamlined, enhancing the program’s acceptability, feasibility and scalability. Starting with four to six campuses, the researchers hope to enlist up to 200 students to participate in a pre- and post-test program evaluation, providing data to support a wider national roll-out.

As a mental health specialist, Nurius studies the processes and effects of stress and trauma focusing on vulnerable and socially disadvantaged populations, early/preventive intervention, and fostering resilience. In her role as associate dean of transdisciplinary scholarship, she serves to bridge the School of Social Work with a range of national organizations and missions. For this grant, she will be joined by colleagues from the UW Center for Child & Family Well-Being, UW Department of Astronomy and the UW Resilience Lab.

Five faculty-led teams from six different UW schools and colleges received a total of $530,000 in Tier 2 grants from the Population Health Initiative. The Tier 2 program supports researchers in developing preliminary data or the proof-of-concept they need to pursue follow-on funding to scale up the effort. A hallmark of the program is its reliance on interdisciplinary collaboration and the inclusion of community partners.