Students are stressed, so are the faculty

Katie Thompson

As fall semester starts, students know the amount of stress they are going to go through, but they may not realize the stress their professors will face. 

One-fourth of full time faculty that participated in a study done by the Higher Education Research Institute expressed extensive stress due to increased responsibilities at work. 

“Being a professor or even being a staff member, it’s not quite as easy as I go to work, I do my lectures, I have my office hours and then I’m done. There’s a lot of bells and whistles that can be stressors,” said Dr. Jason Miller, director of the Counseling Center.

Teaching makes up a small portion of what Kent State faculty is required to do. 

To be eligible for promotion to full time professors, associate professors must participate in researching, teaching and service opportunities.

Dr. Mary Parr, associate professor for the College of Education, Health and Human Services had to cut back on her service involvement for Kent State. 

“I was doing a lot of service both at Kent State and then outside of Kent State. So, I decided to cut back on some of that and focus more on research, publishing and presentations,” Parr said.

Along with managing their own priorities, professors feel added pressure to make sure students are managing their mental health. 

“When I first started here 28 years ago, if students don’t come to class, it’s because they just had other things they were doing … now I know that there’s lots of reasons why students don’t come to class. It may not be because they just not interested or don’t care. They really are struggling and that’s why they’re not coming,” Parr said. 

Faculty is given handouts on services offered to students and are encouraged to check in with students if they are missing a large amount of class or performing poorly.

“We’re not trained mental health counselors either, so we have to be careful,” said Parr. 

“It’s almost like you’re a professor or you’re a staff member, but then also kind of a case manager for this one person in your class who is really struggling, and it’s a challenge to do all those things,” Miller said.  

Knowing the pressure exists, Kent State offers several programs, in-person or online, to help faculty and staff manage their stress.

Kim Hauge, director of Employee Wellness, has spent the last 3½ years focusing on the employee wellness program, which recognizes that well-being is more than physical health.

Faculty and staff are encouraged to take part in an online health risk assessment that measures lifestyle habits and provides a profile with steps they can take to improve their overall health. 

“We have the employee wellness room (Heer Hall) where employees can come … stretch or just, you know, turn on some mindfulness or meditation music,” Hauge said.  

The Counseling Center, located in White Hall, offers counseling services to Kent State students, employees and community members of Kent. A majority of individuals who utilize the center are students, while only one faculty member uses the services every semester, according to Miller. 

Many of the counselors at the center are doctoral and masters students and conflict of interest becomes an issue when working with faculty, said Miller. 

If a faculty member is in need of mental health care, they are provided with Impact Solutions, a 24-hour employee assistance program, included in university benefits. 

“We have one of the best EAPs in the country … we want our faculty and staff to know that there is help available 24/7, 365 days a year,” Hauge said.  

While faculty is aware of the resources offered by Kent State, it can be frustrating that others don’t understand that being a professor is more than teaching. 

“I think students don’t often understand what our lives are like,” Parr said. “I want to be a human being.”

Katie Thompson covers teaching. Contact her at [email protected]