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CAPS to add staff, expand outreach to students of color

With greater resources and new support group, CAPS aims to address student concerns

Updated Monday, Sept. 29 at 1:52 a.m.

After student pressure last semester to diversify its staff, Counseling and Psychological Services has made several new targeted hires and will offer a support group for students of color, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn announced in an email Friday.

Klawunn also announced Unab Khan as the new medical director of Health Services.

Psychotherapist Jamall Pollock, who has “specific expertise in multicultural issues,” will join the CAPS staff Oct. 14, Klawunn wrote. Pollock identifies as a person of color. And Joshua Kane will begin Oct. 6 as a part-time psychiatrist.

Coordinator for Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy Bita Shooshani, who also identifies as a person of color, will move to assume a full-time psychotherapist position at CAPS in January.

Though Shooshani found her work in the coordinator position “incredibly rewarding and inspiring,” she is a trained therapist, she wrote in an email to The Herald. “When I saw that a position became available on campus that offered the opportunity to work in a therapeutic capacity with students, I applied for it primarily because I would be able to continue working with Brown students and to practice psychotherapy with a specialization in sexual assault.”

Shooshani — a central figure in the University’s work to prevent and respond to sexual assault — will continue in her current position while a national search for a new coordinator takes place and then will begin working at CAPS five days a week, said Sherri Nelson, director of CAPS. The search for Shooshani’s replacement will be led by Health Services, Klawunn wrote.

“The search committee hasn’t been established yet, and my job duties will stay the same until my transition,” Shooshani wrote.

“We are very excited to have her and expand CAPS resources in our department for dealing with issues surrounding sexual assault,” Nelson said.

Both Shooshani and Kane will work more hours than the people they are replacing, Nelson said.

Nelson said Pollock’s new position is significant because of the money and resources allocated to CAPS by President Christina Paxson in response to students’ previous criticism of the lack of diversity within the CAPS staff.

“This is a huge step, but it is just an initial step,” said President of the Undergraduate Council of Students Maahika Srinivasan ’15, who named increasing mental health resources a key priority when campaigning for the UCS presidency last spring. UCS, in conjunction with the mental health advocacy student group Active Minds, put pressure on the University last spring to improve its mental health services, she said.

At the time, UCS and Active Minds focused on two goals — changing the name Psychological Services to Counseling and Psychological Services, as well as improving the way the office approaches cases related to sexual assault and issues of diversity, Srinivasan said.

“This won’t address all of the issues,” Srinivasan said, citing the University’s problematic limit of seven free visits to a psychotherapist per year, “but this is a good first step.”

Beginning Oct. 1, psychotherapist Allyson Brathwaite-Gardner will lead a new support group for students of color. “This group is in response to students’ request to increase outreach for students of color,” Nelson said.

CAPS will also institute a “cultural competency in-series” to improve the quality of services CAPS can provide to students of color, Nelson said.

The University is working to evaluate the “effectiveness of our comprehensive mental health services at Brown,” Klawunn wrote. A Mental Health Advisory Council is being formed to lead those efforts, to comprise students, staff members and faculty members and chaired by Steven Rasmussen ’74 MMS’77 MD’77 P’13, medical director of Butler Hospital.

Khan, who “specializes in health care for young adults,” will begin in her new role at Health Services Oct. 1, Klawunn wrote.

Student and Employee Accessibility Services, the Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs and the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life also added staff members over the summer to increase “advising and advocacy” resources for all students, Klawunn wrote.

J. Allen Ward, senior associate dean for student life, will change roles and now focus on “leading a comprehensive effort to evaluate and assess student support,” Klawunn wrote. A national search for a dean of the Office of Student Life will begin during the year after “some restructuring” based on the Task Force on Sexual Assault’s recommendations, she wrote.



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