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Chan Thai Receives 2018 Dean's Service Award

Comm professor praised for work with campus suicide prevention program

Comm professor praised for work with campus suicide prevention program

By Julia Joyce '19

When Dean Debbie Tahmassebi awarded Professor Chan Thai (Communication) the 2018 Dean’s Service Award at the College’s annual convocation, Thai admits she was surprised. Such awards typically are awarded to more senior faculty colleagues.

As Tahmassebi made clear in her announcement, however, Thai’s ability to combine both her student-oriented duties in the classroom with her active role on an SCU committee seeking to address student mental health issues at SCU this past year made her a phenomenal candidate for the prestigious honor. The committee’s work, Tahmassebi noted, was a collaboration between SCU and the JED Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to protect emotional health and prevent suicide among teens and young adults.

As a part of Santa Clara University’s efforts to provide additional mental health support and resources to its student body, Thai served as an integral member of the 17-person JED committee in determining the most effective strategies for campus-wide wellness messaging. Championing this cause is what made Vice Provost of Student Life, Jeanne Rosenberger, call Chan "a great model for supporting SCU’s commitment to integrated learning."

Thai utilized her communication classes this past spring to provide real-life application of her research on campus through group projects aligning with the goals of the JED recommendations.

Thai’s research focuses on strategic communication and the creation of effective media campaigns. Her expertise helped the students to design campaigns targeting teens and young adults who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, or who might even be considering suicide. Thai’s students are continuing their work during winter quarter in their senior capstone class, where they will implement their planned campaigns across campus.

While these winter quarter campaigns are a key element of Thai's work, the focal point of her research is her recent campus-wide survey that will help determine the kinds of messaging and resources all SCU students feel they need. Highlighting the importance of the survey, Thai called it “a full court press” — one that included tabling at Benson Memorial Center, utilizing digital screens across campus, sending slides to faculty, and posting dozens of flyers.

The group also designed a variety of “tech tattoos” that make the JED intervention efforts something that can adorn a water bottle of laptop cover.


About the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Service Award

The Dean’s Service Award is given in recognition of faculty for exemplary service in support of the College of Arts and Sciences. By honoring such leaders, the College demonstrates its commitment to College, University, community, and/or professional service as essential to our mission, governance, and enhancing our community of teaching scholars.


About the JED Program

JED Campus is an initiative of The Jed Foundation, a national nonprofit that exists to protect the emotional health of our country’s 40 million high school and college students and reduce the risks of substance abuse and suicide.

Beginning in May of 2017, Santa Clara University's partnership with the JED Campus Program has focused on ensuring that emotional well-being is a campus wide responsibility. The JED Campus Program at SCU has allowed for strategic planning and focused efforts to provide additional resources, address campus-wide issues, and determine the effectiveness of current mental health programming.

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