University of Illinois System
Last item for navigation

Mental Health

Tim KilleenPreparing students, faculty and staff to flourish in the world that awaits them requires a commitment to every aspect of their development.

Mental health is more critical than ever with the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic downturn and a renewed nationwide push for social justice.

To help students, faculty and staff, we launched an ongoing series of system-wide events focused on promoting their mental and emotional wellbeing. I hope you will join us and add your insights and expertise to this important conversation, which will build on our long legacy of world-class service to students, faculty, staff, and the public good.

Mental Health Keynote Address

The University of Illinois System hosts an annual keynote address devoted to issues around student, faculty and staff mental health. Initially planned as a day-long symposium, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the 2020 and 2021 keynote addresses being held virtually. It was decided that 2022's and future keynote addresses would also be offered via the virtual format. So far, nearly 1,300 faculty, staff, and students from the three universities and system offices participated in the three events. The event is hosted by the U of I System and is keynoted by nationally recognized leaders in the student mental health arena. The themes of the keynote address recognize the importance of employee and student mental health, provide a forum to explore fresh ideas, strengthen system-wide relationships, and generate innovative strategies to address the growing need for effective and available mental health services to promote employee and student success. The events, to date, are just the start of an ongoing effort to address mental health while emphasizing the role all members of the campus community can play in supporting a caring and nurturing environment that allows employees and students to thrive and reach their full potential.


Annual multi-university mental health and well-being event, sponsored by the EVP is scheduled for Wednesday, October 9, 2024, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., CST, online via Zoom. The Keynote speaker is Dr. Rebecca Kennedy, Assistant Vice President for Student Health & Well-Being, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the first official health promoting university in the US.  Kennedy serves as co-chair of UABs President’s Wellbeing Collaborative. Her keynote will focus on what it means to be a health promoting university, and the steps to meet that aspirational goal.

Rebecca KennedyDr. Kennedy serves as the Assistant Vice President for Student Health and Wellbeing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  There she provides administrative leadership to five departments:  Student Health Services, Student Counseling Services, Wellness Promotion, Veteran’s Services and University Recreation and holds a faculty appointment in Psychology. 

In addition to multiple leadership roles at UAB she is the co-chair of the International Health Promoting Campuses Network and is a member of the Steering Group for the US Health Promoting Universities & Colleges.  She is also the co-author of a chapter entitled, “Well-being in Higher Education: Evidence- and Policy-based Strategies to Enhance the Well-being of People, Place and Planet” that was published in early 2023. 

Prior to UAB she served at the University of West Florida from 1999 until 2018, including for nearly five years as the AVP and Director, Counseling and Psychological Services.  She holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology from State University of New York at Buffalo and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from George Mason University.


The fourth System-wide virtual Mental Health Keynote Address was held on October 11 and was delivered by Dr. Luoluo Hong. Dr. Hong's virtual keynote presentation: Resilience, Resistance & Roaring: Integrating Belonging, Social Justice & Well-Being Into Our Educational Mission was attended by more than 350 system wide faculty and staff. 

Employees and students may access the event recording through this link Resilience, Resistance & Roaring: Integrating Belonging, Social Justice & Well-Being Into Our Educational Mission Recording (NetID required to view the recording).

Dr. Hong is the inaugural Vice President for Student Engagement & Well-Being at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Hong is working to shape and guide the Institute’s collective impact framework for student belonging, engagement, and well-being. She is responsible for developing a comprehensive, coordinated and evidence-based approach for student activities, events, programs, and services that supports student learning and holistic success at Georgia Tech and beyond, as well as promotes educational equity.

Dr. Hong, a passionate educator, courageous leader, and energetic student advocate, brings over 30 years of experience in higher education spanning seven campuses. She has a record of service providing visionary and strategic leadership in administration, enrollment management, public health, student affairs, and JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) efforts. She has held senior administrative roles at San Francisco State University, the California State University system, the University of Hawaiˈi at Hilo, Shepherd College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and at Arizona State University. Dr. Hong has taught undergraduate and/or graduate-level courses and been an affiliated faculty member in a variety of disciplines.

Dr. Hong holds a BA in Psychology from Amherst College, a Master’s in Public Health from Yale University, and a PhD in Educational Leadership & Research from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.  She is a nationally sought-after speaker and trainer in the areas of violence prevention, social justice, and leadership, and has delivered over 3,300 presentations, keynoted over 80 conferences and meetings, and authored several book chapters. Formerly a consulting editor for the Journal of American College Health (2000-2008), she was also recognized as a Fellow by the American College Health Association in 2006. Dr. Hong is the faculty coordinator for the American College Personnel Association’s Aspiring SSAO Institute and is a member of the Women’s Network Executive Council for the American Council on Education. She also completed a term as chair for the Pacific West Athletic Conference from 2011-2013.


The third Student Mental Health Keynote Address was held on September 28, 2022. Dr. Stacey Pearson-Wharton served as the keynote speaker. Dr. Stacey Pearson-Wharton is Dean of Health & Wellness and Director of the Counseling Center at Susquehanna University and has served the Governing Board of the American College Personnel Association as the Director of Equity and Inclusion where she used her expertise and experience to navigate complicated social justice issues. She has significant experience teaching, publishing, and presenting on issues related to college student development. She holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Pennsylvania State University and a Masters in Counselor Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Pearson-Wharton's keynote was based on the latest research on collegiate mental health that highlights the increase in students' pathology and the proliferation of mental illness in all aspects of University Life. The complexities of mental illness can cause a professional not trained in mental health to be reluctant to engage students. This keynote provided information and answered questions about the latest trends in collegiate mental health, best practices and trends in campus public health measures, the role the entire University Community plays in understanding and engaging mental illness successfully including the appropriate roles to assume in different mental health incidents, including explorer, bridge builder, lightkeeper, and captain, build a unified mental health network intra-campus and inter-state, and exploring inclusive excellence principles and their role in addressing student needs.

University Specific Keynote Address Events


The second Student Mental Health Keynote Address was held on September 15, 2021. The keynote speaker was Dr. Kelly Crace, Associate Vice President for Health & Wellness and Director of the Center for Mindfulness and Authentic Excellence at the College of William & Mary. Dr. Crace has published and presented in the areas of values, flourishing, resilience, life role development and transition, and organizational development. His keynote, "Flourishing through Chronic Too-Muchness," is available below. Over 500 faculty, staff, and students from the three universities and system offices participated.

Dr. Crace PowerPoint Presentation


The inaugural Student Mental Health Keynote Address was held on September 16, 2020. The keynote was delivered by Dr. Gary Glass, Director of Counseling and Career Services at Oxford College of Emory University, a nationally renowned proponent of addressing student mental health issues from a community perspective. Dr. Glass' presentation is available below. Over 400 faculty, staff, and students from the three universities and system offices participated.

The Student Mental Health Keynote Address Committee

The Student Mental Health Keynote Address Committee will continue its charge to provide information and supportive resources to the broad universities' communities.  It embraces the understanding that active participation by faculty, staff, and students in a community of caring is beneficial to all campus members.

Student Community Mindset Committees

Both Dr. Glass and Dr. Crace waived their honorariums, asking instead that the funds be used in support of student well-being initiatives. The Office of the Executive Vice President/Vice President Academic Affairs has supplemented these funds to offer program sponsorship of $5,000 to each university student mental health subgroup to implement a student focused well-being initiative. Each of the 4 sub-groups (UIUC, UIS, UIC and UICCOM) has been charged to develop an initiative that will promote mental health and wellness. See Community Mindset Program for more information.