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A Basic Need: UHD Receives Trellis Foundation Grant To Support Students’ Mental Wellbeing


By Laura Wagner

Maslow’s famous pyramid neatly organizes human needs into a hierarchy of five categories. The most basic physiological needs—air, water, food, sleep—plus safety make up the bottom two tiers. According to Maslow, without those fundamental needs being met, psychological health suffers, and higher needs—like college—fall in priority.

Maslow, meet COVID-19. 

For many of UHD’s students, COVID-19 generated a perfect storm of psychological distress. Thanks to the Trellis Foundation’s recent grant, Mental Wellbeing: A Basic Need for Postsecondary Students, soon these students will have more help managing that distress. The grant is designed to alleviate the anxiety UHD students have experienced due to COVID-19 by providing expanded access to support for basic needs—those foundational tiers of Maslow’s pyramid—and more.

Dr. Hope PamplinDr. Hope Pamplin, LPC-S, Interim Director of UHD’s Counseling and Disability Services, will administer the nearly $200,000 grant over two years. 

“We know COVID-19 took an extraordinary toll on our students’ mental wellness, and as a result, they need extraordinary assistance to ensure they can get back on track,” said Pamplin. “The grant will provide students with ‘wraparound services’—counseling, workforce programming and placement, domestic violence awareness and support, and nutritional and financial assistance.”

Some data show improved graduation rates when students have access to wraparound services, which can include broader options than traditional services, such as flexible financial aid, advice to ensure students make the most of their scholarship and grant funds, and a resource network that emphasizes communication.

“During the pandemic, students found themselves juggling their own or family’s health issues, childcare needs, a job, food and housing insecurity—on top of paying for and succeeding in school,” said Pamplin. “The combination created historic levels of stress, particularly for low-income students and students of color, who were more negatively impacted by the pandemic.”

While UHD has significant student support mechanisms in place, the Mental Wellbeing grant will increase the reach of the existing services and focus on other services that speak directly to UHD’s specific student population. 

A key part of the program will be facilitating students’ access to resources from local partners, says Pamplin. “We’re joining with Houston Food Bank, Workforce Solutions, Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA), The University of St. Thomas, and leaders in mental wellness to provide services such as childcare application support, financial support, job placement, legal advocacy and aid, and other critical services.”

As a grant recipient, the University will partner with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute to facilitate learning activities and provide access to national experts, who will serve as technical assistance providers. “We’re excited to work with Meadows to ensure we offer the most effective services to our students, the kinds of support that will make the most difference to their mental wellbeing,” Pamplin said.

The Trellis Foundation supports ideas and strategies focused on improving postsecondary outcomes for low-income students and students of color in Texas. Racial justice is central to the Foundation’s mission, making UHD a natural partner. According to a Trellis representative, the grant is a testament to the innovative work UHD is doing to support students to and through their post-secondary journeys.

Pamplin agrees. “Through these efforts, UHD will build a community of partners equipped to meet the needs of students who have been facing unprecedented psychological and emotional pressure. We want to provide our students the means by which they can feel safe to pursue their academic, personal, and professional goals.” 

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students, boasts more than 64,000 alumni, and offers 46 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences & Technology. For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and awarded UHD a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution, and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.