Illustration by Shenuka Corea
REACH is one of NYU Abu Dhabi’s many valuable student resources. It is a student-led peer support group that is focused on heightening and maintaining community well-being. Their work ranges from mental health awareness and increased academic support to de-stress activities. Previous events include procrastination and sleep workshops, weekly peer-to-peer counselling sessions called The Nook and the popular Doggy De-Stress activity where students can gather to play with dogs, enjoy frozen yogurt and take their minds off final exams.
Given that NYUAD prides itself on well-being and strives to be a university providing exceptional mental and physical support to students, programs such as REACH are now looking to revamp their structure to expand their reach on campus.
Tina Wadhwa, the Associate Director of Health Promotion and Sexual Misconduct Support and the current Faculty Director of REACH, notes that the program is undergoing a lot of new changes this semester, particularly in terms of diversifying its membership.
“Central to the mission of REACH is to create a community where all students feel supported, valued and respected,” Wadhwa wrote. “REACH is only 8-10 students. Therefore, more important than just diversifying our members is to select students that are non-judgmental and come from a place of curiosity and openness. This means that even if a REACH member is approached by a student with completely different, even opposing, values, the REACH member [can still] create a space where that person's voice and opinion is respected and heard.”
Wadhwa is also looking to recruit members who are largely representative of the student body. Wadhwa gave an example for this criterion’s effectiveness in the Adjusting to College Workshop. The discussion within such a workshop would be far more effective to freshmen if the REACH members involved came from different majors, friend groups, cultural backgrounds and were even a mix of commuters and non-commuters. Wadhwa asserts that this would enable more of the experiences of NYUAD community members to be represented within the heavily discursive spaces of REACH workshops.
Evidently, Wadhwa has put quite a rigorous selection process in place for membership recruitment; even previous members had to reapply to the program, in accordance with the new structure. Students who are interested in or have a passion for engaging in peer-to-peer counseling and creating dialogue around sensitive topics are encouraged to apply and then interview with Wadhwa to see if they are fit for the program. They are also required to present a peer recommendation letter, an aspect that Wadhwa takes very seriously as REACH is fundamentally a program that aims to foster a sense of community and support between students.
The positions open this semester are Beloved Leaders, who form the backbone of the group, Social Media Guru and Chief Camera-Person, who are in charge of marketing and raising awareness of the program’s activities, Minutes Master, who records and assigns tasks to volunteers, and the Trusty Treasurer, who keeps track of the program’s budget.
Brian Kim, class of 2020 and a current REACH Beloved Leader, notes that with a more formal recognition of leadership roles within the program this semester, members will feel a greater sense of responsibility as part of this unique and powerful support group on campus. There will also be more training sessions throughout the semester to ensure that each member is equipped with the right skills and knowledge to help their fellow students and guide them to the appropriate resources.
One new REACH initiative that students can look out for this fall is REACH out to REACH, similar to the General Assembly meetings held by Student Government. These meetings will be more focused on mental well-being and other health-related issues on campus, where students will have the opportunity to direct any of their concerns directly to REACH and constructively cooperate on resolving them together, as opposed to airing their grievances on online forums like the NYUAD Confessions Facebook page or going through several channels of administration.
Vamika Sinha is Features Editor. Email her at [email protected]