Illustration Courtesy of Dhiyaa Al Jorf.

Introducing the Department of Student Success and Well-being

The Gazelle delves into core of the newly-established Department of Student Success and Well-being to find out how it operates and how it can benefit students.

Nov 28, 2021

On Sept. 27, 2021, Tina Wadhwa, Director of Student Success and Well-being, sent out an email to the NYU Abu Dhabi community introducing the Department of Student Success and Well-being. The Gazelle sat down for a conversation with Wadhwa, Dr. Remy Shanker, Health Promotions Specialist and Jessica Bowers Chukwu, Associate Director of Student Success.
“The Department of Student Success and Well-being broadly is [giving] students holistic support, so they can experience success, whether that is personal success or academic success,” noted Wadhwa. “We ... strive to meet that vision of empowering students to experience academic and personal success ... Health Promotions ...serves to raise mental health and well-being awareness across the institution, as well as reduce risk on campus and sort of foster a culture of mutual care and respect [while] the [other] functional area is called Student Success, [which] is really about one-on-one coaching so students can reach their goals.”
Wadhwa, along with Kyle Farley, Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Michael Martinez, Dean of Students, identified a gap with institutional support for skill building. In response, they structured this space for students to reach their set goals through the Student Success and Health Promotions Focus groups composed of students, faculty, staff and alumni in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, who were all involved in structuring the department.
The coaches at the office of Student Success follow a sustained model of engagement that requires collaborative efforts with Health Promotions specialists and regular meetings with students for skill building, stress management and mental health support.
According to Dr. Shanker, the Health Promotions designs inclusive opportunities to enhance physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing of students. This may include normalizing university struggles, promoting a campus culture of mutual care and respect and appreciating unique pathways of success.
“[In the Health Promotions area], some of the goals that I would say we have is first of all, disseminating accurate and evidence based health information, then capacity and competency building for our initiatives and programs and to empower [students] to take care of their own well-being, destigmatizing mental health, and raise awareness for students to really explore well being as a holistic model,” explained Dr. Shanker.
Dr. Shanker then added on the importance of student input in the planning and development of new Health Promotions initiatives: “We believe that everyone has different lived experiences. [We] obviously come from different backgrounds and have different ways of approaching things … Students are our biggest guiding force, of course, and that is basically our target audience, so [that is] how we survey for feedback [with] a lot of these focus groups. [We] check in on students with how they’re looking at a particular topic, so perspective matters, and how digestible a concept can be to them,” shared Dr. Shanker. “It’s important for us to understand the trends … and this is exactly how we design our initiatives.”
In addition to mandatory programming like consent and sexual health education and bystander intervention training, Dr. Shanker and Azam Ahmed, Health Promotions Coordinator, helped design programming for World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Awareness Month. Their work also extends to collaborative events with the Career Development Center, the NYUAD Health Center, REACH, and the Athletics Department.
There is also a new focus on annual programming for the First Generation College Celebration Day to celebrate and acknowledge students who are first in their family to pursue an undergraduate degree:
“This is an area that is near and dear to my heart,” shared Bowers Chukwu. “One [thing] … that I really want to do is to train faculty and staff on how to best engage with first generation, low income students, [including] what does that look like, what are best practices, here is what these students are experiencing, here are the nuances particularly with first year and low income students at highly selective institutions. I want to develop a community for these students to engage with each other and to talk about their experiences.”
“We have detailed, granular conversations with students to really identify what success looks like for them … because the process might not be linear, [one’s] process to success is not meant to look like other people's processes,” noted Bowers Chukwu. “Students can sign up [for a session] with us redefining what success means to me. [The coach and student work on] time management, imposter syndrome, faculty engagement, and some of my favorite conversations include recognizing and really celebrating the things that [students have] done.”
“[The goal is] self authorship of success,” explained Wadhwa. “You have the agency and autonomy to define success in what feels, what resonates with you, what feels important to you and what is tied to your values but also tied to your lived experiences,” Wadhwa stated.
Stefan Mitikj is a Senior Communications Editor and Staff Writer. Email him at
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