Charting the future: 3 universities team up on mental health

Grants from the Lilly Endowment will help more than a dozen institutions in the state of Indiana tackle key initiatives.

Three private Indiana universities are combining forces on a not-for-profit mental health initiative on their campuses courtesy of an $8 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, DePauw University and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College are forming the MINDful College Connections consortium to help improve students’ access to telehealth services, counselors and psychiatrists – something that many small private institutions struggle to provide because of limited resources.

“Indiana’s colleges and universities face a myriad of challenges as they work to fulfill their educational missions while adapting to growing financial pressures, rapid demographic and technological changes, and evolving needs and demands of students,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “We are pleased with the creative and collaborative approaches the colleges and universities are taking to address these challenges and seize opportunities to better serve their students, institutions, communities and the state of Indiana.”

Some 5,000 students will benefit from the unique partnership of three very different institutions: the STEM-focused Rose-Hulman and the liberal-arts-based DePauw and St. Mary-of-the-Woods, an all-women’s Catholic college who are all in close promixity in west-central Indiana. Over the next five years, the trio will be addressing best practices and implementation of mental health initiatives that include training, preventive care practices and other services to students in need.

“We are so appreciative of the fact that Lilly Endowment has recognized the need to address our students’ current and future mental health service needs,” said Robert Coons, President of Rose-Hulman. “High anxiety, stress, and depression have been growing issues in U.S. higher education for the past decade. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided additional student mental health challenges that need to be addressed. This grant enhances our efforts.”

Charting the future

Each of three institutions received more than $2.5 million from the foundation as part of the Lilly Endowment’s Charting the Future for Indiana’s Colleges and Universities. This third and final phase of support from an overall pool of $138 million includes $70 million toward various projects and efforts at 16 small-to-midsize colleges to improve students sucess.

Aside from boosting mental health efforts, the goals of the Foundation’s disbursements are to:

  • Boost persistence and completion rates, especially for lower-income, first-gen and students of color.
  • Provide more relevant workforce opportunities to adult learners through training and networking.
  • Better prepare middle school and high school students for higher education.
  • Improve career path offerings to include high-interest fields to better prepare students.
  • Further promote and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and increase students of color.
  • Share administrative services to reduce institutional cost

Here is a look inside the other eight large-scale projects that are happening at other Indiana institutions through the help of Lilly Endowment grants:


Through its Butler Ventures initiative, the university is launching a Division of Professional Studies and EdVision Ventures that will boost Butler’s scope in helping connect adult learners with workforce opportunities while encouraging entrepreneurial ventures.


One of the missions of Goshen’s Expanding Inclusive Education in Elkhart County plan is to create a joint Master of Social Work degree program with Bluffton University. It also will focus its grant strategy on inclusion, engagement and internships for students and faculty at school corporations.


With it Sycamores Achieve plan, Indiana State is teaming up with Ivy Tech Community College – Terre Haute (ITCC-TH) to improve advising, retention and completion efforts for underserved and first-generation students. The two already have a Pathway to Blue program that gives ITCC-TH students the opportunity to go from community college to ISU students as sophomores. This would better align those efforts.


Through its Indiana Digital Crossroads (IDC), Purdue is developing a “network of regional hubs that use data science to bring together students, faculty, industry partners and community leaders.” By introducing students to real world experiences and finding solutions to complex problems in manufacturing, they can gain knowledge and skills to build a strong future. The effort includes getting more Black, first-gen and high school students involved in those careers.


One of the big buzzwords in higher ed is retention, and this coalition plans to use grant money to explore how to keep students in the system through data analytics. By understanding their patterns for leaving or stopping-out, the institutions can better develop plans for interventions.


The two universities, along with Drake University in Iowa and North Central College in Illinois will be developing a Central Shared Services Organization to look at how to lower their administrative costs and come up with best practices where certain line items and functions might be unnecessarily inflated.


Seeking to bridge gaps between students and workforce needs, Vincennes has put together a Developing a Workforce Ecosystem for Industry 4.0 in Indiana plan that will focus strongly on robotics. The goal is to build a pipeline of skills from K-12 through higher ed for students to gain pathways to careers in manufacturing and logistics.


In its Restoring Hope, Restoring Trust plan, Wabash is creating several plans to help boost DEI, including the recruitment and retention of students of color, putting social justice and diversity as priorities in research and curriculum and working to foster cultural programs throughout its community.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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