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Feature Story
reed magazine logoDecember 2010

Finding Balance continued

Clute believes that the impetus for a change in a student's behavior must come from within. But she can help students explore new techniques for achieving balance in their lives. "I provide information, encouragement, structure, and support," she says.

She is also developing a peer-counseling program that will recruit upperclassmen to serve both as role models and as resources for students who are seeking ways to enjoy Reed's intensity without burning out on it. The ideal peer counselors, she says, are not goody-two-shoes, but students who have overcome problems and found their own solutions. "We don't want preachers," she says. "We don't want judges. We want people who can serve as resources."

Talking it Through

BREAKING BREAD. A friendlier atmosphere in Commons helps students refresh, recharge, and tackle that age-old nemesis, the New York Times crossword.

For several decades, counselors at Reed and other colleges faced a maddening bureaucratic dilemma. Insurance companies demanded that students be given a psychiatric diagnosis before paying for counseling sessions. "The old model was, you could only see a counselor if you had a diagnosable problem," Dean Brody says. "The model was predicated on pathology as a prerequisite for getting help. So you couldn't just come to talk."

Reed's system eliminates third-party insurance billing for counseling sessions, thereby removing the mandate to pathologize issues—to the relief of both students and counselors, who can concentrate on solving problems as opposed to categorizing them.

Reed now has 10 FTE counselors for a student body of approximately 1,400, which is 10 times the national average for higher education. "That ratio allows us to expand our focus," says Brody. "In addition to trying to fix problems, we can devote substantial resources to preventing problems from happening in the first place."

Counseling sessions, which are strictly confidential, take place in a brand new health & counseling center, located on the northwest corner of campus, in a building that formerly housed a doctor's office.

The center now offers free acupuncture and naturopathy, in addition to primary medical health services, counseling, and psychiatric medication prescription.

Just as students no longer have to saddle themselves with a "problem" in order to see counselors, staff and professors no longer have to wait for problems to develop before they take action.

"Now we don't wait for a problem," says Brody. "We look at the overall pattern and if we don't like the direction we see, we intervene. Our response should be rational. It should be thoughtful. Sometimes it may be no more than sitting down to talk. But even a small response like that can have a big effect."

Commons Sense

If you haven't eaten at commons in a little while, you may be in for a surprise. On a recent afternoon, a hint of fennel mixes with the aroma of Korean barbeque. Students roam the light, airy serving area (known as the "servery") inspecting the salad bar or tasting soup in little paper cups. Fresh fruit, fancy bottled beverages, pizza, sandwiches, a grill, fresh-baked goods—there's plenty to choose from. Given the friendly, appetizing atmosphere, it's hard to believe that during the academic year, commons serves approximately 15,000 meals per week.

Debby Bridges, general manager of Bon Appétit, has worked at Reed for 10 years. "Our mission is to create community around food," she says, sitting at a table in commons overlooking Cerf amphitheater. "We create food that's healthy, simple, tastes good, and that didn't have to travel far from its origin. The key to a community is sitting down and breaking bread together. So we try to create a place where the community can come together and share food."

reed magazine logoDecember 2010