K-State Counseling Services launch University Life Café Web site

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    A new Web site is giving K-State students more ways to express themselves while offering a variety of resources related to college students’ needs.
    University Life Café is an interactive Web site that allows students to stay connected through expression. Students are able to share thoughts, ideas and work – such as poems and art – with other students on the site.
    K-State is the first university in the country to have an interactive Web site like this, which students helped create.
    The site is available to the general public, but only those who are current members of the K-State community via electronic IDs are allowed to use the interactive components such as blogs. Barbara Pearson, assistant director of counseling services, said this will allow K-State users to keep their identities protected and private while on the site.
    Students can create a profile then contribute to the site in a variety of ways. They are able to express themselves by adding artwork in a section of the site titled “Student Brew” or by posting stories, commentary and questions in “The Blog.” Students can also keep informed on upcoming campus and Manhattan-related events in the “Events” section and look up informative modules and downloadable tips on “Bookshelf.” The final section of the site, “Discover Yourself,” lets students make assessments on  university health and learning.
    Pearson said University Life Café was created for students to access a wide array of information. She also said today’s college student is very comfortable engaging in a variety of online activities.
    “Many students have been doing these things since they were young, and they have become quite accustomed to communicating with friends, family and others using the Internet,” she said.
    Student input for the site was gathered from a student advisory board, focus groups and a two-day retreat attended by the students and faculty. Pearson said representatives from other universities commented on student and faculty commitment and enthusiasm when the site was presented at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Campus Grantee Conference in Phoenix earlier this month. She said the representatives were surprised on how ready K-State faculty and students were to contribute to the Web site.
    “They stated that K-State appeared to have a lot of community spirit and dedication,” Pearson said. “Their comments reaffirmed the type of students and faculty drawn to K-State.”
    Pearson also said students are encouraged to participate in all aspects of the Web site, especially “The Blog.”
    “Students identified the need for student articles as well as for articles by a professional staff,” she said. “Students believed that a blog would personalize and enhance student participation. Other students reading these articles can realize that they experience similar problems and not feel as isolated.”
    She also said students can receive help from their peers, which they might not have otherwise. While students are able to receive help, Pearson said the site does not provide therapy or offer counseling. It is informational only. Students seeking professional counseling help are encouraged to do so by contacting K-State Counseling Services.
    Special projects coordinator Dana Maxwell said she was excited to work on the Web site because she said it was a way for students to help students.
    “I wanted to learn how we could break through the stigma and effectively run a site that allows those who may not walk into sites on campus for help,” Maxwell said. “We expect students will find this site a very rewarding place to hang out, and it will help build a community with distance learners as well as K-State’s other campus locations.”
    Pat Caruso, practicum student at counseling services, said he became interested in working on the Web site because of the project’s ingenuity and its potential to have a real effect on campus.
    “I think that University Life Café will not only become an excellent place for students to express themselves creatively, but will also be a tremendous resource for student wellness issues on campus,” he said.       
    Caruso said the most exciting thing for him since he has started on the University Life Project has been the enthusiasm surrounding the Web site.
    “Those working on the site are full of great ideas to implement,” Caruso said, “and students have expressed a lot of interest in utilizing the Student Brew and Blog pages.”
    Students can check out University Life Café at www.universitylifecafe.org.

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