Attending Western Kentucky University became a dream of Olivia Jones the first time she visited campus during a high school tour. She remembers being encouraged by her parents to follow her dream and credits her amazing college experiences at WKU to their support. Jones, a Morgantown, KY native, completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Disorders (CD) in May 2021 minoring in American Sign Language, and now she studies Speech Language Pathology (SLP) in graduate school at WKU.
When asked about her favorite part of being a Hilltopper, Jones said, “I’ve found my people, and I am at home. I’ve made lifelong friends and connections.” Part of these connections includes Jones’ involvement with a new project, the “Trauma-Informed Workgroup,” that aims to assist faculty and staff in responding appropriately to students who experience trauma, which is heightened by COVID-19 and racial injustice. Spearheaded by Social Work Associate Professor Dr. April Murphy and supported by the Dean of the College of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tania Basta, the inspiration for the workgroup came from an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on a trauma-informed return to campus amid a pandemic.
According to Murphy, “We have to do better by students. We all know they are struggling with the impact of COVID-19 and racial injustice, so we must figure out how to meet them where they are.”
Jones, a student representative for the workgroup, feels being educated and informed about trauma impacts not only the WKU campus but the entire community. She said, “Trauma is sensitive, and I’ve been able to apply the soft skills I learned in the classroom as an undergraduate in CD to the project. Our workgroup hopes to educate individuals about how to recognize, respond, and deal appropriately with trauma.”
Jones said she especially enjoys seeing several disciplines across campus work together on the project, with each being just as crucial as the next. For her, Hilltopper Spirit means one word – family. She said, “Being a part of this workgroup and campus community consisting of classmates, professors, and community members is like being a part of a family.” Other members of the workgroup include WKU faculty members Kimberly Green, Aquesha Daniels, Lacretia Dye, Whitney Harper, Erin Warfel; community Members Tami Brucato, Heather Webb, Bibiana Parra, Alma Smajlovic, Christy Bryce; and student members Kristen Hayes and Cody Stelmach.
Interim Department Chair for Communication Sciences and Disorders, Dr. Kimberly Green, said, “Interprofessional collaboration is an essential part of what we do as health and human services professionals. As a first year SLP graduate student, Olivia has really had a first-hand experience in how to engage collaboratively across disciplines. Through her assistance with the Trauma-Informed Workgroup, Olivia has not only observed various campus and community-based professionals, but she has also provided valuable input from the student perspective. Her experience working in real time among a diverse group of professionals is sure to set the stage for promoting continued collaborative opportunities.”
Murphy said, “I could not think of a better student to be a part of this project. The prevalence of trauma is very real on this campus, whether we are talking about students, staff, or faculty, and it is heavy. Olivia can light up a room with her positivity and that is something that is needed right now. She is one of the most positive students I have worked with, and she is so incredibly eager to learn, and willing to just jump in and make a meaningful contribution to the team. I can’t wait to see what is ahead for her, for this workgroup, and for those who step foot on this campus. Something amazing is happening and I am grateful to be a part of it.”
For more information about the Trauma-Informed Workgroup, email April Murphy at April.email@example.com