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Morgan State University: Bridging the gap between student awareness and vital resources

Morgan State University
Morgan State's counseling center is located in Holmes Hall Suite 326.

By Brittany Gardner with SGJC Student News Network

BALTIMORE, MD - Several months later, memories of the October 3 shooting on the Morgan State campus are still vivid for those students who experienced it.

“I saw the bullet come through the window at Murphy [Fine Arts Center] and I ran behind the stairs with a bunch of people,” says a Resident Assistant at Thurgood Marshall Hall who asked to remain anonymous. “I felt like we were nonchalant about it until we saw it on the news.”

And several months later, student reviews of one of the resources available to help Morgan students process this traumatic event are mixed.

“How many students do you know [who] actually go to the Counseling Center?” asks the anonymous RA. “We have a satellite office here on the second floor in Thurgood, but no student has used it all [semester]. They posted on Instagram but it's not effective enough.”

Within the last two years, mental health literacy has been widely promoted on campus and the Counseling Center has hosted mental health first aid training for staff and student faculty members which educates them on the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and how to handle situations appropriately as they arise.

Dr. Sonya Clyburn, a licensed clinical psychologist and director of the Counseling Center at Morgan State, shares that she has hired seven people to add to the staff within the last two years. Clyburn says the hiring was prompted by seeing over 100 students on the waitlist to receive counseling services.

But some students question whether adding more staff to the roster will be enough to induce more people to use the Counseling Center’s services. “Sometimes,” said the RA, “I feel like they need more relatable people. For some students, the administration team can be a bit intimidating because some students may feel like they will be penalized and unable to fully [express] themselves.”

“We have students who do not feel comfortable coming here for whatever reason and for that, we have outside support [and] alliances with community partners so that they can actually receive help,” says Dr. Clyburn. “We've done lots of programming and workshops. Last year, we saw over 1,800 students per scheduled appointment.”

After the shooting, she says, “we were out in the community alongside the social work department, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and other community partners.”

While the resources are there for Morgan students, the question is, are these resources taken seriously by a large number of the student body? Interviews with students reveal a distinct ambivalence.

“Morgan was pushing the Counseling Center’s services through email and Instagram,” says Guycilia Louis-Charles, a graduating senior. “I knew one person who was there during the shooting and they didn't need the services. I also didn't need the services for the incident, but maybe for other things.”

“I wish the Counseling Center was something that we could brag about,” she says. “I don't know anyone personally who has used the Counseling Center so that’s also why I am kind of afraid.”

She adds, however, that she regrets not using the Counseling Center, especially when she is feeling stressed out with classes and assignments as she prepares for graduation this month. “I really wish I would have taken the time out to go there and have a session.”

Morelys Urbano, a student, has used the Counseling Center’s services before. Urbano shared that the last time she needed to use the Counseling Center was while she was feeling overwhelmed. The center at the time provided service as a walk-in appointment and was able to cater to her needs.

“I heard about it through word of mouth but if I did not know, I would not have been able to show up because they don't really have a presence on social media,” says Urbano. “They do a good job with having a variety of providers that you can relate to. For the most part, I've encountered Black women and I feel like having someone that you can relate to will allow you to open up, [but] when it comes to social media marketing, the Counseling Center has not been successful with reaching the student body and they should probably invest in someone who is the age range of the students to promote and create awareness for the resource, but beside that, the emails have been able to reach us.”

Dr. Clyburn is well aware of the disconnect. “We've partnered with student organizations and other departments. On Mondays in the Student Center, we have Mindful Mondays as well as billboard stands posted around campus.” she says. “[But] with marketing, it is difficult and we can definitely do a bit more because there are students struggling and we are doing what we can to assist them.”

As a solution, the Counseling Center is actively looking for assistance with marketing. Dr. Clyburn says “It is not just a Counseling Center issue, it is a campus wide issue initiative. We're leading with effort but the student body needs to participate.”

This story is published in partnership with The Baltimore Banner as part of the Baltimore News Collaborative, a project exploring the challenges and successes experienced by young people in Baltimore. The collaborative is supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (https://www.aecf.org). News members of the collaborative retain full editorial control.

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  • On October 3, 2023, five people were injured in a mass shooting on Morgan State's campus amid Homecoming Week.The gunshot victims — four men and one woman — are between ages 18 and 22. Four are Morgan State students.The content on this page not only provides information from public officials, but also violence prevention strategies, counseling services, and mental health resources for students, staff, parents, and community members.