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The Scarlet & Black

Dean of Health and Wellness resigns as SHACS rebrands to SHAW


Eric Wood, former dean of health and wellness at Grinnell, recently resigned from his position, making Friday, April 5 his last day at the College. This comes at the same time that Student Health and Wellness (SHAW), formerly known as Student Health and Counseling Services (SHACS), has been undergoing rebranding. Wood’s departure leaves not only an important void within the Health and Wellness Administration, but also causes many plans that Wood set in motion to be placed to the side.

When asked to comment further about the rebranding, Deb Shill, director of Health Services, in an email to The S&B wrote that, after Wood’s resignation, “they were not able to meet to discuss the rebranding of SHACS.”

The rebranding happened mid-March, even though most of the student body did not hear about it until later. As of now, there has been no official statement from SHAW containing any information directed towards the student body.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) on campus at Grinnell scheduled an all-campus event in collaboration with SHAW for this Thursday, April 11, but it was cancelled two days earlier. This event, called “The State of Shaw,” was intended to expand on and explain SHAW’s rebranding. It was also going to be centered around Eric Wood, providing an explanation of his position as Dean of Health and Wellness and his intentions and projects for SHAW in the long run.

Mary Rose Bernal ’19, a coleader of NAMI at Grinnell, gives her and the organization’s insight into some of these changes otherwise unclear to the student body.

“I think ultimately the name change is the direction that Grinnell would like to go in. The idea of changing it to ‘Student Health and Wellness’ is to be more focused on the holistic wellness of a student — whether it’s with academics, sports, going to counseling, diet, everything that’s involved in wellness. So I think that makes sense for a name for future students coming in to know that that’s the goal and that students are at the center of that goal,” said Bernal.

Molly Nelson ’21, another co-leader of NAMI, explains that the name change also encompasses other administrators, such as Jen Jacobsen ’95, Wellness Director, who would otherwise not be associated with SHACS before — wellness is a broader category.

Bernal and Nelson, as well as third NAMI co-leader Kate Kwasneski ’21, agree that Wood’s resignation definitely affects their organization, as well as the plans for SHAW moving forward.

“We’re really sad. That’s I think that’s the biggest thing, because just the week before we were expressing how excited we were,” Kwasneski said, referring to Wood.

In their eyes, his resignation causes problems within the SHAW administration to get a second Dean of Health and Wellness. “It’s going to take SHAW a lot longer to start this transition and effectively go through that, and make some of the changes that they wanted to make,” Kwasneski said.

“If anything can come out of this is that the way that [Wood] was addressing his position in terms of being very actively involved with the students, and the types of models that he was planning on adopting for our college, I think, can show us a way that we can progress with someone else at the head,” Bernal said.

Miho Tatsuki ’20, a psychology major who has worked with SHAW on a series of projects, wrote in an email to The S&B how she couldn’t believe at first that Wood resigned, because “he seemed passionate about addressing distrust of school administrators among students. His resigning from the position can exacerbate the issue.” She then added: “At the same time, I can’t stop wondering whether his decision to leave Grinnell is due in part to Grinnell being a predominantly white and often (unintentionally) exclusive community. Personally, seeing professors and staff of color that I thought could look up to leave Grinnell saddens me.”

Nelson said that she hopes the administration can follow suit and have transparent communication. “I want to encourage people to try to get involved in some way. Because I do think that if we come together and are there for each other, that is going to produce the best results.”

Wood was not available for comment.

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