Protecting the Mental Health of Rural Community College Students: Creative Innovations in Challenging Times

Strengthening Rural Community Colleges

August 17, 2022
Protecting the Mental Health of Rural Community College Students

Image credit: Total Shape

Since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a steady stream of events (e.g., socio-political unrest, economic stressors, systemic racism, health disparities) that have created enormous pressure on higher education to sustain their mission and to support their students adequately. These pressures have been particularly sharp for community colleges in rural areas. The primary aim of the presentation is to provide an up-to-date overview of the challenges and a summary of feasible student support innovations that can be implemented and sustained in rural community colleges.

Webinar Details

Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Time: 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. ET
The webinar is available to watch on-demand below with the accompanying presentation slides. 

Speaker Information

Kurt Kurt MichaelMichael, Ph.D.
Clinical Director of Jed High School West
The JED Foundation

Dr. Kurt Michael is the Clinical Director of Jed High School, West. He recently retired as the Stanley R. Aeschleman Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Appalachian State University (ASU). He was trained at the University of Colorado – Boulder (B.A., cum laude), Utah State University (M.S., Ph.D.), and Duke University Medical Center (Clinical Psychology Internship). Dr. Michael’s primary areas of research and clinical practice are adolescent suicidology, school mental health, and rural healthcare.

Dr. Michael’s empirical work has appeared in scientific journals such as: Clinical Psychology Review, the Journal of Rural Mental Health, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Science of the Total Environment, Crisis, Preventive Medicine, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Children and Youth Services Review, World Psychiatry, Behavior Therapy, the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and The Lancet. Dr. Michael currently serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Rural Mental Health and is the Editor (JP Jameson, Co-Editor) of the first edition of The Handbook of Rural School Mental Health (Springer).

In addition to Dr. Michael’s research interests, he is a practicing Licensed Psychologist and in 2006, developed and implemented interdisciplinary school mental health partnerships titled the Assessment, Support, and Counseling (ASC) Centers in rural western North Carolina. The ASC Center was designed to serve children and families in North Carolina while at the same time, provide pre- professional and professional workforce development. Under Dr. Michael’s leadership, The ASC Centers were awarded over four million dollars in federal grants and local contracts to support their operations over the past 10-15 years, including projects supported by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education and the Institute for Education Sciences (IES). In 2014, Dr. Michael was honored for his long-term service to North Carolina as the Board of Governors recipient of the James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service.

Dr. Michael has also been a PI or Co-PI on two grants funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), including the most recently supported project with the goal of understanding place-based differences in adolescent suicide along the rural-urban continuum (PIs, Maggie Sugg, Jennifer Runkle). Dr. Michael joined the JED Foundation in July of 2022 to help oversee the scaling up of the Jed Foundation’s Comprehensive Model in the western U.S. The primary goal of Jed High School West is to provide strategic consulting and technical assistance to school districts across the Rocky Mountain West to promote emotional health and to prevent suicide among the nation’s youth. Dr. Michael is also a national consultant for the Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS) and the Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) programs, with a special emphasis on using the evidence-based approaches in rural and remote communities and schools across several states.

Diana Diana CusumanoCusumano, LHMC, NCC, RYT
Director of JED Campus & Wellness Initiatives
The JED Foundation

Diana comes from a background in higher education prior to JED where she worked for 12 years gaining experience in college counseling, student affairs and academic services. She has now worked at JED for over 5 years. In her current role she oversees the JED Campus program, which has 400 schools nationwide. She is a licensed, national certified mental health therapist and a registered 500 hour yoga teacher. Diana continually educates herself on the most up to date mindfulness and leadership practices and has taken courses most recently with Mindful Schools, Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, has her Koru Mindfulness Teacher Certification and is Dare to Lead trained.


In partnership with:



Rural Peer Learning Network Opportunity

The Rural Peer Learning Network serves in conjunction with our monthly webinars and is an opportunity to learn directly from other rural community colleges. This is an opportunity for rural community colleges to learn and collaborate on their shared practices of supporting the mental health of students, faculty, and staff.

Date: Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Time: 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. ET
Please review the details and access the article for the Rural Community College Peer Learning Network: Collaborating on Mental Health Practices at Rural Community Colleges discussion here.

Watch On-Demand

Access the presentation slides from this webinar here.