Above: Panelists Karen Kochel, Kume Goranson, Tiffany Goodman and Leslie Waller. Flanked by Associate Dean Tom Shields (left) and SPCS Dean Jamelle Wilson and moderator Kate Cassada (right).

By Julia Straka, ’21

As part of the Graduate Education Speaker Series, the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies hosted a panel titled “Promoting Emotional Health and Well-being in Adolescents” on April 19, 2018. Moderator Dr. Kate Cassada summarized the panel’s focus on steps adults can take to “build trust with and among kids... and support their academic, social, physical, and psychological development.”

Dr. Cassada, SPCS Associate Professor of Education and Assistant Chair of Graduate Education for Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, raised the idea for a panel during a faculty meeting about current issues in the field of education. The idea was born when rising levels of depression, anxiety and self-harm among adolescents were discussed.

Four specialists from a variety of fields served as panelists:

Dr. Cassada herself has extensive experience with middle schoolers. She worked as a teacher and principal for Hanover County Public Schools before becoming a professor.  

She explains that trusted specialists from outside of the school were invited with the intention of extending university boundaries into the Richmond community. One of those specialists, Leslie Waller, GC’11, also happens to be an SPCS graduate. 

The panel covered topics such as adolescent academic development, peer structures and bullying prevention. Panelists discussed solutions based on science and numbers, not just “what sounds or feels good,” said Cassada.  

Panelists also gave parents and teachers tips on modeling strong and healthy relationships and their importance to adolescent confidence and autonomy. 

In addition to local parents, teachers, and other Richmond school representatives, graduate and undergraduate SPCS students comprised the audience.

Cassada hopes that teachers and students alike can use the panel as a continuation of their education and source of professional development by learning from panelists with diverse backgrounds. By applying new knowledge to their everyday practice, educators can serve students better and become leaders in their fields. She hopes that the panel provided a space for participants not only to share their own experiences, but also to gain fresh insights they can spread within their own communities.  

Cassada explains the importance of the panel subject: “Adolescence is a challenging time,” she said. “We have a moral obligation to pursue development of healthy kids.” 

The event brought parents, teachers, education students, and community members together to hear and share experience and knowledge about contributing to the health and well-being of adolescents.