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International Students & Mental Health at RCAD

International Students &
Mental Health at RCAD

Project Narrative

International students constitute 22% of Ringling College College of Art and Design. While the studying abroad experience can be quite enjoyable, adjusting to life in a new country and educational model can pose significant challenges, which can take a huge toll on these students' mental health. Foreigner students in the U.S. rely heavily on the college to find resources. Being part of this demographic and an active leader in the community, I became curious to know, “How do international students interact with mental health services at Ringling College of Art and Design?” and “What improvements (if any) can be made to improve the delivery of mental health resources on campus for international students?” I carried out this project as part of my undergrad thesis.

Project Narrative

International students constitute 22% of Ringling College College of Art and Design. While the studying abroad experience can be quite enjoyable, adjusting to life in a new country and educational model can pose significant challenges, which can take a huge toll on these students' mental health. Foreigner students in the U.S. rely heavily on the college to find resources. Being part of this demographic and an active leader in the community, I became curious to know, “How do international students interact with mental health services at Ringling College of Art and Design?” and “What improvements (if any) can be made to improve the delivery of mental health resources on campus for international students?” I carried out this project as part of my undergrad thesis.

Project Narrative

International students constitute 22% of Ringling College College of Art and Design. While the studying abroad experience can be quite enjoyable, adjusting to life in a new country and educational model can pose significant challenges, which can take a huge toll on these students' mental health. Foreigner students in the U.S. rely heavily on the college to find resources. Being part of this demographic and an active leader in the community, I became curious to know, “How do international students interact with mental health services at Ringling College of Art and Design?” and “What improvements (if any) can be made to improve the delivery of mental health resources on campus for international students?” I carried out this project as part of my undergrad thesis.

Project Narrative

International students constitute 22% of Ringling College College of Art and Design. While the studying abroad experience can be quite enjoyable, adjusting to life in a new country and educational model can pose significant challenges, which can take a huge toll on these students' mental health. Foreigner students in the U.S. rely heavily on the college to find resources. Being part of this demographic and an active leader in the community, I became curious to know, “How do international students interact with mental health services at Ringling College of Art and Design?” and “What improvements (if any) can be made to improve the delivery of mental health resources on campus for international students?” I carried out this project as part of my undergrad thesis.

The challenge

To produce a UX research and service design report containing institutional recommendations and mock-up visualizations to help Ringling best serve international students. 

The challenge

To produce a UX research and service design report containing institutional recommendations and mock-up visualizations to help Ringling best serve international students. 

The challenge

To produce a UX research and service design report containing institutional recommendations and mock-up visualizations to help Ringling best serve international students. 

The challenge

To produce a UX research and service design report containing institutional recommendations and mock-up visualizations to help Ringling best serve international students. 

My role

UX Researcher

Service Designer

My role

UX Researcher

Service Designer

My role

UX Researcher

Service Designer

My role

UX Researcher

Service Designer

CLIENT

The Peterson Counseling Center at Ringling College of Art and Design

CLIENT

The Peterson Counseling Center at Ringling College of Art and Design

CLIENT

The Peterson Counseling Center at Ringling College of Art and Design

CLIENT

The Peterson Counseling Center at Ringling College of Art and Design

Research Methodologies

A mixed-methods study was developed to capture all nuances of an intrinsically diverse demographic.

Quantitative

I conducted a close-question survey to establish a quantitative groundwork. Responses were fully randomized as the survey was emailed to all international students at RCAD through the International Student Office's official email address. Totaling 37 responses, the collected sample represented 13% of the total international student body. All responses were voluntary, anonymous, and confidential to remove potential biases. Key findings were:


  • 87.3% of research participants claim to know how to access mental health resources on campus

  • 53.3% of surveyed students claimed to have already tried mental health resources on campus.

  • Most research participants considered that accessing mental health resources is moderately or greatly easy. 21.7% of participants chose “extremely easy,” 39.2% chose “very easy,” 30.4% chose “somewhat easy,” with only 8.7% choosing “not easy at all.”

  • Only 8.7% of surveyed students rated their experience with mental health resources as “extremely helpful,” and 17.4% rated it as “very helpful.” The majority of respondents stayed within the mid-side of the range, with 30.4% rating their experience as “slightly helpful” and 39.1% rating it as “somewhat helpful.”

  • 61.4% claimed not to know what steps to follow in case of a mental health emergency.

  • More than half of the surveyed students (54.5%) feel uninformed about seeking mental health resources in the Sarasota community, while 27.3% feel “slightly informed,” 13.6% feel “somewhat informed,” only 4.5% feel “very informed,” and 0% feel extremely informed.

Research Methodologies

A mixed-methods study was developed to capture all nuances of an intrinsically diverse demographic.

Quantitative

I conducted a close-question survey to establish a quantitative groundwork. Responses were fully randomized as the survey was emailed to all international students at RCAD through the International Student Office's official email address. Totaling 37 responses, the collected sample represented 13% of the total international student body. All responses were voluntary, anonymous, and confidential to remove potential biases. Key findings were:


  • 87.3% of research participants claim to know how to access mental health resources on campus

  • 53.3% of surveyed students claimed to have already tried mental health resources on campus.

  • Most research participants considered that accessing mental health resources is moderately or greatly easy. 21.7% of participants chose “extremely easy,” 39.2% chose “very easy,” 30.4% chose “somewhat easy,” with only 8.7% choosing “not easy at all.”

  • Only 8.7% of surveyed students rated their experience with mental health resources as “extremely helpful,” and 17.4% rated it as “very helpful.” The majority of respondents stayed within the mid-side of the range, with 30.4% rating their experience as “slightly helpful” and 39.1% rating it as “somewhat helpful.”

  • 61.4% claimed not to know what steps to follow in case of a mental health emergency.

  • More than half of the surveyed students (54.5%) feel uninformed about seeking mental health resources in the Sarasota community, while 27.3% feel “slightly informed,” 13.6% feel “somewhat informed,” only 4.5% feel “very informed,” and 0% feel extremely informed.

Research Methodologies

A mixed-methods study was developed to capture all nuances of an intrinsically diverse demographic.

Quantitative

I conducted a close-question survey to establish a quantitative groundwork. Responses were fully randomized as the survey was emailed to all international students at RCAD through the International Student Office's official email address. Totaling 37 responses, the collected sample represented 13% of the total international student body. All responses were voluntary, anonymous, and confidential to remove potential biases. Key findings were:


  • 87.3% of research participants claim to know how to access mental health resources on campus

  • 53.3% of surveyed students claimed to have already tried mental health resources on campus.

  • Most research participants considered that accessing mental health resources is moderately or greatly easy. 21.7% of participants chose “extremely easy,” 39.2% chose “very easy,” 30.4% chose “somewhat easy,” with only 8.7% choosing “not easy at all.”

  • Only 8.7% of surveyed students rated their experience with mental health resources as “extremely helpful,” and 17.4% rated it as “very helpful.” The majority of respondents stayed within the mid-side of the range, with 30.4% rating their experience as “slightly helpful” and 39.1% rating it as “somewhat helpful.”

  • 61.4% claimed not to know what steps to follow in case of a mental health emergency.

  • More than half of the surveyed students (54.5%) feel uninformed about seeking mental health resources in the Sarasota community, while 27.3% feel “slightly informed,” 13.6% feel “somewhat informed,” only 4.5% feel “very informed,” and 0% feel extremely informed.

Research Methodologies

A mixed-methods study was developed to capture all nuances of an intrinsically diverse demographic.

Quantitative

I conducted a close-question survey to establish a quantitative groundwork. Responses were fully randomized as the survey was emailed to all international students at RCAD through the International Student Office's official email address. Totaling 37 responses, the collected sample represented 13% of the total international student body. All responses were voluntary, anonymous, and confidential to remove potential biases. Key findings were:


  • 87.3% of research participants claim to know how to access mental health resources on campus

  • 53.3% of surveyed students claimed to have already tried mental health resources on campus.

  • Most research participants considered that accessing mental health resources is moderately or greatly easy. 21.7% of participants chose “extremely easy,” 39.2% chose “very easy,” 30.4% chose “somewhat easy,” with only 8.7% choosing “not easy at all.”

  • Only 8.7% of surveyed students rated their experience with mental health resources as “extremely helpful,” and 17.4% rated it as “very helpful.” The majority of respondents stayed within the mid-side of the range, with 30.4% rating their experience as “slightly helpful” and 39.1% rating it as “somewhat helpful.”

  • 61.4% claimed not to know what steps to follow in case of a mental health emergency.

  • More than half of the surveyed students (54.5%) feel uninformed about seeking mental health resources in the Sarasota community, while 27.3% feel “slightly informed,” 13.6% feel “somewhat informed,” only 4.5% feel “very informed,” and 0% feel extremely informed.

Qualitative

14 interviews with students and 3 interviews with staff members.

Key sound-bytes:


  • “It’s tough to understand what the scheduling form is for when filling it out. It’s not very intuitive”, “It is unclear which option you should pick for first appointments or follow-ups.”

  • Interviewees often linked these perceived difficulties with visual cues. They referred to the instructional materials, posters, and pamphlets in the waiting room and all around campus as “text-heavy,” “overwhelming,” and “not very obvious.”

  • “I have no idea what kind of therapy we are getting; it’s not stated on the websites or presentations they offer, which is frustrating.”

  • “My disappointment is that when I compare those services to services you can get in a clinic, they first diagnose you with your issue so you can know how to treat it. But here, it's just like you are sitting in front of someone while you talk and that’s it, they don't really tell you what sort of treatment you are doing so you can track if it's effective.”

  • “So it would be great to have like a transition program into at least welcome to healthcare in Sarasota, this is how it works, this is what primary health doctor is, this what you usually say when you are booking an appointment, this is the difference between urgent care and ER, how do you book an appointment with a specialist, where do you find them, what is a co-pay, how much is the co-pay usually, what happens when you call 911, etc.,"

  • “I am unsure what to say when I try to book an appointment off-campus, and I feel they don’t quite understand what I am saying over the phone because of my accent, so they keep asking me to repeat what I say, which makes me even more nervous."

  • “You literally just get to a point where you just stay in misery and frustration, dragging yourself to classes, waiting for an appointment off-campus because you have spoken to everyone already, and nobody felt any responsibility for helping with the situation.”

  • "I wanted to get an emotional support animal, but different offices gave me different information, I discovered new requirements each step of the way. It would have been useful if the information was given all upfront, written somewhere, each requirement. It was a waste of time and a lot of money.”

Unobtrusive Observation

I conducted unobtrusive participation and archival reviews of various documents found along the research process.

Mapping The User Journey

I identified six user journey stages international students go through while reviewing collected data.

Insights

  1. There's a need to simplify messaging, interfaces, and visual cues. Students are generally well aware of the availability of resources, but many still encounter doubts when booking counseling appointments. They usually need to ask clarifying questions to help them navigate the interface of the official booking form. This information must be communicated clearly and concisely through language and visual structure that students understand.


  1. Interactive touchpoints must be explicit, clarifying expectations, possibilities, and limitations up-front. Students' expectations for specialized care often differ from the short-term generalist model offered at the Peterson Counseling Center and mySSP. This information must be readily available up-front as early as possible in the student's user journey to avoid complications that later arise due to frustration, stress, and potential inefficient use of resources.

  2. Students need support through acculturation with healthcare-related protocols in the U.S. Students would greatly benefit from understanding mental health-related terminology and healthcare logistics in the U.S., standard cultural practices when communicating with medical providers, the billing system, and insurance structures. 


  3. There's a pressing need to ensure support for the most vulnerable and least resourceful international students. When they don't find the help they need at Ringling and don't have the resources to go for off-campus treatment, these students often find themselves in a helpless loop. One of the major pain points is the long waiting periods for consultations off-campus, along with other financial, legal, and bureaucratic obstacles that hinder their search for well-being. Developing strategies and potential cross-departmental collaborations that support this at-risk demographic is necessary.

A New Service Blueprint

Based on insights, I developed a new ideal service blueprint for mental health services at RCAD.

Recommendations & Visualizations

ACTION #01

Creating a unified and consistent visual identity for all communications the Peterson Counseling Center delivers. Deliverables must include a style guide specifying a color palette, graphic identity, and verbal identity, along with visualizations of posters, pamphlets, and slides, a 1-page hand-outs/roadmaps that facilitate answers to common questions, a 1-page roadmap for navigating mental health resources on campus, a 1-page roadmap for navigating mental health resources off-campus, a 1-page roadmap for understanding insurance and billing, 1-page basic acculturation facts about healthcare protocols in the U.S.

ACTION #02

Redesigning the booking form for usability. Buttons can be separated into sections/sub-headers that are self-explanatory for students: “Requesting your first appointment this academic year…” Or “Schedule follow-up”. An interface design that uses a logic-branching may also be an effective and more user-friendly way of leading students through the form.

ACTION #03

Including informative presentations that directly address healthcare protocols in the U.S. and Ringling during International Student Orientation Week and ESL classes. Topics may include how the healthcare system in the U.S. is structured, what the difference between urgent care and the emergency room is, what a primary health doctor is, how to go about booking appointments with specialists, what basic insurance terminology means (co-pays, deductibles, etc.), what happens when you call 911, etc. Presentations may also establish a common groundwork of expectations, highlighting the Peterson Counseling Center's services and those it cannot provide. Deliverables must include a slideshow/presentation offered during International Orientation Week.

ACTION #04

Ensuring that information that addresses international students is readily available and consistently updated. In this way, international students can consult resources before their arrival on campus and at any time during their tenure at Ringling. Deliverables must include an FAQ section for international students on the Ringling Health Services website.

Let's work together!

maferbencomo1@gmail.com

maferbencomo1@gmail.com

© Mafer Bencomo 2024