A Network of Support
Brian Van Brunt authored an extensive piece on how campuses explore various models for responding to student concerns in 2019 for Connections magazine, a publication of the Association of College and University Housing Officers — International. He says it is imperative for case managers to help students engage in effective problem-solving by identifying appropriate solutions.
“Case management is a solutions-focused approach to assisting students with a wide variety of needs,” he says. “As such, case managers are concerned about what is and what can be done, rather than a focus on what was and what has held back the student in the past.”
Once a report is submitted electronically, a staff member does an initial review and assigns a level of CARE to a trained staff member within Advocacy and Success, or partners located in specific areas such as Fraternity and Sorority Life and Residential Living. Staff can immediately view a connected online history to previous CARE or conduct issues.
“These tracking systems are one of the tools we utilize — along with expert departmental advice — to help inform a potential risk,” Cauthen says. “The CARE file manager will read everything thoroughly and determine the next steps.”
CARE staff operate under the guidance of a file manager manual. Often, next steps include personally reaching out to the student and engaging them directly on the concern.
“From that contact, we have a template for how we meet with students,” Cauthen adds. “If it does not warrant an immediate safety concern, we work with them on the best way to get connected to specific resources. We try very hard to empower students to make those connections themselves because we believe it’s a critical part of growth.”
An electronic CARE report provides staff a complete picture of the concern. Within the software, a student’s demographic information is populated, including ethnicity, gender, academic classification and major, status as an athlete, student veteran, and fraternity or sorority affiliation. Trained staff are also able to access a student’s related history, incident description, primary and secondary concerns, contact information, supporting documentation, and level of care determined.
“We work hard to educate faculty, staff and students on our role because there can be some confusion,” says Poole, who has taken on more direct engagement with students and families as her role has expanded under Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Chris Miller. “We are the entry point and conduit to addressing a student’s needs.”
One of the most common places of referral for students is CAPS. Birma Gainor ’95, M ’01, M ’03 currently serves as director but has ties to the department dating back more than 20 years.
Working off referrals through the network from individuals or campus partners, CAPS becomes involved at a student’s request or in cases of immediate harm.
“Having been here before we had anything like [the CARE Network], I can honestly say it’s so much better and improves safety on campus,” Gainor says. “We have multiple avenues for student contact and safety, and it’s been a big help to CAPS.”
Cauthen added that although the work can often be labor-intensive, the stories of students and families who have been positively impacted through the CARE Network resonate with staff and are the ultimate rewards.
“The Clemson Family understands this is a shared responsibility,” she says. “Our goal is to support student success and build resilience. CARE is fostered through conversations with faculty and staff. They’re really concerned for each other and for our students. We have an incredible village of CARE. It’s always been that way at Clemson.”