The In the Now Series brings together CUMU members to discuss critical, emerging issues and opportunities affecting our communities in a variety of session types.

Summer 2022 Series

Student success and well-being: Developing holistic and collaborative approaches to meet basic needs

Hardships related to housing, food insecurity, educational engagement, and mental health have only been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic and other intersecting issues. In preparation for another academic year, CUMU members can use this opportunity to learn about emerging strategies and approaches that can lead toward improved student success and well-being.

Real opportunities to improve access to basic needs security for #RealCollege Students

Presented by: Thomas Hilliard, senior policy analyst, The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, Temple University

In this webinar, the The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice identifies the underlying challenges that students at urban colleges and universities face and explores opportunities for systems-level reform at the state and federal levels.

The higher education community increasingly recognizes the wide-ranging basic needs and insecurities experienced by many college students and the resulting damage those insecurities inflict on academic achievement. When students or their advisors turn to public safety net programs for help, they learn how unprepared those programs are to support the needs of college students. Some programs discriminate against college students, while others prioritize paid employment over the education that can make work really pay. Even public structures for financing institutions or paying tuition expenses embed practices that worsen the struggle to maintain food or housing insecurity, child care availability, or emotional wellness. The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice develops systems-level reforms to improve basic needs security, so that students can concentrate on academic achievement and obtain the credentials they seek.

In this session, the Hope Center will identify the underlying challenges that students at urban colleges and universities face and explore opportunities for systems-level reform at the state and federal levels. The COVID-19 pandemic not only exacerbated already widespread struggles around students’ basic needs, it revealed the fragility of their financial well-being. Enrollment at community colleges and regional four-year colleges has dropped sharply since the onset of the pandemic, largely because students see getting a job in the labor market more appealing than the financial ordeal they envision after enrolling in college. With help from state and federal policymakers, however, institutional leaders can make college matriculation far less arduous for their students. This webinar will focus on policy and advocacy opportunities to improve college students’ access to basic needs security, and the strategies that could achieve them.

Tom Hilliard is Senior Policy Analyst at the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice and is responsible for the Hope Center’s state policy and advocacy portfolio. He recently served as Senior Advisor to the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education, where he managed high-priority initiatives for the Secretary. Previously, he served as Senior Fellow for Economic Opportunity at the Center for an Urban Future, a New York-based think tank, where he wrote numerous research studies on higher education and other economic opportunity-related topics.

Homelessness and housing insecurity: Putting theory into practice

Presented by: Jacen Greene, co-founder and assistant director, Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative, Portland State University

This workshop highlights CUMU’s Homelessness and Housing Insecurity Resource Guide and shares how institutions can use it to meet the homelessness and housing issues facing their students, employees, and communities.

Homelessness and housing insecurity is a growing challenge among students, employees, and community members, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. According to a 2020 survey of college students by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, nearly three in five students had basic needs insecurity and 14 percent reported homelessness. Students of color, students with disabilities, and LQBTQ+ students face even greater disparities. Students enrolled at CUMU member institutions face similar rates.

In 2020, CUMU collaborated with the Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative (HRAC) at Portland State University to establish a working group of ten CUMU member institutions with a shared commitment of developing solutions and actionable steps to address homelessness and housing insecurity. In spring 2021, CUMU developed and granted a research fellowship to HRAC to support inquiry, implement an action summit, and develop a resource guide for individuals and groups working to address homelessness.

The Homelessness & Housing Insecurity Resource Guide (PDF) is a resource to help you to engage in conversation, guide future research, and take action in support of your students, employees, and community. The resource guide provides frequently-requested materials and showcases new research and emerging best practices from CUMU member institutions. This session will overview the toolkit and share how institutions can use it to meet the homelessness and housing issues facing their students, employees, and communities.

Jacen GreeneJacen Greene is co-founder and assistant director of Portland State University’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative, a multidisciplinary research center dedicated to addressing issues related to homelessness through a racial equity lens. He previously designed and managed social innovation programs in PSU’s School of Business, and is an instructor, speaker, and author on social entrepreneurship. In 2020, Jacen co-led the development of CUMU’s Homelessness & Housing Insecurity Resource Guide (PDF).

Jacen’s books include The Rule of One: The Power of Social Intrapreneurship and Elevating Impact: Case Studies in Sustainable Business and Social Entrepreneurship. He has contributed chapters to three other books on social innovation, published in the Social Enterprise Journal, and co-authored several award-winning case studies.

He has led workshops for Mercy Corps, the Fulbright Program, and AmeriCorps, and has presented at the Net Impact Conference, VentureWell OPEN, Swarthmore Engaged Scholarship Symposium, Ashoka U Exchange, and Social Enterprise World Forum, among many others.

Jacen graduated Beta Gamma Sigma with an MBA in sustainability from Portland State University and magna cum laude with a B.A. in China Studies from Willamette University. He has worked or taught in Uganda, Tunisia, India, China, Cambodia, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

College student mental health and well-being: How institutions are addressing the growing crisis

Presented by: Marjorie Malpiede, executive director, and Dana Humphrey, associate director, Mary Christie Institute

This webinar frames the issue of college student mental health and illuminates how institutions are mobilizing to address this growing crisis.

The Mary Christie Institute is a national thought leadership organization dedicated to improving the emotional and behavioral health of teens and young adults with a particular focus on American college students. Through convening, research, journalism and advocacy, The Mary Christie Institute has become the inter-institutional epicenter for new ideas and initiatives in college-age behavioral health.

The number of young people reporting mental health issues has increased both on and off college campuses. This is likely due to a combination of factors including increased willingness to seek help driven by improved awareness and decreased stigma, improvements in psychopharmacology, and deteriorating mental wellbeing, including factors related to stress, such as academic or financial concerns. On college campuses, counseling centers are often overwhelmed by the demand for mental health services.

To address college mental health effectively, many experts suggest taking a campus-wide public health approach, one that creates a supportive campus climate inclusive of all community members and focuses heavily on preventative strategies. This session will frame the issue of college student mental health and illuminate how institutions are mobilizing to address this growing crisis.

Marjorie MalpiedeMarjorie Malpiede is executive director of the Mary Christie Institute, editor of the Mary Christie Quarterly and host of the Quadcast. As a journalist and strategist, Ms. Malpiede has over thirty years of leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. She has advised public agencies, campaigns, private companies and non-profit organizations on policy, communications, and government relations. From 2007 to 2013, Ms. Malpiede was the Vice President of Programming and Public Affairs for MassINC and CommonWealth magazine, a non-partisan research organization and policy journal. Before then, she spent twelve years as the Vice President of Public Affairs at The MENTOR Network, a national health and human services company based in Boston. She began her career at BOSTON Magazine and later worked in state government as a press aid and speechwriter. Ms. Malpiede has a Masters in Public Affairs from the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston and a BS from Drew University.

Dana HumphreyDana Humphrey is associate director of the Mary Christie Institute. Mrs. Humphrey is a public health professional with a strong background in research and programming. Prior to joining the Mary Christie Institute, Mrs. Humphrey was the marketing manager at Christie Student Health. She has worked on various public health research projects at Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences, John Snow Inc, and Boston Medical Center. Mrs. Humphrey received a Masters in Public Health from Boston University School of Public Health, and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from The Colorado College.

Checked out and stressed out: A panel on student disengagement

Presented by: Cathy Akens, vice chancellor for student affairs, University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Rebecca Glazier, professor, School of Public Affairs, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; and Alydia Thomas, DEI manager, University of Pittsburgh, and adjunct professor at Duquesne University.

This panel pulls together faculty and staff from CUMU member institutions who are on the front lines of addressing student disengagement. This discussion  highlights how they understand the issue on their campus and elevates strategies and approaches being used to re-engage students.

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education outlined the student-disengagement crisis. In it “professors reported widespread anxiety, depression, and a lack of motivation in their classrooms. Recent survey data from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health show a rise in students’ reports of their social anxiety and academic worries. Professors, meanwhile, are frustrated by their inability to reach those students.”

This panel pulls together faculty and staff from CUMU member institutions who are on the front lines of addressing student disengagement. This discussion will highlight how they understand the issue on their campus and elevate strategies and approaches being used to re-engage students.

Cathy AkensDr. Cathy Akens is the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UNC Greensboro, a role she has held since January 2018. In this role, she leads a team who oversee a wide array of programs and services that focus on impacting student success and learning through the co-curricular experience. Her work in Student Affairs focuses on the areas of student well-being, student engagement, and campus climate and inclusion.

Dr. Akens has regularly taught graduate courses in the areas of student development, campus crisis management and contemporary issues in higher education. She has been engaged in professional service and scholarship throughout her career. She has authored several book chapters and co-edited the book College Students and Their Environments, which explores how universities create culturally inclusive and engaging communities.

Before joining UNCG, Dr. Akens held positions as Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Assistant Vice President, and Director of Residential Life at Florida International University. She held other positions in residential life at both FIU and Bowling Green State University.

Dr. Akens earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Toledo and a master’s degree in college and university administration from Michigan State University. Her doctorate in higher education is from Florida International University. Throughout her career in Higher Education and Student Affairs Dr. Akens has established herself as a dedicated advocate for students, and a proven leader and mentor.

Rebecca GlazierRebecca A. Glazier is a political science professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She studies the scholarship of teaching and learning and is passionate about improving the quality of online education. Dr. Glazier is the author of “Connecting in the Online Classroom: Building Rapport between Teachers and Students” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021). She is also the Director of the Little Rock Congregations Study, a longitudinal, community-based research project on religion and community engagement.  More information about her research is available on her website: She can be reached via email at

Alydia ThomasDr. Alydia Thomas is the Diversity, Engagement and Inclusion Manager in the Office of the Provost at the University of Pittsburgh, an adjunct professor at Duquesne University, and devoted advocate for students of color. Dr. Thomas has 12 years of residential and student life experience. As the former Associate Director of Student Development and Programming in the Office of Residence Life at Duquesne University, Dr. Thomas has gained extensive diversity, inclusion, programmatic, and conflict resolution experience. The main functions of her role were to deliver student development strategies, support, and resources to student leaders and develop programming opportunities to enhance the experience of resident students.

Dr. Thomas earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications at Penn State, a Master of Science degree in Education at Duquesne University and a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Thomas’s dissertation focused on mentoring relationships for Black Women in predominately white spaces. Dr. Thomas’s research was grounded in Black Feminist Thought, a framework that centers around the idea that the intersection of race and gender creates a unique experience for Black women, because they face oppression on at least two fronts. In Dr. Thomas’s study, participants found that lack of understanding on behalf of white administrators, campus climate, and isolation were barriers for Black women seeking mentoring relationships.