Fighting Post-COVID Social Anxiety through ProjectConnect

ProjectConnect at Kent State at Geauga and Kent State Twinsburg Academic Center provides nationally recognized student support

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety and depression levels have been on the rise. The Healthy Minds Study for 2021-22 found that 44% of students reported symptoms of depression and 37% reported anxiety disorders.  

That is where ProjectConnect comes in. ProjectConnect is a nationwide initiative among college campuses to help students make friends and develop positive relationships to improve mental health and protect against depression and suicide.  

Students laughing on the green

Kent State University at Geauga and the Kent State University Twinsburg Academic Center started offering ProjectConnect to students in Spring 2022, in hopes of giving students a place of support. This is one of the ways regional campuses focus on providing nationally recognized student support to help students succeed in all aspects of their lives.

The initiative to start ProjectConnect on these campuses started when Kent State Geauga administrators, Julie Evey, assistant professor of psychology; Valerie Rutherford, counseling specialist and Susan Mark-Sracic, counseling specialist, noticed a need for a place where students could connect. 

“COVID isolation affected social connection for nearly everyone, especially youth,” Rutherford said.  

The program is set up to have groups of four or five students gather for five weeks. During this time, students share their thoughts and feelings on various topics. Students participate in community projects on campus and are encouraged to meet for a reunion later in the semester to continue the connections built in the program.  

“The structure of the program's meetings fosters personal and meaningful interactions, which enables students to develop deeper connections with each other,” Mark-Sracic said.

Students at Kent State Geauga

As of Fall 2023, 70 students between both campuses have participated in ProjectConnect and have felt the impact of the program.  

Annalexis Davis, a sophomore journalism major, was one student impacted by ProjectConnect. Davis started her college career as a nontraditional student in 2021 at Kent State Geauga. As Davis navigated her way through her first year of college, she realized she needed support while re-entering academic life and found it through ProjectConnect.  

“ProjectConnect helped me learn how to communicate better with the people around me,” Davis said. “It taught me how to have a conversation and to be comfortable with my personal beliefs and hobbies.”

After Davis found her footing at Kent State Geauga, she decided to transfer to the Kent Campus to continue her education in journalism. She is currently a campus editor at KentWired.

“I love being able to tell someone's story,” Davis said. “I love being part of the community and seeing the problems that are going on around us and trying to bring light to them so they can be solved.”

As Davis continues her academic career at the Kent Campus, she said she will always be grateful for her time at Kent State Geauga and ProjectConnect for giving her the skills to succeed.  

“Kent State Geauga provided me with the space to excel and learn what things I like to do in order to find the perfect career path for me,” Davis said.  

Learn more about ProjectConnect at Kent State Geauga.

POSTED: Friday, March 1, 2024 12:54 PM
Updated: Friday, March 1, 2024 02:36 PM
Tanner Poe, Flash Communications, Estelle R. Brown
Rami Daud, Bob Christy