Julia Kohler has been on the executive committee of Active Minds at Concordia for two years and will be the organization’s president next fall. If that is not enough responsibility, the junior psychology major and environmental studies and English writing minor has also been chosen as one of 20 students nationwide to be part of Active Minds’ Student Advisory Committee.
According to Dr. Darcie Sell, faculty advisor for Active Minds and professor of psychology and women’s and gender studies at Concordia, Active Minds works to break down the stigma of mental health on college campuses.
“They do a lot of event planning to help address the mental health needs of our campus community,” Sell said. “They identify those needs, then work to bring speakers and hold other events to increase awareness and reduce stigma.”
Some of Kohler’s responsibilities as part of the SAC will involve traveling to Washington, D.C. for a leadership retreat in April and attending a national mental health conference in November. She will also campaign, program, and fundraise for Active Minds and communicate with the national office staff.
“The conference, it’s really just an opportunity to inspire all the chapter leaders that come and all the chapter members that come, to take something back to their school and implement something that they learned at the conference,” Kohler said. “I’ll be helping to plan that, and help coordinate programming for that.”
Helping with this conference, among her other responsibilities on the SAC, is going to provide a chance for Kohler to see how campuses bigger or smaller than Concordia approach mental health.
“I’m kind of excited to just see how mental health policy works, I’ve always been really interested in like the clinical side of psychology, because I’ve always thought that would be my career,” Kohler said.
Senior Natalie Rivera, the current president of Active Minds, encouraged Kohler to apply for the volunteer position on the SAC.
“It’s really good to go outside of your comfort zone and reach out to collaborate with other people, just because that’s the way to get the conversation rolling,” Rivera said. “It’s a way to leave campus and put your feet out there and try to get things started.”
Anyone in Active Minds could apply to be on the SAC, but Rivera specifically recommended the application to Kohler because she thought she would be particularly well suited to the role.
“Seeing Julia grow throughout the last three years, like working closely with her, has been really awesome … she picks up and does things without you really having to tell her,” Rivera said. “She cares a lot about the things she does, she’s a very great advocate. She puts her heart and soul into the things she does and I think that’s necessary with mental health.”
Sell had similar praise for Kohler.
“Julia is a good fit for SAC because she is a thoughtful and conscientious person who cares a great deal about her fellow students,” Sell said. “Her desire to truly understand others’ experiences will make her an excellent representative at the national level.”
Volunteering on the SAC may be an exciting opportunity, but it is also a daunting one for a shy student like Kohler.
“I know it’s going to be a really big growth experience. I know that I’ll be a little bit hesitant at first but I know that I’ll work through it, and then I think I’ll be great,” Kohler said.
Fortunately, being president of the Concordia chapter of Active Minds at the same time as being on the SAC will give Kohler a way to feel more secure in both positions.
“[Being president] is just going to inform a lot of what I do, give me confidence to kind of be more of a leader, and it will give me inspiration,” Kohler said. “I know we’re going to be talking a lot over email, me and my other team members on this advisory committee, so I’m hoping to learn a lot from them, learn ideas, learn ways we can fundraise better at Concordia.”
Despite the number of responsibilities Kohler will have to take on between her two leadership positions, she is grateful for the opportunities.
“Participating in Active Minds at Concordia College has been the best decision I’ve made thus far in my undergraduate years,” Kohler said. “I can only imagine how much more of these experiences I would have being apart of the [SAC].”