AU Press Releases

Chester named director of Alfred University wellness center

Dr. Cathie Chester

Dr. Cathie Chester

Dr. Cathie Chester, director of Alfred University’s Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC), will take on expanded duties in mid-July as director of what has been AU’s Student Health Center.

“She has been superb in her role as CWC director, and I am confident she will perform as well in her expanded role. She is an extremely capable clinician, administrator and professional,” said Dr. Norman Pollard, dean of students, in making the announcement of Chester’s new duties.

Her appointment coincides with the end of a contract between Alfred University and St. James Mercy Health, which has been providing student health services for University students for a number of years. St. James’ decision not to renew the contract serves as the impetus for the changes ahead, said Pollard.

The University will be operating the center, rather than contracting for the services, and is in the process of hiring staff to do so. The move to provide the services itself allows the University to “combine our physical and mental health services,” said Pollard. “We believe it is best for our students to offer a more holistic approach to health and well-being. This move will allow us to fully integrate the concept of wellness to better meet students’ needs.”

Combining physical and mental health services is a growing trend at colleges and universities, said Chester. “It gives us an opportunity to look more closely at improving student wellness for all on campus and to help educate students in how to maintain their own life-long wellness.”

The Counseling and Wellness Center and the Student Health Center have long shared physical space; both are located in a building on Park Street that will now be called the Crandall Wellness Center.

College health centers – Alfred University’s was no exception – do not typically treat serious illnesses or injuries; those are immediately referred to other health care providers, including hospitals and physicians, said Chester.

AU has enjoyed a great relationship with St. James Hospital in Hornell, she noted, and hopes to continue collaborating with St. James to provide students with both emergency care and specialized service referrals. What student health centers routinely deal with are minor illnesses – colds and other respiratory problems, gastrointestinal upsets, flu and other infectious illnesses, routine care, and prevention needs relevant for college students. For AU students, that won’t change. Those services will still be available on campus at Crandall, and for emergencies or more complex problems, the staff at Crandall will “coordinate care with other providers and physicians in the area,” she said.

Many of the recurring problems with college-age students arise from their lifestyle choices, and that’s where combining mental and physical health services and wellness education is a particular advantage, said Chester, because it makes the full array of services available to the students.

There is current research that indicates many of the symptoms college-age adults complain about – unexplained fatigue, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite or excessive appetite – are unrecognized signs of depression and stress. “A lot of students have never had those symptoms before, and don’t relate them to depression,” said Chester. As part of treating their physical ailments, the Wellness Center staff will also be providing brief depression screening for where indicated.

“It’s a really good way to open the door” to address problems and the potentially lethal consequences of untreated depression, explained Chester. She also envisions the wellness center doing a broader range of screening for substance abuse and other problems that constitute the typical range of health problems for college students. The Health Service staff will be instrumental in providing the early detection, appropriate treatment referrals, and follow up contacts that have been found to be most effective in helping students with potentially serious problems that would not seek help in any other setting.

Chester also said the wellness center staff will be more visible on campus and involved in more activities as part of the Student Affairs Division. “That’s just the way our division works,” said Chester, pointing out that wellness is “part of the vision and goals of the Division.”

Chester had been director of the CWC since 2007, and had been interim director for a year prior to that. A graduate of Davidson College in Davidson, NC, Chester completed an M.S. degree in community mental health at Long Island University and joined the staff of the CWC as a counselor in 1987, providing mental health counseling, crisis counseling and outreach services to students.

She earned an M.A. degree and a Psy. D. degree, both in School Psychology, from Alfred University. She is a licensed psychologist and a member of the American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the New York Association of School Psychologists.