As the Wisconsin School of Business’ first-ever embedded mental health provider, Julie Phillips is quickly proving to be a welcome resource to students, faculty, and staff. As a complement to WSB’s existing student success team, which provides holistic support to Business Badgers both inside and outside the classroom, Phillips offers counseling and other clinical therapeutic services aimed at helping students prioritize their mental health and wellbeing.
A licensed marriage and family therapist with nearly 30 years of experience in counseling and higher education, Phillips—who joined WSB in November 2022—also holds an MBA and is uniquely positioned to understand the challenges and stressors facing business students and give them the tools to achieve professional success while maintaining a healthy mindset.
WSB: Why is it important to have this position here?
Julie Phillips: As an embedded mental health provider, you’re actually part of the community you’re supporting, rather than being an outside entity. I think that’s definitely an advantage, in that students see an office within their building. It’s faster and easier for them to access these services because I’m right there in Grainger Hall and I’m only seeing students from the Wisconsin School of Business. It’s more convenient for them and they feel more comfortable. I also think that helps a lot in terms of reducing the stigma of seeking out mental health support.
Another advantage of being embedded is that I have a better understanding of the school’s culture. I’m familiar with the instructors that students have, I know the policies and the timelines surrounding internship applications, and I understand the common stressors and elements that really play into that. So, students don’t have to go over all that in order for me to understand where they’re coming from.
WSB: What services do you offer?
JP: I primarily provide direct counseling services to undergraduate students at WSB, and those appointments can be either virtual or in-person depending on comfort levels and schedules. I also provide four hours of “Let’s Talk” sessions each week, which are open to all students from pre-admission to graduate. During these sessions—which are less formal than individual counseling—students can drop in and talk about whatever they wish. They don’t have to make an appointment and there’s no paperwork. As a result, some students might use that as a bridge or gateway to more routine outreach programming and counseling.
We also have a myriad of services available through University Health Services, from support groups to a 24/7 crisis line, should a student need further resources.
WSB: How else are you supporting wellbeing across the school?
JP: I’m available on a consultative basis for faculty, staff, and instructors who might benefit from hearing about something through a mental health lens. Since joining WSB last year, I’ve been doing meet and greets so that everyone within the school becomes familiar with me and feels comfortable referring students my way. Many instructors are now including my contact information and a description of my services within their syllabi, which is really helpful. I also put on workshops for staff and faculty where I’m able to help manage some of their concerns about students—such as how to identify the signs of depression—or provide helpful tips on practices like self-care.
WSB: What’s stood out after your first few months on the job?
JP: I’ve been very impressed with the student population, in terms of their willingness to consider and participate in the therapy process. From what I’ve experienced, students are not hesitant to directly reach out for services or individual counseling. That’s a shift we’ve seen since the pandemic, and I think that’s encouraging.
In addition, having WSB administration really support and advocate for this position—as well as clearly see its function in ensuring student success—has gone a long way in further destigmatizing mental health services. For students, seeing that the school is committed to their mental health is a very welcome development.
I’ve also just found WSB to be so welcoming and accommodating, and it’s really a joy to be here.