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Anti-stigma expert Andrew Szeto named director of Campus Mental Health Strategy

Message to the campus community from Provost Dru Marshall
June 30, 2016
Andrew Szeto, a research scientist at the Mental Health Commission of Canada and an assistant psychology professor will take responsibility for leading the implementation of the Campus Mental Health Strategy launched in December 2015. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Andrew Szeto, a researcher for the Mental Health Commission of Canada and an assistant psychology professor will take responsibility for leading the implementation of the Campus Mental Health Strategy launched in December 2015. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary 

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Andrew Szeto as director, Mental Health Strategy at the University of Calgary, effective July 1, 2016. Szeto will be primarily responsible for leading the implementation of the Campus Mental Health Strategy, which was launched in December 2015.

Szeto has been a member of the University of Calgary community for the last six years. From 2010 to 2013 he worked as a postdoctoral fellow alongside Keith Dobson in the Department of Psychology. Since 2013, he has been an assistant professor in the department where his research and teaching has been focused on reducing the stigma of mental illness.

Concurrently, Szeto holds the position of principal investigator with Opening Minds, the anti-stigma initiatives of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. With the commission, his focus over the past five years has been on the development and evaluation of mental illness anti-stigma and mental health awareness programs. Two of these programs, The Working Minds and The Inquiring Minds, are currently being offered at the University of Calgary and across Canada. Szeto has also been working with hundreds of first responder (e.g., police, fire, paramedic) groups in Canada to implement and evaluate mental health and resiliency programming.

Prior to coming to Calgary, Szeto completed his Master of Arts (2004) and Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology (2010) at the University of Western Ontario. He graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours in psychology (2000).

“The Campus Mental Health Strategy is the blueprint to a University of Calgary culture and community that is supportive of everyone, including those who may have poor mental health or a mental illness,” said Szeto. “I want to leverage the great programming, services, and expertise that exist at the university and hope to fill the gaps in programming and services identified in the strategy’s recommendations.”

“I believe the University of Calgary, in addition to being recognized for its academics and research, will be known as a national and international leader for positive campus mental health and well-being.”

The Campus Mental Health Strategy is the result of extensive efforts by a mental health task force, first created in 2014. The task force included both a steering committee and working group; representation on the task force included mental health experts, students, faculty, senior administrators, and community members. Szeto was a member of the working group. Broad consultations both on campus and with the external community identified areas for improvements and consideration by the university.

The 28 recommendations within six themes included within the Campus Mental Health Strategy fall into three broad categories: those programs and initiatives that currently exist that we should expand, those that we should enhance, and areas are identified where we should develop new initiatives and programs. Szeto’s work with the implementation committee that has been established will focus in the first instance on prioritizing the order of recommendations, and then on the implementation of those high-priority initiatives. Ultimately, the broader vision of the Campus Mental Health Strategy will be realized; that is, the creation of a “community of caring,” where we can learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and where individually and collectively we realize our potential.

Refer to the Campus Mental Health Strategy website for more information.

Thank you to the members of the advisory selection committee for their contributions to the extensive search for this position. The committee included Marcia Buchholz, Debbie Bruckner, Ashley Humeniuk, Rhonda Pylychaty, and Jodie Jeworski.

Please join me in congratulating Andrew Szeto on his new role.

Dru Marshall
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)