College Hires Health and Wellness Director

By Joe Flaherty

Barbara McCall, currently the Campus Wellness Education Coordinator at Castleton State College, was hired as the new Director of Health and Wellness Education in March and will begin working at the College this fall.  Though the position is not new to the College, the role has remained unfilled for two years.  

“We took time to reflect on what we wanted in that role, what we needed in the College right now, whether we needed to reshape the position in any way, and then we launched into the search,” said Dean of Students Katy Smith Abbott. Given the importance of student outreach in the role of director of health and wellness, the position was changed slightly so the new director can work more closely with the Office of the Dean of Students. 

Smith Abbott explained, “Before, the director of health and wellness reported within Parton, and now she will be located right in the Dean of Students’ Office.” 

According to Smith Abbott, McCall’s background makes her well suited to Middlebury.  

“She comes out of a rich background of experience, both as an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke and her graduate work at [the University of Massachusetts Amherst],” said Smith Abbott. “So I think she comes well equipped to match the needs and the conversations that are really afoot on our campus right now.” 

The Campus contacted McCall to talk to her about her new position.

Middlebury Campus: What issues do you focus on at Castleton that you think will translate to your new role at Middlebury?

Barbara McCall: I am a generalist by trade which means I cover lots of different topics – alcohol, drugs, stress, sleep, sex, nutrition, cold and flu – you name it, I get to do it, which is really great. It means no day is the same here at Castleton or otherwise. And I think all of those topics are really going to have some relevance at Middlebury because I think they are all really pertinent to the ways that college students interact with their campus and interact with their emerging independent lives as they get ready to leave Middlebury when they graduate.

I think two of the topics that have been brought to my attention in my interview process and in my initial interactions with Middlebury folks are alcohol and social life and then sexual violence and sexual respect. And so I imagine I am going to be spending a fair amount of my time working on those two issues with a lot of the campus committees, coalitions and taskforces that have already been set up and have been primed to be having those conversations on campus. I’m excited to join in those conversations and hopefully get moving on some programming for responding to those concerns and those questions that the conversations have been bringing up.


MC: Do you have a favorite topic in college-based health education? 

McCall: The thing that gets me really excited, that I’m passionate about, is talking about sexual health, women’s health and LGBTQ health.  Those are my favorites to talk about.


MC: As a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, are there any issues pertinent to working in campus health and wellness at a small, highly selective and academically rigorous school like Mount Holyoke or Middlebury?

McCall: I think it’s a double-edged sword. What I think is so fabulous and wonderful about small, exclusive liberal arts colleges is that you are dealing with a student body that is incredibly informed, incredibly vocal and they are evolving all the time in knowledge and understanding. I think it’s such a special and inspiring place to work. What can be difficult about those same wonderful attributes of a place like Mount Holyoke or Middlebury is that sometimes you can find pockets of campus being on different pages of a book or pages of a conversation.  So it can take some real time and effort to unite folks who may be just entering into a conversation with the folks who have been having that conversation for a while and are ready to move into action. So I think sometimes uniting all people in all of the places where they are in their knowledge and their behavior can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. As I’m sure you know, when folks get ready to go on an issue or a topic, it can take a little time for [others] to play catch-up, whether the catch-up is getting stakeholders involved or alerting the campus administration to student needs or alerting students to administrative needs. I love that fired-up energy and I think sometimes it can take a little finesse to get everybody together to move with that energy in a direction that actually gets us somewhere. It’s one thing I love and find equally as challenging about schools like that.  And I’m really looking forward to returning to that high-energy, high-achieving environment at Middlebury.


MC:  In this position, you will be working under the Dean of Students at Middlebury – how is your position at Middlebury going to be different from your role at Castleton?

McCall: We’re a pretty small staff here in wellness at Castleton. There are four of us who are full-time and that’s counseling and health services. We’re an integrated center, so it’s really small compared to what you all have going at Middlebury, which means that, essentially, it’s pretty similar to working under the Dean of Students at Middlebury. I’m part of the Student Life team here – my supervisor is supervised by the Dean of Students – and I interact daily with folks from student activities and career services. We’re highly integrated in student life.  So I actually think that building those relationships here and understanding how to co-program and interact with those folks is really going to translate well to Middlebury, where I’ll still definitely get to interact with folks and will be working right alongside the folks from student life.  So that won’t be that big of a change.  It’s actually a model I really enjoy and it’s one of the things that drew me to the position at Middlebury – getting to really be integrated as a member of the student life team.


MC: What do you do in your free time and what else should the student body know about you?

McCall: I have really missed being able to go out to a coffee shop and read and just sort of people-watch – we don’t really have the setup for that in Castleton, I have to drive to Rutland to do that. And so I’m really excited to be able to do that in Middlebury.  I have a dog (her name is Maddie, I call her my canine soul mate), so I imagine I will bring her to campus to go on walks.  She loves students, she loves being on college campuses. I’m also a huge foodie, so I’m really looking forward to getting to explore some of the food culture at Middlebury on campus because I know you guys have great food service but also getting to poke around, eat at some local restaurants and check out the farmer’s market. I’m trying to be a locavore since I moved to Vermont two years ago and so I think that’s going to be really fun to expand my access to local foods and products by moving to Middlebury.