Graduate Student Dissertations, Theses, Capstones, and Portfolios

Date of Award


Document Type


Granting Institution

Lynn University

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EDD)

Degree Program

Educational Leadership


College of Education

First Advisor

Kathleen Weigel

Second Advisor

Jennifer J. Lesh

Third Advisor

Natalie Capiro


The COVID-19 pandemic brought mental health to light, although college students have long been experiencing mental health struggles. First-year experience courses have been shown to relieve some of the stresses associated with the college transition (Holliday, 2014); however, the existing programming does not meet the needs of college students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the increased need for mental health services and counseling on college campuses, there is a need for additional support for students dealing with wellness concerns.

This action research study used a three-phase exploratory sequential mixed methods design. Phase One included two audio-recorded focus group interviews conducted via Zoom, one with university faculty and one with university staff. Questions asked during the interviews related to the wellness components included in a mandatory first-year course at a small, private university in the Southeastern United States and what might be missing. Participants were asked to examine the Six Dimensional Wellness model by Dr. Bill Hettler and determine which dimensions were missing from the course.

The results indicated that the current first-year course should add social, emotional, and spiritual wellness components. Phase Two included creating a wellness-based module constructed from the themes and the missing course components found in the results from Phase One. This included information on campus resources, relationships, friendships, mindfulness, stress, and anxiety. Phase Three began with a pre-test administered to all first-year students voluntarily during the first week of the aforementioned mandatory first-year class. Students were asked to work through the module and then take the post-test four weeks later during the course's

final week. The pre-and post-test questions were from the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale- 21 (DASS-21), where each item was scored on a four-point Likert scale and measured levels of depression, anxiety, and stress during the first week of class and then again during the last week of the course The research concluded that although the mean scores between the pre-and posttests for depression, anxiety, and stress decreased slightly, the p value for each showed no statistical significance between the pre-and post-tests. This showed promising results indicating that the online wellness-based module may be the first step to increasing levels of wellness in first-year students at a small, private university in the Southeastern United States. However, there is still work that needs to be done.



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