Promoting wellness 

Valerie Tobia ’07 aspires to help students achieve wellness not only in their physical health but also in their mental well-being.

Tobia—who joined Wheaton on Sept. 19, 2016, as director of counseling and health services—is using holistic, integrated methods to support mental health that incorporate the body and respond to what individuals need, she said.

“This position speaks directly to my passions, education and identity as a public health social worker—focusing on prevention, support, programming initiatives, and linking students to needed services within Wheaton and the surrounding community,” she said.

Tobia, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and double minor in women’s and gender studies and English literature (with a focus on race and ethnicity), received her dual degree in public health and social work from Boston University. She has worked at the Justice Resource Institute, providing intensive in-home therapy and counseling within a residential program, and at Family Health Center in Worcester, Mass., as a public health social worker, where she provided mental health access, education and collaboration on primary care medical teams.

When seeking out new opportunities to grow as a professional, she came across the director of counseling and health services position at Wheaton.

“I felt immediately drawn to the commitment of incorporating the counseling and health services department and the opportunity to work with the administration and clinicians in providing services to the Wheaton community,” she said.

In her position, she serves as part of the college’s leadership team, working with internal departments and external organizations to provide appropriate and helpful services to Wheaton students.

“The wonderful counseling and health services staff and I will be available to talk with, train, and collaborate with groups and students on campus to make mental health and physical health more prominent and accessible,” she said.

Tobia said she feels “blessed and excited” to be rejoining the Wheaton community. A first-generation college student, she recalls working multiple jobs on and off campus. She served as a peer mentor at the Filene Center, worked with the Multicultural Admissions Committee, and worked as both a resident advisor and lead resident advisor. Also, she was vice president and president of the college’s AIDS prevention and education team, which engaged the campus on safe-sex practices and helped people garner access to testing and health services.

In addition, as a student, she studied abroad in South Africa at Rhodes University, and interned at an HIV/AIDS center and a preschool in the local township.

“As a graduate of Wheaton, I have an understanding of the culture, energy, challenges and opportunities on campus. I also remember what it was like being a student, and the fear, excitement, mistakes and learning that come with the opportunity to be here,” she said.

What’s her advice to new students on campus? “Be gentle with yourself during this transition time; it can be exhilarating and also intimidating. Reach out if you need support; people are here to help you. Also, expand your comfort zone, watch out for each other, always trust your gut and stick up for what you think is right, stay up late and watch the stars from the Dimple, and try something new every week.”