Resilience: Adapting and Thriving after a Crisis

11 - 11:50 a.m.

New Roots in the Texas Soil: Congolese Refugees, Plant It Forward Farms and Sustainable Urban Farming
  • Dr. Roy Vũ History Professor, Dallas College, North Lake Campus

Hundreds of thousands of Congolese refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) and the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) have recently experienced the traumas and difficulties of war, displacement, refugee camp life, resettlement and isolation. For the more fortunate, some Congolese refugees were eventually granted asylum to resettle in Houston. In their brief resettlement history, they work tirelessly to earn a decent living wage while residing in working-class neighborhoods of southwest Houston, as they adjust to living in a new country. Nevertheless, despite their overwhelming challenges and odds, the Congolese diaspora in Houston continue to persevere and demonstrate resilience and agency, as they develop their own community and retain their food heritage. Some have even turned to urban farming and home gardening, constructing their own homeland duality via Congolese foodways. Plant It Forward Farms (PIFF), a nonprofit organization in Houston, assists Congolese refugee farmers establish not only sustainable, small-scale urban farms that sell fresh and locally-grown produce, but the organization also provides farmers an opportunity to earn a modest income.

Son of Vietnamese refugee parents, Roy Vũ was born and raised in Houston. He earned his Ph.D. (2006) in history at the University of Houston. He is currently a history professor at the Dallas College North Lake Campus in Irving.

Prof. Vũ’s selected publications include co-editing “Feasted Landscapes: Sustainability in American Topics” (Kendall Hunt, 2nd edition in 2018), “Our Finite Bounty: An Anthology of Sustainability Topics” (Kendall Hunt, 2017) and “Natives of a Ghost Country: The Vietnamese in Houston and Their Construction of a Postwar Community” in “Asian Americans in Dixie: Race and Migration in the South”, edited by Khyati Y. Joshi and Jigna Desai (University of Illinois Press, 2013). Prof. Vũ is currently writing a book titled “Farm-to-Freedom: Vietnamese Americans and Their Home Gardens”. The manuscript is under contract for publication with Texas A&M University Press (2021).

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2–2:55 p.m.

The Rx Nature Connection
  • Karen Cuttill Licensed Professional Counselor, Dallas College

Have you ever wondered about how nature impacts your well-being? Has a physician ever told you to consider nature as a treatment? Is there scientific evidence that nature really does help us? If you are interested in learning how nature positively impacts your well-being – both physical and mental – come join us. We will learn what science and medicine have proven about nature. We will show how nature can support the 17 UN SDG's, especially SDG #3. Come find out what nature can do for you!

Karen Cuttill is employed as a Licensed Professional Counselor at Dallas College. She provides mental health counselling and crisis intervention for students. She serves on multiple college initiatives as well as those on her campus.

Karen’s professional interests center on mental well-being and stress management, as she helps people through counseling and psych-educational programming. She is a certified Compassion Fatigue Professional, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional and Cognitive Behavioral therapist.

She is also passionate about environmental and personal sustainability. Her motto is to leave any situation better than when she encounters it.

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3–3:55 p.m.

Taking Care of the Mental Health Well-Being of Students, Faculty and Staff
  • Dalia Blell Assistant Director, Student Counseling Services, Dallas College

Even during normal times, many people experience stress, depression and anxiety that can affect many areas of their lives, including their cognitive, relational, emotional and occupational functioning. A recent report from Mental Health of America, "COVID-19 and Mental Health: What We Are Learning,” indicates that more than 88,000 people have been impacted by anxiety and depression. In this current state of global uncertainty, social isolation, and national unrest, Dallas College students, faculty and staff are not immune. Many may experience an acute stress reaction, anxiety or trauma that may impact their ability to perform or be successful.

To support the mental health well-being of students, faculty and staff, Dallas College is launching Therapy Assistance Online (TAO). TAO is a suite of online tools for well-being, resilience and behavioral health. TAO can provide immediate access to resources, reach distance and online learners, improve outcomes and provide psycho-educational content that can be tailored for needs-based use across campus.

This presentation will feature an overview of TAO - Self Help Modules. TAO offers high production quality online educational modules with engaging videos and animations along with interactives. Educational modules use evidence-based models such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Behavioral Activation, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness and Positive Psychology.

Participants can expect to hear about how students, faculty and staff can use TAO. Participants will learn how to access the platform and how to help other use TAO’s tools in many ways including:

  • First Year Experience
  • Student Conduct Offices
  • Athletic Departments
  • Student Life & Engagement
  • Therapy Preparation Self-Help
  • Health & Counseling Center
  • Employee Wellness

I am a first-generation college graduate. I grew up in South Texas with a large extended family of mixed immigration status. I was raised to value family, education and a strong work ethic. Growing up, I spent summer breaks with my family harvesting fruits and vegetables in migrant farmworker camps in the Midwest. By the time I was 2,3 I had earned a bachelor’s degree from Pan American University and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor. I have practiced as a clinician for over 30 years in varying settings, including community mental health, crisis shelters, school social work services and higher education student support services. For the last 13 years, I have held the position of professional counselor and provided mental health services to students on the Dallas College North Lake Campus. I also serve as the Chair of the Dallas College Professional Counselors Council and have led several projects that support the mental health well-being of students, faculty and staff, including Mental Health First Aid, NOVA Crisis Response Team Training, Online Counseling Services for Students and TAO Connect.

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