New initiative on barriers to learning

For Immediate Release: Aug. 29, 2016

BLOOMSBURG — A donation from a local philanthropist is supporting training to help educators identify students who are confronting non-academic barriers to learning.

Susan McDowell, Selinsgrove, has committed a total of $200,000 to the Bloomsburg University Foundation to establish the Youth Mental Health First Aid program as part of BU’s McDowell Institute for Teacher Excellence in Positive Behavior Support.

The funding supports a coordinator of school-based behavioral health within BU’s College of Education, outreach to school districts, and a copy of the related textbook for each education major.

The Danville Area School District is piloting the program during the 2016-2017 academic year, with the goal of training all administrators, counselors, teachers, nurses and coaches. McDowell and four BU faculty members completed the training, which was offered to all student teachers and school counseling students before they entered the classroom this fall. BU is the first teacher preparatory program to certify all student teachers.

“This is the heart of what Susan McDowell was talking about as the visionary partner in Bloomsburg University’s ,” said Elizabeth Mauch, dean of BU’s College of Education. “The reality is that our future educators know how to teach, but they don’t know how to address behaviors of students who are facing issues that weren’t even recognized in previous generations, issues such as anorexia, parental divorce, sexual abuse and bullying. We are not doing our education majors any service if we don’t teach them about these issues and how to identify them.”

Susan McDowell committed $2 million to the BU Foundation in 2012 to establish the McDowell Institute, designed to equip educators with strategies, practices and experiences to effectively support the academic, social and emotional growth of all students. From serving at-risk teenagers through the Susquehanna Valley House of Hope to serving on the Geisinger Advisory Board, McDowell’s career and philanthropic interests focus on service to youth and the larger community. She was granted an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from BU in May 2016.

BU’s Corporate and Continuing Education Office will offer a seven-hour certificate program in Youth Mental Health First Aid open to anyone who works with youth ages 12 to 18 on Oct. 18 and 20 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. For information, contact 570-389-4420 or

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 10,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.