BIG EAST, UConn and The Zone Host Fourth Student-Athlete Wellness Forum


NEW YORK (June 8, 2022) – Aiming to promote mental wellness among student-athletes, the BIG EAST Conference, the University of Connecticut, and The Zone will partner to host the conference’s fourth Student-Athlete Wellness Forum on June 14 and June 15 on the UConn campus. The Forum will feature a diverse group of attendees, including industry leaders, campus counselors, coaches, physicians, athletic trainers, professors and athletic administrators, student-athletes participating in IMPACT Team Leadership Training and the BIG EAST Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

The BIG EAST is sponsoring the event for the first time since 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the usual annual in-person gathering for the past two years. The Student-Athlete Wellness Forum has previously been held at Providence College in 2019, Butler University in 2018, and Georgetown University in 2017.

“We look forward to building on our previous three forums as we strive to help BIG EAST student-athletes bounce back from two years of COVID and juggle the varied demands of athletics, school, extracurricular and daily life activities,” said BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackermann. “Our program this year will focus on rebuilding personal connections and helping coaches identify and manage the full range of student-athlete pressures and needs.”

The 2022 Forum will focus on the range of issues that affect the overall well-being of student-athletes, including stress, sleep deprivation, injury, mental health issues and other health issues. Speakers will detail best practices developed by NCAA and BIG EAST institutions to help ensure that adequate resources are publicized and made accessible to all student-athletes on campus.

David BenoitUConn Athletic Director, and The Zone will host a reception for all attendees on the evening of June 14. The Zone, a mental health and wellness coaching app founded by former basketball player and Columbia University graduate Ivan Tchatchouwo, allows athletes to log their moods and feelings and receive feedback powered by IA on how they could benefit from seeking help in the real world.

In the Forum’s first roundtable, titled “What is Connection and Wellbeing?”, attendees will hear from Dawn Shadron, Director of Student-Athlete Counseling and Mental Health Services at UConn; Erica Force, head of athletic counseling services at Georgetown University; and Peter J. Economou, director of behavioral health at Seton Hall University.

Coaches, student-athletes and administrators will then break out into breakout sessions led by Dr Chelsea MoralesUConn Athletics multicultural mental health clinician, to discuss the impact of social life and media on mental well-being.

The student-athletes will also meet with Seton Hall staff psychologist Dr. Yessine Griffin to discuss the importance of values ​​and boundaries and how to lead a team. At the same time, the directors will meet Dr. Samantha MorrisUConn Athlete Mental Health Clinician and Psychologist, to better understand work/life balance, how to develop a team culture that promotes connection and well-being, and internal/external motivation strategies.

Also on Tuesday, the Center for Sports Healing and Justice will host a session on “How Sports Can Heal – Trauma-Informed Coaching”.

A Wednesday morning session will be led by student-athletes and J. Roxanne Prichard, Ph.D., Scientific Director of the Center for College Sleep at the University of St. Thomas, focusing on the relationship between mental health and sleep .

Later, Jonathan Fader, Ph.D., will deliver a talk on “Fostering Connection and Motivational Interviewing”. Fader, a prominent author, coach, and speaker, has advised the New York Giants and New York Mets and uses motivational interviewing, performance training, and cognitive behavioral therapy to unlock the psychology of success.

This year’s Forum will be hosted by John Fanta, an announcer for FOX Sports and the BIG EAST Digital Network.

The BIG EAST Conference is an association of 11 nationally leading colleges and universities that promote healthy athletic competition, community service, and the pursuit of excellence in academia. BIG EAST institutions’ sports programs provide national-calibre participation opportunities for more than 4,100 student-athletes on more than 200 men’s and women’s teams in 22 sports. Founded in 1979 and based in New York, BIG EAST members are located in eight of the nation’s 36 largest media markets and include Butler University, University of Connecticut, Creighton University, DePaul University, Georgetown University, Marquette University, Providence College, St. John’s University, Seton Hall University, Villanova University, and Xavier University. For more information, visit


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