• JUser::_load: Unable to load user with id: 31251756

Breathe Nolan

Five years ago, West Virginia University student Nolan Burch died due to alcohol-related hazing activities with a campus fraternity. His death shocked our campus and jump started conversations around Greek Life at WVU.

Over the last five years, Nolan and his family has been our polar star as we moved forward in attempt to change our campus culture, re-think Greek life on campus and keep our students safe. 

Generation Z - more than any other generation - is concerned for their health and safety. And they’re more likely to talk about it with just about anyone who cares. Because our students are concerned about these topics, you can bet their parents are, too.

In August, after months of research, WVU launched a comprehensive safety, wellness and wellbeing campaign targeted toward current students, prospective students and parents of both audiences. This campaign featured a website full of information at and new social media accounts dedicated to the topic (@WVUsafety on Twitter).

From August, we have focused on a new safety, wellness or wellbeing topic each month, allowing us to really narrow our focus on the issues our students care about. And how do we know what our students care about? Well, we asked them. We used Instagram Stories to poll our students to find that they care most about 1) active shooter preparedness and 2) mental health services.

As we closed out the year, we launched a documentary - on the fifth anniversary of Nolan Burch’s death - called “Breathe, Nolan, Breathe.” It’s 35 minutes of gut-wrenching storytelling and crucial information that would’ve likely made a difference in whether Nolan was alive today. It helped us unveil a new campaign we’re calling “Would You?” that is focused around bystander intervention resources, anti-hazing information, and more. This campaign will really get going in early 2020, and we’re developing resources for other higher education institutions to utilize moving forward, as well. More to come this year on that.

Through all of that, we were working to update our crisis communication plan to adapt to the latest trends in communications and social media.

We didn’t just focus on safety, wellness and wellbeing because our students care a lot about it. We did so because it’s the right thing to do. The reality is that our campus is a safe place. There reality is that we have resources and experts on just about every topic you could think of. However, we weren’t doing a great job of sharing those resources or experts with our campus.

Today, we’re much more up front and frank with our students and parents about issues around safety, mental health, wellness, etc. For the first time, we have consistent answers to questions around many safety topics and concerns. And we’re noticing a decrease in misinformation around these topics. We’re noticing an increase in attendance at safety and wellness events. And we feel like the message that we’re a safe campus is being received in a much better way than in the past.

Share this post:

Comments on "Breathe Nolan"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment