Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Higher Education Policy and Student Affairs

Committee Chairperson

Jason Wozniak, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dana Morrison, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jacqueline S. Hodes, Ed.D.

Committee Member

John Elmore, Ph.D.


In this paper, I explore neoliberalism as an ideological condition of American society and the ways in which it may contribute to the current student mental health crisis. Specifically, I consider neoliberalism’s effects on the perceived value of social engagement and the consequential amount of effort students put into creating and maintaining meaningful relationships. The hypothesized connection is as follows: neoliberalism, an ideological underpinning of American society, focuses on personal gain rather than collective good and on individual rights rather than public cooperation. I argue that as a society, our obsession with the principles of neoliberalism means that we necessarily devalue social engagement. Because social engagement is positively correlated with good mental health and isolation is positively correlated with poor mental health, a logical conclusion is neoliberalism may be contributing to the student mental health crisis. Through my philosophical perspective of holistic development and critical reflection as keys to student empowerment, I propose the Student Engagement and Healthy Minds (SEAHM) Module as one way to address the student mental health crisis. The goals of the SEAHM Module include: To provide a space for students to engage with ideas of neoliberalism and mental health in a format that does not cause additional burden on students’ limited time; to educate students about neoliberalism and how it influences their experiences; to engage students in critical reflection; to equip students with tools that will help them to foster community in their lives; and to help students cope with isolation and/or mental health issues.