New director wants UWRF students to know about health and counseling services

Posted October 16, 2021

Debra Janis is the new director of Student Health and Counseling Services at UW-River Falls. Her duties include supervising office managers, counselors, interns and student workers.

Janis is from Minnesota but spent much of her time in Texas studying medicine. Before joining UWRF in June, she worked for the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Janis said she always enjoyed being in western Wisconsin and has always wanted to work in the area. Janis said the combination of location, higher education and community brought her to UWRF.

The position became open when former Director Alice Reilly-Myklebust retired last spring. Janis said the two stay in contact.

“I met her right when I first started this position and she has given me so many tips,” Janis said. “She has been super helpful so I am very, very lucky because a lot of times when you start a new job you don’t have that person.”

Janis said most students don’t know about the services the department provides. Services for students include free counseling for stress, anxiety and mental health. Health checkups are also covered at the clinic in town. Janis said she wants students to utilize the services.

“I would just recommend students take advantage of the services. Stop by, ask about them,” Janis said.

Of all the services offered, Janis said the mental health service needs more recognition. Janis said mental health topics are becoming easier to talk about. Janis said she encourages students dealing with mental health issues who need direction to reach out.

“It’s right here, it’s free and we want to help everyone,” Janis said.

Janis said her favorite part of her job is her staff. She praises her team for being team oriented and student centered. She added she loves the student community.

“The people I work with in this department are wonderful, I’ll have to say I am extremely lucky to have just wonderful staff,” Janis said.

Students have used health and counseling services to talk about COVID-19 pandemic-related issues such as stress and anxiety, she said.

“I definitely think it contributes to what’s going on but it isn’t talked about a lot,” Janis said. “It’s important to discuss because every student handles it differently, some do well and others don’t.”

The most important thing to Janis about the job is making sure students are informed of the services the department offers.

“I would just welcome students to stop by and we want our office to be a welcoming spot,” Janis said. “Most people don’t know about us and we want people to know.”