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The University of Texas at Austin Division of Student Affairs

Texas Well-being

Syllabus Creation

One way to support your students’ mental health and well-being is to exercise care when creating your course syllabus. Eberly, Newton, and Wiggins (2001) suggest that syllabi should serve to address three domains of need in higher education: administrative, course development and interpersonal. Unfortunately, most syllabi do not address all three of these domains. “[T]he syllabus is viewed not as a learning tool but as a calendar of events. If more effort was put into constructing the syllabus initially, faculty would find that the stage is better set for the implicit teaching-learning contract on the first day of class, as well as directing course expectations for the remainder of the semester” (Eberly et al., 2001 p. 69).

To empower students to take a more active role in their learning, syllabi can even be created collaboratively (Hudd, 2003). For ideas about how to make a more student-centered syllabus, check out “Syllabus Solutions: Examining Your Syllabi for Evidence of True Student Centeredness.

Additionally, work to create syllabi that support student well-being by doing one or more of the following:

  • Instead of copy-and-pasting a statement about mental health and resources from another source, write your own personal statement about the importance of mental health and resources available to support it. See example below.

Sample Mental Health Resource Statement

Your well-being is a priority in this class – above even learning the content. College and its coursework are difficult for everyone, and this difficulty can become overwhelming. If you are struggling to cope, please reach out to me, the TA, a friend or family member, or another resource. I’m not trained as a professional counselor, but I can help you get the support you need. Here are a few resources that may be helpful:

  • 24/7 Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) Crisis Line
    512-471-CALL (2255)
  • Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC)
  • CARE (Counselors in Academic Residence Program) Counselor, CMHC counselors located in all academic schools and colleges
    Our college’s counselor: _____________________________
  • 24-Hour Nurse Advice Line
    512-475-NURS (6877)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • University Health Services (UHS)
  • Student Emergency Services
  • Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL)

Please do not hesitate to reach out. My job as an instructor is to help ensure everyone in this class learns, feels cared for, and knows that they belong in this course and at UT.

  • Consider writing similar statements related to students with disabilities and include information about campus academic supports and religious holidays.
  • Include your email address so students can reliably reach you. Let students know your realistic turnaround time for responding to email.
  • Include your pronouns so students know how to refer to you and feel welcomed to share their pronouns.
  • Include a land acknowledgement to demonstrate respect for the presence of Indigenous Peoples of Texas. View example of a land acknowledgement endorsed by UT’s Faculty Council.
  • Use language that is…
    • Supportive (we vs. you)
    • Positive (do vs. don’t, can vs. can’t, etc.)
    • Inviting (“Welcome to ____”, “Looking forward to…”, etc.)
  • Conduct a syllabus review to examine your use of language and make visible who your syllabus is designed to serve.
  • Provide clear, realistic learning outcomes and make sure all content to be taught relates to one or more of them.
  • Provide suggestions for how to effectively learn in the class (e.g., reviewing notes after class, quizzing yourself on the content, teaching the content to someone else).
  • Be prepared to be flexible in scheduling exams and assignments, readings, etc. Consider including a statement that shows students you are committed to being adaptable, for example:
    This course will reaffirm one of the core values here at UT Austin: Responsibility. Our responsibility to ourselves and each other is to put our humanity in the forefront of our academic pursuits. With that being said, this semester I commit to being adaptable in this time of great need, which is reflected in the course policies around attendance, grading, and assignments/exams. If you experience any hardships such as illness, accident, or family crisis, please know that these policies may be amended, and therefore, you should communicate with me as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. If for any reason you do not feel comfortable discussing with me, please visit Student Emergency Services.
  • Allow for one or more mental health days during the semester. (A mental health day is when a student can miss class with no questions asked. They can simply let you know they need a day off for their own well-being.)
  • Ask for and incorporate student feedback related to the schedule, assignments, readings, etc.
  • Don’t set major exam dates or major project/paper due dates AFTER a break (e.g., spring break, Thanksgiving break). Instead, set these dates BEFORE these breaks. (Students don’t want to spend their entire break preparing for an exam or finishing a project/paper.)

For more resources related to drafting effective syllabi, see the Center for Teaching and Learning’s An Effective Syllabus page.

For more information about required and recommended syllabus components, see the UT Provost’s Office Your Syllabus at UT Austin page.

Check out this sample syllabus to see how one UT professor effectively incorporates language that supports student well-being and promotes a growth mindset.

sample syllabus

Here’s a list of Resources for Students you can adapt to attach to your syllabus and post in your Canvas course. (See this example from the Cockrell School of Engineering.)

quotation marks graphic used to show a quoted is next

The syllabus, like the information at the end, when it’s copy and pasted, and it’s the same regarding disabilities, religious service, mental health, whatever, I don’t feel comfortable talking because I have to have this conversation with all of my professors at the beginning of every semester, and some of them I straight up just never tell them about what I need if it’s copy and pasted because I know how that conversation’s going to go, and it usually does not go well. But if they put in a personal note of how open they are and what they’re willing to do, then it’s a lot better. I think that is not something that ever should be copy and pasted, saying how much they give attention to disabilities because it’s really, really hard for students to be able to talk to professors about it, and if you couldn’t even take the time to write out “come see me,” then it’s just like I don’t want to talk to you about this.
— Student

References and Resources

Altman, H. B., & Cashin, W. E. (1992). Writing a Syllabus. IDEA Paper No. 27. Retrieved from

Dechavez, Y. (October 2018). It’s Time to Decolonize that Syllabus. Los Angeles Times.

Eberly, M. B., Newton, S. E., & Wiggins, R. A. (2001). The Syllabus as a Tool for Student-Centered Learning. The Journal of General Education, 50(1), 56–74.

Gurung, R. A. R., & Galardi, N. R. (2021). Syllabus Tone, More Than Mental Health Statements, Influence Intentions to Seek Help. Teaching of Psychology.

Hudd, S. S. (2003). Syllabus under Construction: Involving Students in the Creation of Class Assignments. Teaching Sociology, 31(2), 195–202.

Supiano, B. (March 2021). Teaching: How Your Syllabus Can Encourage Students to Ask for Help. The Chronicle of Higher Education (Teaching Newsletter).

Weimer, M. (January 2018). As You’re Preparing the Syllabus… Faculty Focus.

Various articles from Faculty Focus about effective syllabus creation.

The whole student