Holly Bean
Holly J. Bean ’20, ’13, ’09

Current position: Director, Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Southern Maine 

Holly, a just cause lecturer and director within the Recreation and Leisure Studies program at the University of Southern Maine (USM), is in Who’s Who in America. Prior to earning her doctorate, she earned a dual masters degree from USM in Mental Health Counseling and Vocational Rehabilitation. Prior to joining the faculty at USM, Holly worked as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) at Maine Medical Center for eight years managing the Hospital Elder Life Program.


  • PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Southern Maine, 2020
  • MS in Counseling, University of Southern Maine, 2013
  • BS in Therapeutic Recreation, University of Southern Maine, 2009


Title:  Mental Health and Persistence to Graduation for Postsecondary Students Receiving Campus Counseling – A Comparison Study

Abstract: Maine colleges and universities have spent much time and effort in researching student retention (Johnson, 2016).  Retention rates not only have an impact on return on investment but also impacts student graduation rates (Sousa, 2017).  The state of Maine has a retention rate of 72% for freshman, yet the New England college utilized in this study has a retention rate of 63%, which is below the state and national average of 72% (College Factual, 2015). Research conducted by The American Psychological Association (APA) and the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) at Pennsylvania State University focuses on mental health and its effect on postsecondary student success (2017).  Eighty-six percent of students with mental illnesses withdraw from college prior to completing their degree, compared with forty-five percent withdrawal rate for the general student population (Salzer, 2012).  The National Association of Student Personnel Administration (NASPA) surveyed one hundred and twelve leaders of student-affairs at two-year and four-year public and private institutions and notes that 66% of college students stated mental health as the most prominent issue they face on campus (NASPA, 2014).  Despite many reports suggesting significant increases in the number of college students seeking treatment in campus counseling centers, while presenting with increased severity of chronic mental health issues, little is known why students seek counseling and their lived experience (Brunner, Wallace, Reymann, Sellers, & McCabe, 2014; Perez-Rojas, Bartholomew, Lockard, Janis, Carney, Xiao, Youn, Scofield, Locke, Castonguay, & Hayes, 2017).   

Qualitative research seeks to understand or make sense of the world based on how individuals experience and perceive it (Wheeldon, 2010).  Qualitative methodology consisting of social constructivist and phenomenology were chosen for this study. Creating a comparison study provided a platform to compare the differences between postsecondary students who self-report anxiety and/or depression and either utilize the campus counseling center or do not and persistence to graduation. Two representative samples were utilized:  postsecondary students who utilized the counseling center (users) and those that did not (non-users). The comparison study provided richer data on the barriers, coping strategies, and impact that mental health has on the students’ ability to graduate and if the campus counseling center provides assistance in their academic pursuits. 

This study’s findings suggest minimal differences between the two representative samples in perceived barriers, healthy coping strategies, knowledge of available resources on and off campus, GPA, and classes missed due to symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.  Both representative samples offered insight into their perceived needs.  Student participant recommendations for campus resources varied from psycho-educational workshops, peer support groups, to behavioral techniques to reduce stress. Findings demonstrate that all student participants lacked knowledge of the mental health resources offered by the university in persistence to graduation.