Hailing from Manhattan’s Upper East Side, LSA junior Rebecca Rosenthal seems to naturally thrive under the fast-paced lifestyle that accompanies the pressure of a busy schedule and a variety of extracurricular commitments.
Double majoring in English and Political Science, Rosenthal plans to attend law school after she graduates. But when she’s not writing papers or studying into the early morning hours at the library, she’s focusing on creating positive change on campus.
She joined the Wolverine Support Network, a peer-led mental health support group piloted last winter, during its inaugural semester. She has since then played a major role in developing and expanding the program. Next semester, she will serve as a director of the program.
WSN places participating students, at random, into confidential, weekly support groups. Student leaders are trained to facilitate dialogue between peers coping with a wide variety of mental health issues, including eating disorders, issues of gender or sexuality, anxiety and depression. WSN also offers “Kickback Fridays” every other week for both members and the campus community at large, in which leaders plan activities such as yoga or other stress-relieving activities as relaxing alternatives to other weekend plans.
“When I came to college, I was lucky enough to find a niche and a group especially through joining a sorority that I fit into quickly,” Rosenthal said, referring to her sorority, Delta Delta Delta. “So if I ever needed anything, I had friends to turn to, but I met a lot of students through different classes and activities who I could see were struggling with anxiety or depression — and they were things that I knew really well — and I could tell they had nowhere to turn.”
Rebecca said she sees WSN as an important alternative resource for students who may not feel comfortable making appointments at Counseling and Psychological Services. She noted that student leaders are trained to direct students to other professional resource centers on campus, such as CAPS or Sexual Assualt Prevention and Awareness Center, if they identify a need. Currently, WSN has 150 active members and 60 student leaders.
“The hour I lead group every week — which is Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m. — that’s the highlight of my week, and it’s the one hour of my week where I feel like I can be myself because I know the students enrolled in my group don’t judge anything I’m saying,” Rebecca said. “I think it’s helped me being a leader just as much as I hope it’s helped them.”
As a director of WSN, she plans to both expand membership and promote mental health awareness on campus by reaching a larger audience of students and encouraging them to attend Kickback Friday events.
In addition to WSN, Rosenthal also helped found Salad’s UP, a salad restaurant on East Liberty that was opened in December 2014 by then University seniors Robby Mayer and Max Steir. She currently works with managing, menu planning, marketing and design for the restaurant, which is set to expand this summer.
“It’s been crazy,” she said. “We had no idea what we were doing when we opened a restaurant, but it’s been so fun, and I love that.”
Rosenthal credits her passion and drive as an active member of the campus and Ann Arbor community to her parents as well as her grandfather, who was student body president during his time at Michigan.
“I’ve always been a busy person,” Rosenthal said. “Some people might say I stretch myself too thin, but I love being busy. I thrive when I’m busy because I’m more focused.”
“Sure, some nights I’m exhausted — I’m getting two hours of sleep and I’m miserable, and I wish I could stay at home and watch Netflix for six hours and go out with my friends more, but I wouldn’t change it,” she continued. “I’m so thankful for every opportunity I’ve been given at Michigan and that I’ve done outside of Michigan as well, and I think that I’ve become a more well-rounded individual.”
After college, she plans to continue impacting positive social change, either in the nonprofit or human rights law fields.