TAM YAB College Panel Highlights

By: Isabel Garlough-Shah

Every month, the Technology & Adolescent Mental Wellness (TAM) Youth Advisory Board (YAB) provides professional learning opportunities to its members. TAM members are given a voice to which professional development topics are provided. For the April 19th meeting this year, TAM members expressed interest in speaking to current undergraduate students to gather insights on navigating the college experience and admissions process. 

Four panelists ranging from freshman to senior undergraduates spoke at the TAM meeting. While panelists had varying majors and research experiences they had similar college insights to share with the YAB. 

Panelists answered initial questions about their background including majors and hometown, but the conversation led to the theme of expectations and how things may change. Reese Hyzer, the TAM YAB Coordinator, asked panelists “What were your aspirations as a high school student, how did that change, and how did you get to where you are now?”

For panelists like Isabel, expectations for college changed greatly. She originally wanted a degree in acting and musical theater. However, after realizing this wasn’t what she wanted to do for a career, she went to UW-Madison with an undeclared major. Her freshman year she discovered her passion for communication research and pursued this path throughout her college career. 

“When I went to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Luckily my freshman year I took a class in Mass Media and Gender and from there I was set down the path of my current majors [Journalism and Mass Communications and Gender and Women studies]. I joined a media content coding job that year and that’s what got me sent down the path of Communication Research” said Isabel.

As discussions continued TAM Members began to ask their own questions. One of the main questions was “How did you choose your college?”

Natasha, TAM YAB alum, spoke on the wide net she casted for college applications. She applied for colleges across the U.S. and abroad to give herself options on programs, culture, and size. Her final decision for the University of Michigan came down to speaking with students at the college and personal preference. 

“I realized I wanted a larger school, a research institution, “school spirit”… Your college is somewhere you’ll be for 3-5 years, so you want it to be somewhere you see yourself being happy. It’s always a good idea to talk to students at the schools you’re interested in to get a more candid look at what attending that college would be like” said Natasha. 

Near the end of the meeting, Reese asked the panelists “How do you balance school-work, friendships, and a job in college?” This led to the resounding answer of “ Google Calendar!” from the majority of panelists.

Panelist Jessica added onto this answer by emphasizing how college is a time to prioritize those life-long friendships! Having a Google Calendar especially helped her navigate the balance of a social life and keeping up with assignments and exams.

Current TAM members are preparing for their upcoming college applications. Because of this one of their biggest questions was “What advice do you have for those who are applying to college?” Natasha had this parting advice. 

“I think for those who are applying to college soon, I understand how stressful and overwhelming the college application process can be, but trust that you will get in somewhere. Make sure you are taking care of yourself and take time to make memories your senior year before you and your friends go off to college” 


TAM Funded Project Updates

By: Garrett Waterman

In 2018 the TAM program funded 6 projects surrounding how technology can support adolescent mental wellness. This work has inspired novel research and built strong communities. Below are highlights of these funded TAM projects and what these groups have been working on since. 

Dr. Celeste Campos Castillo

Dr. Celeste Campos Castillo studied the reluctance of children to alert a parent or guardian that a friend was struggling with social media. Dr. Campos Castillo has also worked to understand how COVID-19 has exacerbated these issues. Today, she is continuing her research on adolescent mental health by analyzing racial and ethnic differences in telehealth


WeRNative’s funded TAM project evaluated multimedia messages for adolescents struggling with suicidal ideation and depression. They work to design effective messaging programs to aid teens in mental health struggles. WeRNative is continuing to develop their website, Q&A, text message service, and social media to build a community and help adolescents with their mental health. 

Dr. Keshet Ronen

Dr. Keshet Ronen’s TAM-funded project sought to understand how group counseling intervention services can prevent depressive symptoms in postpartum adolescents. She developed an intervention program based on de-stigmatization and reduced isolation. Dr. Ronen’s work today includes evaluating a mobile health intervention for early detection of childhood malnutrition in Kenya.  

Media Power Youth

Media Power Youth created a team of high-school students to explore how social media habits shape communication norms of their peer groups. They formed on ongoing advisory board to continue to incorporate youth voices in their social media curriculum. They are continuing to evolve their curriculum based on youth recommendations to boost youth wellness online

Dr. Megan Ranney

Dr. Megan Ranney’s TAM-funded project developed intervention media to prevent adolescent cyber conflict. With feedback from TAM and youth advisory boards, she developed a survey to understand youth technology use patterns before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Ranney is continuing her research to create interventions to prevent peer violence and depressive symptoms among at risk emergency department adolescents.

Dr. Yalda Uhls

Dr. Yalda Uhls, founder of The Center for Scholars and Storytellers, began her TAM-funded project to understand how a popular teen-facing TV show can impact adolescent mental wellness. Dr. Uhls is continuing to develop “second screen content” to better address mental health in entertainment.