Identifying At-Risk Students | Webster University

Identifying Students Who Need Help

What to do if you encounter a student who needs assistance or displays troubling behavior...

Tips for Faculty & Staff: Possible Emergencies

  • We recommend that you report behavioral concerns about students to one of the key contacts listed on this page as soon as possible.
  • Call Public Safety at 314-968-7430 for assistance in non-emergencies. Public Safety is available 24/7 and can contact other staff as needed. Call Public Safety at 314-968-6911 immediately if you are ever feeling unsafe.
  • Be Prepared! Consult the Classroom Disruption Policy within the Student Code of Conduct on the Webster web site.

Tips for Faculty & Staff: Prevention

  • Phrase feedback positively whenever possible.
  • Understand that some students lack basic "life skills" and are playing "catch up."
  • Refer students to the Reeg Academic Resource Center for time management and study skills.
  • Check in with your students regularly and create a climate where it is safe for students to come to you if they are getting overwhelmed.
  • Encourage use of office hours and help sessions.
  • Consult with a counselor or one of the other key contacts as needed.
  • Model, and expect students to utilize, good stress management skills.
  • Encourage student involvement in campus events and campus clubs.

Reference: Cyprian, Dr. A., LeGrand, K., McGee, S., Shaffer, S. Identifying the High Risk Student, Auburn University-Montgomery PowerPoint presentation, Retrieved May 28, 2007 from the ACCA-L LISTSERV.UGA.EDU

The Warning Signs of Student Distress and Troubled or Inappropriate Behavior

Take a close look at the student's appearance, behavior, and friends for the following signs:


  • Loss of interest in previously important activities
  • Caring less about personal performance
  • Recent drop in grades, missed classes, poor attendance, repeated tardiness
  • Talking/writing about suicide or violence toward others
  • Unruliness and disrespect of University authorities
  • Changes in sleep patterns; too much or too little
  • Abrupt changes or wide variations in mood; angry and hostile, overactive and excitable or withdrawn and passive
  • Increasing secrecy about actions, friend possessions
  • Hidden evidence of drug use such as bottles, pipes, and/or pills of unknown origin, etc.
  • Obvious withdrawal from family, friends or interests
  • Stealing, lying
  • Excessively watching violent movies on TV or computers and/or reading violent materials
  • Giving away possessions
  • Coming to class intoxicated
  • Decreased concentration
  • Increased disorganization


  • Friends who are, in your judgment, bad influences


  • Smell of alcohol on breath
  • Unusually frequent use of breath mints
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Runny nose or frequent coughing

How to Talk to Students about Your Concerns (non-emergency)

Privacy: Talk in private when you and the student have time and are not preoccupied

Honesty: Be frank about your concerns, sharing what you observe without judging.

Limits: Be clear about the limits of your ability to help. It is not your role or responsibility to counsel students, but you can help them get the support they need.

Timing: If a student is receptive to seeing a counselor, provide them with the phone number, offer them access to your phone so they can make an appointment, or accompany them to our Counseling Center. Examples of beginning a dialogue with a student might include: Sounds like you are really struggling with ________. Many people find it helpful to talk in confidence with someone who is outside of the situation. I want to help you get the help you need and deserve. Suggest that a student seek help instead of telling or ordering them to. Inform the student of our counseling services and tell them that students visit the Webster University Counseling Center for a variety of reasons.

The Reality Nationwide 

The number of students entering college with a prior psychiatric history or a documented disability continues to increase. Many chronic psychiatric disorders present for the first time in late adolescence and early adulthood. With support, students have the opportunity to succeed. 

(National College Health Assessment, 2007)

When to Contact Counseling

  • A student is depressed
  • A student is unable to control emotions and/or behavior
  • A student's weight and/or eating behavior is of concern
  • A student's substance use is of concern
  • A student appears to be in an abusive relationship
  • A student is having difficulty grieving a loss
  • Or whenever you are concerned about a student, even if you are unclear about what's going on with the student and/or what your specific concerns may be

Contact Names & Numbers

To report violations of Student Code of Conduct, contact:

  • Kimberley Pert, Interim Head of Webster University's Title IX Office, 314-246-7780
    If Kimberly is not available, contact:
  • John Buck - Interim AVP Student Affairs & Dean of Students, 314-246-2020 

For safety issues, contact:

  • Rick Gerger - Director of Public Safety, 314-968-7130

To discuss students who need Academic Assistance, contact:

  • Erica Ellard - Director, Reeg Academic Resource Center, 314-246-7702
  • Carolyn I. Brown - Assistant Director, Reeg Academic Resource Center, 314-246-7668

To discuss undergraduate students at the Webster Groves campus who may be at risk, contact:

  • Justin Barton - Director, First-Year Experience and Undergraduate      Persistence, 314-246-7966 

To discuss International Students who may be at risk, contact:

  • Bethany Keller - Assistant Director, Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs, International Student Success Committee Chair, 314-246-7649

To refer a student to Counseling or to discuss a student with Emotional/Mental issues, contact:

  • Patrick Stack - Director of Counseling/Life Development, 540 Garden Avenue, 314-968-7030
  • Samantha Sipple - Assistant Director of Counseling and Life Development, 540 Garden Avenue, 314-968-7009
  • Counseling Hours: - Monday and Tuesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

- Compiled by Sandy Davis, M.Ed., PLPC