Death of a Student: Dealing with Competing Interests

  • Jodi Constantine Brown California State University, Northridge
Keywords: death, suicide, administration, policy, student, Administration, Suicide, Mental Health


When I accepted roles of Associate Chair and Director of Online & Offsite Programs in the Social Work Department in August 2013, it meant taking on additional academic administrative responsibilities as well as continuing my teaching, albeit in a reduced capacity. The excitement and nervousness about my new role quickly transformed into a life-changing experience when in my first year a student with whom I had worked closely—and whom I admired for her earnest passion and determination to help others—died by suicide. Amanda was my Capstone student and also part of the offsite program, which meant I was both her teacher and the administrator for her program. Her death led to profound personal and professional challenges for me. As an individual, I had a close connection, so I wanted to share stories about her, grieve with others who were grieving, and try to understand what had happened. As an administrator, I had rules I was expected to follow, obligations to students who were grieving, and the feeling that I couldn’t grieve as I wanted to because I needed to project professionalism. Recognizing and navigating this duality posed a great challenge, raised many questions, and ultimately pushed me to evolve my thinking.

Author Biography

Jodi Constantine Brown, California State University, Northridge
Department of Social Work, Associate Professor, Associate Chair, Director of Online & Offsite Programs
Teaching & Learning