Gregory Eells, who has worked at Cornell Health’s Counseling and Psychological Services for 15 years, has accepted a position at the University of Pennsylvania and will be leaving Ithaca in March.
Eells said that it has been an “honor and privilege” to work at Cornell in a statement to The Sun.
“I have dedicated over 15 years of my professional career to providing mental health care to thousands of Cornell students through my work in CAPS,” Eells said. “It is with a mix of sadness and excitement that I leave to take the Executive Director of CAPS position at the University of Pennsylvania.”
Eells has a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Oklahoma State University and has been the director of CAPS at Cornell since 2004.
“Greg Eells has provided invaluable leadership at Cornell in the support of mental health and wellness, diversity, and campus climate,” Kent Bullis, executive director of Cornell Health, said to The Sun. “He has been an important contributor to many campus-wide initiatives and committees, all in support of the safety and well-being of our community. He will be greatly missed.”
Eells is the former chair of the Mental Health Section of the American College Health Association, the former president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors and received a Presidential Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the AUCCCD.
“[Eells] is one of the best teachers in the country around issues related to college student mental health services. He’s highly sought after for presentations and consultations,” Cornell Health director for community relations Sharon Dittman told The Sun in 2012 when Eells received the award.
Eells will be making the shift from Ithaca to Philadelphia at a time when mental health policies at the University of Pennsylvania have also come under scrutiny in recent years.
Following the deaths of seven students in 2017, Penn’s mental health policies and procedures were found by students to be not as “vigorous, transparent, or comprehensive as it needed to be,” The Daily Pennsylvanian reported. In a recent report from the Ruderman Family Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania received a D+ for its policies related to mental health leaves of absence, which was the highest grade among the Ivy League universities. Cornell received a D-.
In a presentation to the Student Assembly in January 2018, Eells discussed some of the challenges faced by CAPS, including long wait times for appointments due to increased demand along with difficulties in recruiting and retaining a diverse staff.
“Cornell is not a suicide school,” he said. “There is no such thing as a suicide school.”
“Although the rate of suicide among Cornell students is similar to other schools in the U.S., no level of suicide is acceptable. Each suicide is a tragedy, and we continually focus on how to prevent them,” Eells wrote in a guest column in The Sun co-authored by Timothy C. Marchell ’82, Ph.D., director of the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives.
“The challenges we face require strong partnerships between students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents, and members of the local community — all are needed as we cultivate a campus culture that supports the well-being of every person,” Eells and Marchell continued.
Cornell Health will provide an update on its plans for a national search for a new CAPS director at the next Coalition on Mental Health meeting in February, according to an email sent by Marchell to members of the Coalition on Mental Health and shared with The Sun.
“I want to assure you that while this leadership change is significant for CAPS and for Cornell Health, our campus-wide commitment to mental health and well-being will remain as strong as ever,” Marchell wrote in the email.