Newest research institute tackles mental health, wellness through integration of science, community – University of Colorado Boulder

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CU Boulder’s newest institute—the Renée Crown Wellness Institute—celebrated its grand opening last week on University Hill with a joyful event highlighting the importance of the institute’s work: addressing the mental health crisis.
The institute was created in 2019 through the generous philanthropy of Patricia Crown, PhD, in honor of her mother Renée’s lifelong dedication to serving others with empathy and compassion. After operating out of various locations on campus, the institute finally has its own home in a former art supply store adjacent to campus.

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Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and Boulder community members toured the space and learned more about the institute’s research studies, courses and programs during its official grand opening.
“I’m incredibly grateful to Patricia Crown for her visionary leadership,” said Chancellor Philip DiStefano. “Health and wellness research, programming and partnerships like those at the Crown Institute have a powerful and long-lasting impact not only on the CU Boulder campus but within our larger Colorado community and beyond.”
Patricia Crown also shared remarks.
“To be able to walk into this new home for the Crown Institute and see a tangible representation of its work has been inspiring, to say the least,” said Crown. “I’m honored to be part of this community and thankful for all our partners who are creating better futures for children and young people.”
Balloons adorn the entrance to the Renee Crown Wellness Institute at 1135 Broadway, during the grand opening ceremonies.
A creative craft is made in the InsideU Pixar room at the institute’s grand opening event.
Christie Hubly, owner of Tinker Art Studio and community partner with the Crown Institute, helps a family with an art project in the InsideU Pixar room that’s housed within the wellness center.
Guests look over research boards at the grand opening event.
Guests, including CU President Todd Saliman, offer a round of applause for philanthropist Patricia Crown, daughter of the institute’s namesake Renée Crown.
Philanthropist Patricia Crown speaks to community members at the grand opening event.
CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano speaks at the grand opening event.
Smiling guests stand in the back of the room to listen to the event’s speakers.
Guests mingle as a pattern of gold light filters through the atrium windows.
Photos by Glenn Asakawa/CU Boulder
The Crown Institute focuses on interdisciplinary research-practice partnerships that promote the wellness of young people and the systems and adults who support them. Key areas of interest include the study of mindfulness, compassion, belonging and agency. Research programs also address disparities in mental health, wellness and education associated with gender, race, ethnicity, linguistic diversity, geography, income, and other structural and systemic inequities.
As one example of Crown’s work, the Mindful Campus Program began in 2019 with students’ helping to craft surveys and focus groups to gauge their peers’ interest and preferences, asking various questions, such as how the campus could minimize barriers to mindfulness programming.
The institute is unique in that it takes the approach of research-practice partnerships, in which researchers, families, teachers, young people and community members work together as equal partners.
Early Crown Institute studies build on a foundation of collaboration with the Boulder Valley and Roaring Fork school districts, community partners including El Centro AMISTAD and Valley Settlement, and faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education.
This year, the Crown Institute is also launching more outreach and education efforts, and actively focusing on ways it can bring the learning, programming and practices from research studies into the world. Those include the interdisciplinary design and delivery of courses and programs on campus as well as public-facing speakers and events.
“The Crown Institute is dedicated to building a world where every young person thrives,” said Sona Dimidjian, the institute’s director. “That means being supported by both caring relationships and inner resources. It also means doing work that’s focused not only on the mental health and wellness of children and young people, but also on the adults and systems in their lives.”
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