Researcher discovering better approaches to help the grieving

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 26, 2023

Chinasa Elue
Chinasa Elue
Curiosity drives Chinasa Elue even when she’s hurting.

After her mother passed away in 2019, Elue was still processing her grief when the spread of coronavirus turned into a deadly pandemic in early 2020 that upended lives around the world, including her workplace, Kennesaw State, and other colleges and universities across the nation.

Her own pain inspired Elue, an associate professor of educational leadership and higher education in the Bagwell College of Education, to examine more broadly and deeply how grieving affects others. She was particularly interested in higher education settings as the pandemic increased incidences of loss – not just death, but loss of normalcy as people isolated and distanced physically to protect themselves from the virus.

“I began interviewing leaders across the country, particularly those in higher education to understand how they were responding to the large amounts of loss caused by the pandemic,” Elue said.

According to Elue, it’s important that institutions of higher learning and other organizations create an atmosphere where their constituents feel they can safely share and process grief in order for them to be able to continue with their day-to-day activities.

“Grief exhibits itself differently in individuals, so not everyone is going to have a similar grieving process,” Elue said. “We have to be willing to normalize conversations around grief. It’s seen as taboo. We all want to be happy and smile all the time, but we do ourselves a disservice not to have these conversations.”

Elue’s research team includes a graduate research assistant and four undergraduate student researchers. She said being able to involve students in her research is gratifying in that mentoring a new generation of students feels like “giving back to a field that has given so much to me.”

A self-described lifelong learner, Elue grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia and says that she chose to pursue graduate education at the highest level because she wanted to impact the lives of students. 

Last fall, she led the launch of a new program, the Master’s in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA), a collaboration between KSU’s Division of Student Affairs and the Bagwell College. The program is specifically designed for higher education professionals interested in moving into leadership roles in areas that most impact students, particularly student affairs – student affairs units, university administration, and college athletics administration. 

According to Elue, student affairs leaders in particular are important to the overall college experience outside of classrooms.

“I think student affairs are the heart of an institution in a lot of ways,” said Elue, who serves as HESA program coordinator. “I know students come here to earn their degrees, but I think student affairs is where you gain the connections and the experiences that really live with you for the duration of your life.”

– By Gary Tanner
Photos by Darnell Wilburn

This article was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Kennesaw State University Magazine.

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