An advocate for improving access to mental health resources, Logan Riffey has been endorsed by West Virginia University for the prestigious British Marshall Scholarship.
The scholarship offers more than 40 young Americans the opportunity to study in the United Kingdom for two full-funded years toward a graduate degree.
If awarded the two-year scholarship, Riffey plans to pursue two degrees – a master of science in translational neuroscience at Imperial College London and a master of science in affective disorders at King’s College London.
Interested in studying the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs for treatment of PTSD and depression, he would have the opportunity to conduct research through the Center for Psychedelic Studies at Imperial College London.
“It's headed by Professor David Nutt,” Riffey said. “He's, I would say, the most leading researcher in the world on this topic.”
During his time at WVU, the Berkeley Springs native and dual major in biology and psychology in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences made his mark on campus through academics, leadership and service – all of which make him an ideal candidate for the scholarship.
“Logan is an exceptional student who has taken advantage of the vast array of opportunities at WVU, not only in his classes, but also in Student Government Association and in his own research work,” Lisa Di Bartolomeo, Marshall Scholarship faculty advisor and teaching professor of Russian Studies and Slavic and East European Studies, said. “What really stood out in his application was how Logan took the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and used them to help his fellow students and to make WVU a more caring space for students experiencing mental health issues.”
During the pandemic, Riffey witnessed the challenges his fellow students faced while navigating social distancing and remote learning. Inspired to be a voice for those who were struggling to cope, Riffey used his platform and connections as the legislative affairs liaison to advocate for better access to mental health resources on campus.
“I think the most profound leadership experience I've had on campus so far has been in Student Government Association,” he said. “As the Legislative Affairs Liaison, I’m an important link between the students of West Virginia University and government outside of WVU.”
Last year, he led an effort to obtain more funding for collegiate mental health, not just at WVU but across the state.
“We started the Mountaineer Resilience Project, a resolution passed by Student Government calling on Governor Jim Justice to allocate a number of CARES Act funding to WVU for collegiate mental health related issues that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Riffey said.
Although unsuccessful in that effort, he and other student representatives quickly shifted gears in pursuit of a budget allocation which resulted in a draft of House Bill 4678.
“Unfortunately, it stalled, but we were able to get a study resolution passed,” he said. “That commissioned a study of collegiate mental health so that the legislature is more informed to vote and make decisions on it in the upcoming legislative session.
“It's often rare for you to work on something in the government and get it passed the first year. It takes several years. You're building connections with lawmakers. You're building trust. Through the study that was commissioned, and voices of students, and administrators, and higher education, they learn over the years that this is an important issue. That sets us up for success in the future.”
Riffey also realizes government alone won’t solve issues related to access to mental health resources on college campuses. Awareness is also a key part of the equation.
“I'm the co-president of Active Minds, a mental health advocacy and awareness organization,” he said. “We try to do things on campus to bring awareness to various mental health problems that students might experience, and we're also an advocacy organization so we talk to lawmakers as well.”
The organization often sets up tables in traffic-heavy spaces on campus to bring awareness to suicide, stress and campus mental health resources. Members also fundraise for organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
“Logan is tireless and fearless in his advocacy for more mental health support,” Di Bartolomeo said. “His leadership and willingness to push hard to help his fellow students is truly noteworthy and brave.”
Founded by a 1953 Act of Parliament and named in honor of U.S. Secretary of State George C Marshall, the British Marshall Scholarships commemorate the humane ideals of the Marshall Plan and express the continuing gratitude of the British people to their American counterparts.
WVU has had four previous British Marshall Scholarship recipients, including Di Bartolomeo.
Students interested in learning more about this or other highly competitive scholarships should contact the ASPIRE Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
lw/10/10/22CONTACT: Lindsay Willey
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