Inaugural director named for CARES Hub

Effective April 1, 2024, Kristy Eaton was tasked with developing and leading a tiered systems of resources related to community, mental health and well-being for students in the College of Engineering.

The timing couldn’t be better for Lafayette native Kristy Eaton to embark on a career at Purdue University. Growing up attending Boilermaker basketball games, Eaton developed a passionate devotion to the team. It was serendipitous that her journey with Purdue commenced just one day after the men’s basketball team secured a spot in the Final Four, marking a seamless transition from fan to member of the Purdue community.

Eaton joins Purdue as the inaugural director of the Community, Assistance and Resources for Engineering Students (CARES) Hub, which provides free, easily accessible support for engineering students. Eaton is tasked with developing and leading a tiered system of resources related to community, mental health and well-being for students at the College of Engineering.

Kristy Eaton

“The Purdue College of Engineering is an exciting place to be,” Eaton said. “Everywhere you look there are cutting edge teaching, learning, projects, patents and research occurring. I am honored to be a part of a program to promote the well-being of the members of the College of Engineering.”

The Purdue CARES Hub is a result of more than a year of research and planning by the Purdue Engineering Student Council to meet their mission of serving students. CARES Hub is open now and located on the first floor of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering (ARMS 1261) and will be celebrated with a grand opening event on April 24.

Eaton’s initial focus will be in three areas:

  • Suicide prevention. Suicide is the No. 2 leading cause of death in 10-34-year-olds, according to a report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. second only to accidents. With that data in mind, one priority of the CARES Hub will be to create and sustain a universal, research-based approach to suicide prevention that will include student trainers. 
  • Peer support. Formal therapy is a meaningful experience for those who wish to engage in it and for those who need clinical intervention. However, support can be obtained in other meaningful ways, and research demonstrates that peer-to-peer support is a significant way to lessen anxiety and promote well-being. Interested students will participate in training to provide intentional support to their fellow peers.
  • Connections and community. As mental health therapists and clinicians learn more about the neuroanatomy of the brain and brain neuroplasticity, they begin to understand how the brain state impacts well-being. In simple terms, connections and relationships are critical to a regulated brain state, which, in turn, provides joy and promotes mental health and well-being. The CARES Hub will be offering numerous opportunities for connection and community throughout the 2024-25 academic year.     

Eaton has 29 years of experience working in mental health and education. She has worked as an outpatient therapist, school-based therapist, school social worker, school district administrator and university faculty member. She is passionate about mental health and well-being for all, including the elimination of mental health stigma through education and training. She has provided consultation and professional development at the local, state, regional and national levels.

Eaton spent the last five years as the assistant director of the Indiana School Mental Health Initiative at Indiana University-Bloomington where she consulted with and trained K-12 school districts across Indiana to develop an integrated framework of tiered social emotional, well-being and mental health services and support to create the conditions for learning for all students. During her time at IU, Eaton also served as a research continuity lead for the Irsay Institute for Sociomedical Research.

Eaton holds a BA in psychology from Calvin University, a MS of Social Work from Indiana University, and a doctorate from National University. She is a past Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar Fellow as well as a licensed clinical social worker, Question Persuade Refer Suicide Prevention trainer and an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) interface master trainer. Her training was conducted by Dr. Robert Anda, co-investigator of the original ACE study.

Eaton has two daughters, Sophie (a student at Purdue) and Katie (a student at IU). After the recent death of the family dog, Eaton is considering adopting a therapy dog that she could bring to work each day as a stress reliever and source of joy for the students, staff and faculty. In her free time, she swims, hikes and rafts the wild whitewaters of Colorado, Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia.  She plans to add to the list this summer. She has visited five continents (Australia and Antarctica remain), including a trip to Africa in which she volunteered in a Nigerian leprosy colony.

“Giving back,” she said, “is one powerful avenue to well-being.”