Sheri Sobrato Brisson M.A. ’94, and Eric Brisson have funded the largest endowed chair in the history of Santa Clara University. The gift to the School of Education and Counseling Psychology establishes an endowed chair in child and adolescent mental health, and also provides funding to support research and public outreach activities related to child and adolescent mental health.
"On behalf of Santa Clara University, I’m very grateful for Sheri and Eric’s generosity," said Kevin O’Brien, S.J., president of Santa Clara University. "This gift will allow our graduates to better serve young people and adolescents, and goes to the heart of who we want to be as a Jesuit university committed to the service of others."
The gift comes at a crucial time for today’s youth, and its impact will reach far beyond the Santa Clara campus community, according to Sabrina Zirkel, dean of the School of Education and Counseling Psychology.
"Over 50 percent of young people in the United States will have experienced a diagnosable mental illness by the time they reach the age of 18," said Dean Zirkel. "Sheri and Eric’s gift will make an enormous difference for these children and their families. It will enable us to hire a leading scholar and expand our curriculum in this area—enabling us to build a specialization in child and adolescent mental health for our students so that they emerge from our program among the best prepared therapists in the country to work with children and adolescents. Our aim is to be a leading force in support of our young people—both in meeting their immediate needs, and in helping them forge flourishing lives of meaning, purpose, and connection."
Sobrato Brisson, who earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Santa Clara University’s School of Education and Counseling Psychology, has dedicated much of her life to serving children and teens with life-threatening or chronic illness. As a young adult, Sobrato Brisson was diagnosed with brain cancer, and this personal experience fueled a deep passion for addressing the mental impacts that often accompany physical illness.
"The personal process that I went through in healing the emotional impact of my disease, long after the physical side of my illness had been taken care of, changed my identity and my priorities in life," said Sobrato Brisson.
As the founder of the youth resilience-building initiative, Digging Deep Project, and the creator of an award-winning mobile game to help young people build emotional health and resilience, Shadow’s Edge, Sobrato Brisson has put child and adolescent mental health at the forefront of her work for nearly 25 years. She is also co-author of a youth-journaling book, Digging Deep: A Journal for Young People Facing Health Challenges, which has been distributed in English and Spanish to hundreds of pediatric hospitals nationwide.
"I’ve seen the adverse life circumstances young people face, and their need to make decisions about what they want out of life and how they’re going to get there," says Sobrato Brisson. "I just fell in love with this age group of young people who seemed so ready to make positive change in their lives."
Now Sobrato Brisson’s passion for teen mental health and wellness is being extended through this gift, which will help broadly serve the mental health needs of children and adolescents.
"I hope this gift produces more therapists trained in child and adolescent mental health. There is a significant shortage of therapists, particularly for underserved populations," says Sobrato Brisson. "I hope our gift moves the needle in thought leadership in the field, and draws people to Santa Clara for training who can go on to affect the lives of many young people in their own communities."
Sobrato Brisson is a founding trustee of Sobrato Family Foundation, which is dedicated to making Silicon Valley a place of opportunity for all of its residents. Together with her husband, Eric, she is co-founder of Resonance Philanthropies which supports their family interests, including the environment, children’s health, the arts, and global education. The daughter of Sue and John A. Sobrato, Sobrato Brisson is part of the second generation of Sobrato alumni who have generously supported Santa Clara University.
"The most reputable universities are known for their commitment to research, scholarship, and teaching—and often that is measured by investment in faculty," said Santa Clara University Provost Lisa Kloppenberg. "This generous gift makes a very important statement about the value we place on our faculty and the amazing work they do through their teaching and research, impacting the world for the better."
Watch the video about the Leadership Gift from Sobrato Brisson Family.
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