Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

The College Diabetes Network: There for the “Highs” and “Lows” of College Life

The College Diabetes Network: There for the “Highs” and “Lows” of College  LifeName of Social Enterprise and URL?

The College Diabetes Network

Who is the person? What is there background?

Christina Roth grew up in the Boston area, and majored in psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 14 which has fueled her passion to help others living with the disease. Christina founded the College Diabetes Network (CDN) in 2009 while in her junior year of college due to her own experiences struggling with the disease and recognizing the importance of support and connecting with others who understood what diabetes entailed.

The College Diabetes Network: There for the “Highs” and “Lows” of College  Life

Christina Roth

Christina graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with both departmental honors in the Psychology department and “honors of greatest distinction” from the Commonwealth Honors College. Christina was the recipient of the Bateman Family Memorial Scholarship, the 21st Century Leader Award, the Class of 1941 Humanitarian Award, and the Umass Amherst recipient of the Massachusetts governor’s “29 Who Shine” award. She also received memberships in the Golden Key International Honour Society, the Psi Chi National Honor Society, and the Alpha Beta Kappa Honor Society, and was the recipient of a $1,000 Commonwealth College honors research grant to fund her thesis research looking at strengths and competencies in adopted adolescents which Christina then presented at 3 regional conferences and the International Conference on Adoption Research (ICAR3) in Leiden, the Netherlands in 2010. At the age of 14 Christina was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which has fueled her passion in helping other people living with the disease. In her junior year at UMass, Christina founded the College Diabetes Network (CDN) both as a national organization and as a local chapter at UMass. After graduating in May 2011, Christina has worked as a research assistant at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, MA. Christina’s passion has always been in diabetes research and plans to go on to get her PhD in Clinical Psychology to address the heavy psychological burden of living with the disease and to help fill the gap in research on the college age population. In addition to running CDN and her work at the Joslin Clinic, Christina is an avid equestrian specializing in Dressage, and enjoys staying active and travelling to new places.

What is your product or service?

CDN addresses the unique challenges facing college students with diabetes, from access to better health care and resources, to creating a community that understands and supports the disease. CDN’s mission is to create a presence on college campuses and to create a community, both in person and online, which will enable students to continue to thrive in both their healthcare and scholastic accomplishments, enabling them to leave college healthy and ready to pursue their dreams.

  • The Website
    • Provides Information
      • For students: we provide the most up-to-date information relative to all aspects of student life, which the students themselves have expressed interest in knowing more about. As well as, information and access to the newest technologies and research.
      • For chapters: we provide advice on starting and running a chapter.
      • For parents: we provide advice on dealing with the transition and advice on how to make it easier.
      • For university administrators: Currently under remodel, this section will feature information regarding step-by-step ways in which campus administrators can pro-actively implement changes to make life on campus less challenging for students with diabetes.
    • Creates a Community
      • Online discussion boards for chapters, students, and parents enable them to connect with their peers, share tips, and feel supported.
  • The Chapters: Chapters are created and run by students with a focus on peer support. CDN supports these chapters and their students by providing step-by-step support and information throughout the process of creating and running their chapter. CDN creates a webpage for each chapter, on which information specific to that school and chapter is posted. In addition, we create a CDN email address so that leadership can be passed down as students graduate.

Date officially launched?

The organization was founded in 2009, as a small group on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. CDN became incorporated with 501c3 status the summer of 2010.

What came about that made them help in social change? Why was this social venture created?

The period between late adolescence and early adulthood has been identified in numerous research articles as a period with a higher rate of acute complications, and a higher risk for premature morbidity and mortality in individuals with diabetes. Fewer than 1 in 20 young adults with diabetes achieve target HbA1c levels (a test which provides a general average of blood sugar control over the past few months), with up to 37% of young adults already having serious complications from diabetes. In addition, 71% of college students report having difficulty managing their diabetes while at school.

Prior to CDN, there were minimal if any resources or support available to college students with diabetes. College can be a challenging time for anyone, as the demands of studying, jobs, sports, late nights out and poor nutrition take their toll. Diabetes only compounds the stress as students are often isolated, at risk of depression, under pressure to be “normal”, and have limited access to healthcare and nutritional food options. CDN chapters provide a way for students to meet in person and connect, talk, laugh, and share the ups and downs about life with diabetes on campus. When students with type 1 diabetes support each other, they are more likely to stay motivated to better maintain their health and emotional well being and to handle academic challenges. CDN strives to empower, educate, and enable college students with type 1 diabetes to fulfill their potential.

How many years and how many people has this person helped? How many people need help?

Each fall 2.3 million freshmen enroll in institutes of higher learning in the United States, of these, approximately 7,700 will have Type 1 diabetes. According to this estimate there are approximately 30,800 college students living with Type 1 diabetes at any given time. With an estimated 3% annual increase in the already estimated 15,000 new diagnoses of Type 1 diabetes in the United States each year, the need for support for these individuals only becomes greater.

CDN fills the current gap in healthcare resources, targeting and addressing the needs of the college-age population. Due to widespread interest from both the student population and professional organizations, CDN has grown from a small student group run by a full-time college student, to a national non-profit organization within only a few short years. With a single chapter in 2009, 4 chapters in 2010, and already 19 chapters halfway through 2011, our chapter base has grown 475% in just the past year. Due to the substantial growth we have experienced, it is evident that CDN’s resources and programs are needed in the pre-college and college environments.

What is the cost per person that is being helped? Are you working on decreasing that cost by being more efficient?

Due to the financial constraints most college students’ face, it is our goal to provide our resources free of charge. We plan to sustain ourselves through grant funding, private donations, and fundraising efforts. While this makes establishing the organization more challenging, we believe that this is a fundamental part of our organization and our ability reach this population. As we are primarily web-based, and the basis of our chapters is peer support, we are able to keep our direct costs relatively low.

Could others help you and how?

We would greatly appreciate help in increasing awareness of our organization in both the mainstream and diabetes community. Particularly in press, PR, marketing, etc. We are always looking to get new people involved, as well as to create chapters on new campuses.

Also, as we are a donation based organization, any contribution or referral to individuals interested in helping, as well as help with organizing and hosting fundraisers, is greatly appreciated. We are looking for major donors as well as small individual donations.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

We utilize google analytics and google business apps, blogging, social media, dropbox, and HARO.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

At this point, we are a completely volunteer based organization. Our infrastructure consists primarily of our Founder/President, COO, Director or Development, and contributions from our Board of Directors. Outside consultants consist of our webdesigner, accountant, lawyer, bloggers, and other program collaborators.

Do you tweet, facebook fan page, myspace friend or use any other social media to get the word out? (Please provide links)



What is the best advice you never got?

Put yourself out there, don’t be shy! As many people will tell you, starting and running a non-profit is a lot like running a business. The big difference is that with a non-profit the only asset that you can “sell” to attract people is your passion for what you are doing. When you put so much of yourself into what you are doing, it can be hard to “sing your own praises” so-to-speak. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people that you have never met and use your passion to help demonstrate to them why it’s important to get involved.

 The College Diabetes Network: There for the “Highs” and “Lows” of College  Life

Christina Roth

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

We are truly a grassroots organization. We started out as simply a small student group on one college campus run by a full-time student. Having CDN expand into a national organization with web-based information, an online community, and chapters across the country, as well as the many aspects of business that come with running an organization was a huge transition.

Are you doing any type of Search Engine Optimization?

We are creating link exchanges with other organizations’ websites to increase traffic.

What can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. It’s a tremendous amount of work, and you can expect things to go wrong and take longer than expected, but it’s important to not let this deter you from continuing to pursue your passion.

For example, CDN is a huge commitment for the volunteers who dedicate their time to the organization in addition to their everyday lives. As we are at a point in our development that is quite challenging, it is easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged. However, the other day we received an email from a student who has been involved with her campus’ CDN chapter since it was founded several years ago. In the email she thanked us for creating such an organization and for making it possible for her to be a part of it, she went on to describe what a difference having CDN has made in her life, and how it will help to keep her healthy even in the future. Stories like this, and knowing that you are making a difference in peoples’ lives is what makes all the work worth it.


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