Monday, May 20, 2019

21st Century Wellness on College Campuses

by Tracey A. Smith

June is a month for graduations and the start of summer. For parents getting ready to send their High School Seniors off to college – or to send older students back to campus for another year this August – you may have a lot of questions about how you can best assure your child’s well-being when they are no longer living at home. If you are a student trying to choose the right college campus setting, you may be curious about how universities are similar and different in addressing your wellness and promoting positive wellbeing. We may have heard a lot about stressors and challenges facing students on college campuses all over the country but less about programs specifically geared to support students with these challenges. You may be asking … how does a university address college students’ needs while upholding their mission and values? What resources or strategies does the university have in place that can assist with college students’ well-being? What opportunities will there be for college students to grow in their self-care?

What's happening on university and colleges campuses these days? Quite often you will find that student health, wellness and recreation centers are the hub for student health and engagement. Most universities provide a holistic approach to campus living, working, and learning. For many students, this may be their first time living away from home. For some, it will be their first time independently exercising life, problem-solving and decision-making skills. The Wellness programs and activities found on college campuses support students in making positive behavioral and lifestyle changes.

Universities’ comprehensive health and wellness services will include programs geared to support students in areas such as:
·      alcohol & substance abuse
·      healthy relationships, including information about dating violence
·      women and men’s health, including sexual health
·      managing anxiety and depression
·      nutrition, finances, and tools for life after graduation
·      managing stress and anger

Most college campuses include free counseling services for students. This is an important resource to support students in navigating the many changes and challenges they face during this time of transition. In addition to counseling services, academic advisors, professors, and residence life staff can provide additional support.

I have the unique opportunity to be a Life Coach on a college campus. It is a very rewarding experience, being employed by a university that values health and wellbeing. The service allows me the opportunity to help students navigate the college experience from freshman year to senior year. I assist the students in all areas of wellness, not just academic (intellectual wellness), but the whole student (emotional, spiritual, interpersonal, and physical). I am able to witness tremendous growth and development as students find their way in living their lives on their own terms. It is energizing to coordinate and provide programs that encourage this transformation.

Universities experience many challenges in light of the high levels of stress impacting our society. Challenges to academic success can include finances, poor sleep, unhealthy relationships, unhealthy and addictive use of social media, depression, anxiety, poor nutrition, trauma, and family issues. There is hope. It is encouraging to observe greater engagement of students in health and wellness programming that supports their needs. Below are some practices that have been documented to support healthy living on campuses.

Students First  
Student-driven programs and activities work the best. Students have formed Wellness Ambassador and Peer Education Groups and have designed and implemented special events from physical challenge activities and “healthy campus” weeks to mindfulness activities. The use of Health and Wellness Surveys can provide staff with vital information about student interests and needs.

Calling All Practitioners! Most universities draw upon the expertise of outside health practitioners in order to provide additional wellness services and speaking engagements. This can include wellness education, counseling, yoga, trauma informed services, health education, and spirituality.

Campuses often offer a multitude of services, organizations, and events that can be used to support wellness. These can include student health services, campus life programs, student organizations, athletics, dietary services, career services, environmental services, disability offices, and LGBTQ/diversity groups. Collaboration may also appear as an intergenerational program that includes employees, students, community members and the online community. Thinking broader, collaboration may include linking with larger nonprofit agencies such as Michele Obama’s Partnership for Healthy Campus Initiative and National Consortium for Building Healthy Academic Communities https://healthyacademics.organd the
American Cancer Society

Community Integration
Developing community partnerships is the key. This enables you to provide more comprehensive health and wellness services. Most colleges have strong alliances with outside healthcare agencies that help them to best meet the needs of students, staff, and faculty.

In conclusion, college campuses provide young people with the information, strategies, and supports that can serve as the foundation for a lifetime of healthy life practices, relationships, and resiliency. We can encourage students to make connections, access the services available, and experiment with new wellness practices can empower them to launch into the world as happy, healthy, and resilient adults. Ultimately, this benefits young people and also their families, friends, coworkers, and the communities in which they live.

Tracey A. Smith, M,Ed., CTRS, owner of Wellness W.R.K.S. LLC is a Certified Recreational Therapist, Wellness Lifestyle Management Educator, and Trainer. She is also a Life Coach at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Enthusiastically, she provides wellness education programs, workshops, trainings, conferences & retreats to companies, schools and community organizations to promote self-care and well-being. She specializes in Workplace Wellness and team-building for remote employees. To learn more about Tracey and how you can bring her creative, experiential workshops and consultations to your agency or business, contact her at or 215-605-3221 or visit her website [Insert link to:].