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Living well
Campuses make health and wellness part of their mission

By Nancy Menefee Jackson, Contributing Writer

Along with academics, a college campus is also a place where students – and faculty and staff – understand their own health and wellness.

Laura Burke, student wellness and programming specialist for Harford Community College, notes that emphasis engages students so that they can advocate for themselves and “be aware of health and wellness in their own lives and their families’ lives and their community. They need to be self-informed, and it’s our responsibility to give them those messages.”

Harford Community College
Why does a community college undertake health and wellness initiatives?

“We have community in our title,” Burke says.

One example is offering an eight-hour mental health first aid course, to train people to help someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

Madi Day, a sophomore nursing and psychology major, took the course, explaining, “I really wanted to be able to decipher between the different mental illnesses so I can better understand what they go through every day ... it creates a more understanding and compassionate community.”

Day also participated in Holly’s Hope 5K Run/1-Mile Walk, which benefits SARC, the Sexual Assault or Spousal Abuse Resource Center.

“The students seemed to actually care about volunteering,” Day says. “The number of health and wellness activities is equivalent to the number of student activities. I hear students asking about different things on campus and they’re eager to sign up.”

An annual wellness fair brings more than 20 organizations to campus. They offer everything from training in administering naloxone in case of overdose and yoga classes to gardening information and free HIV testing.

“Wellness is your whole self,” Burke explains. The fair links students to no- or low-cost services.

Another initiative benefits the broader community; the college’s new swim and gym program allows senior citizens to use both the pool and fitness center from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. for a nominal fee.

Clayton Gilcher, coordinator of lifestyle and community fitness, explains that the initiative stemmed from aquatic exercise continuing ed courses, popular with seniors, “and they were asking if there was any way they could use the fitness center.”
Lifeguards will be on duty, of course, but fitness center staff also will be on hand to help with the equipment. “It’s more geared toward the active older adult,” Gilcher says.

Technology’s role in fitness is well represented. The fitness center has two interactive iPad kiosks that are connected to TVs. Apps show how to do stretches and yoga poses or offer training programs.

“It’s an independent way for them to do workouts,” says Sean Wright, manager of the fitness center.

One particularly popular app is iMuscle, which allows users to tap on muscles they want to exercise or stretch without needing to know their names.

“Instead of me saying, ‘Do this, this and this’ they can use iMuscle, select a muscle and do more of what they want to do, like work on a bicep,” Wright says. Workouts can be saved on the iPad.

Fitness classes have embraced wearable technology, such as Gamin’s Forerunner 25 running watch, and heart rate monitors that can be worn on the arm. Syncing the two devices lets students upload and track the distance covered, cadence and heart rates during their workouts, as well as storing information such as route and weather.

Goucher College
Goucher President José Antonio Bowen cites recent science about the brain and how we learn as a reason for his campus-wide initiative SWEET, and he’s backed it up with modifications that range from lighting to class schedules.

SWEET stands for Sleep, Water, Exercise, Eat and Time, and managing those well increases a student’s ability to learn.

“We wanted to create a self-regulated learner,” Bowen says. “If you’re asleep in class, it doesn’t matter how good the teaching is.”

He notes that recent science has shown that people get most of their REM sleep – critical for storing information in the brain – in the eighth hour of sleep.

“If you only get seven hours of sleep you haven’t downloaded anything into your cortex,” he says explaining that with seven hours of sleep the brain is rewriting over memories and it’s more emotional “so you remember how you felt in math class, but not the math.”

That eighth hour of sleep also helps students read people’s faces, critical for building community and understanding people from different backgrounds, a hallmark of the college

Exercise also helps memory, and water first thing in the morning – even before coffee –rehydrates the brain. The importance of eating right and exercise has been well documented, but as Bowen says,“The science is easy; behavior is hard.”

The hours in the dining hall have changed, “and that does seem to help but I still want more kids eating breakfast,” Bowen says. Class schedules have been changed, too, sparing freshmen from so many 8 a.m. classes and adding more 7 p.m. classes.

Advisors ask students not just about their classes but if they’re eating and sleeping well.

Faculty are encouraged to not have papers due at midnight through computer submissions since students to stay up late finishing them.

“We’ve tried to connect things like wellness, academic support and student support,” Bowen says.

Physical modifications help, too. The dorm rooms at Goucher are smaller, but central social spaces – kitchens, TV viewing spaces and exercise rooms – are larger. The laundry rooms have been moved from the basement to the floors, and

Living well, continued on page 7

Going smoke free

Bethany Crowley, who graduated from Loyola University Maryland in May and will be starting medical school next fall, got an education about not just health but health policy when she became involved with the smoke-free campus initiative at Loyola.

As president of the student health advisory council, she was asked to work on the smoke-free task force. She hadn’t thought much about smoking or lung cancer, but shortly after she joined the task force, her aunt, a former smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Crowley assumed everybody agreed smoking was bad and was surprised to learn that developing policy was more complex. For example, the policy wasn’t meant to affect break time for employees who used their breaks to smoke.

“We put out a couple of surveys and did in-person meetings,” she says. “This was when Juuls were becoming popular, and that was the biggest pushback. Students thought Juuling was safer.” Some students argued that they had a right to smoke, but Crowley countered with Maryland law that already prohibited smoking near buildings.

“The policies and politics of administration – some think it’s good; some thought it was taking advantage of their breaks – I would have never anticipated all of that,” she says. “There are so many aspects you have to consider.” •