The Be Well initiative at Mount Holyoke College was only formally launched at Orientation in fall 2017, but it’s already winning awards.
Be Well recently received the Program of the Year – State Award from NASPA, the national organization for student affairs administrators in higher education, for an outstanding program or event at an institution from Region I. As such, Be Well has been nominated for national recognition.
“Our commitment to promoting a holistic approach to well-being is what we believe makes Be Well at Mount Holyoke unique,” wrote Marcella Runell Hall, vice president for student life and dean of students, in the award acceptance letter. “Not only does the College value each individual member of our community, but acknowledges the importance of building a healthy community overall.”
NASPA gives the honor to new programs that demonstrate innovation, creativity and timeliness of the topic, and that contribute to student development and/or professional development, as well as to the home institution.
With its meditation, yoga, online apps and events, Be Well easily fits that description. The initiative focuses on health in four general areas: healthy mind, healthy body, healthy life and healthy community.
Fittingly, Be Well began in 2016 as a community project. Recognizing the stress of being a college student in today’s world, members of Hall’s team in the Division of Student Life collaborated with representatives from around the campus community to form a task force. Their goal was to understand student stress and find ways to alleviate it.
The task force defined a holistic framework of well-being for Mount Holyoke, one that was rooted in positive psychology and based on the idea that health is not merely the absence of illness.
“Our goal is to help students thrive at college — and after,” said Erica Weathers, of Mount Holyoke’s Counseling Service and co-chair of the Be Well team, which is made up of students, professors and administrators from around the College. “We’re designing ways to both reduce the stress of students and encourage them to develop — and sustain — healthy habits they can take with them after they graduate.”
Among the initiative’s community-building efforts was the launch of the first wellness space on campus, known as MoAsis. Located in the health center, the MoAsis resources include a tablet loaded with relaxation and meditation apps, a massage chair, meditation cushions, yoga mats, calming music and soft lighting.
“We created this space to foster relaxation and stress reduction while also providing an opportunity for students to practice meditation, deep breathing or yoga,” Weathers said.
Since its opening in March 2018, she noted, MoAsis has been used by students nearly 150 times. Users reported that their overall level of stress and anxiety decreased after spending time in MoAsis. In addition, students participating in Be Well sessions at Orientation this fall noted that their sense of well-being had increased and their level of stress and anxiety had gone down.
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