Discover Wellness program improving culture, supporting student experience

Jessica Wong

As Discover Wellness, a workplace wellness program for employees, gears up for its next series in May, students from the program will explain and explore its importance in Quest. In addition, health promotion and wellness students Whitney Kmetz and Shannan Hall worked with faculty member Elizabeth Keida to secure a […]

As Discover Wellness, a workplace wellness program for employees, gears up for its next series in May, students from the program will explain and explore its importance in Quest.

In addition, health promotion and wellness students Whitney Kmetz and Shannan Hall worked with faculty member Elizabeth Keida to secure a grant to sustain the free program to develop health habits and attitudes among faculty and staff members.

Discover Wellness meets for seven consecutive weeks, with a wellness activity on Mondays and a coaching session from health promotion and wellness faculty member Amy Bidwell on Fridays. The program both builds a culture of wellness on campus and provides learning opportunities for both employee participants and for interns like Kmetz and Hall who organize and promote the series.

A 2018 needs assessment found employee interest in optional workplace wellness opportunities, and which topics might resonate, which have included fitness activities, stress management, how to sleep better, nutrition labels and more.

“For the first part of this session, we focus on giving them all the background information about this specific topic, and then we really try to make the focal point the activity where they can apply what they just learned,” Kmetz said of the Monday sessions. For example, the session she presents on nutrition labels starts with information on what they mean, then participants find and discuss examples.

The Friday sessions serve as a debrief, where participants can discuss how what they have learned has impacted their behavior, what is working for them and what motivates them. “Because it’s a group wellness coaching setting, we can all learn from each other and share ideas,” Kmetz said. 

“We’ve had some outcomes where folks have become really good friends that afterwards, they will walk together or do other types of health activities,” Keida said. “It’s fun to see people meeting other people who share their interests.”

Keida credits the students for making the adjustment from an intended face-to-face series to virtual because of the pandemic.

“It really just shows you how versatile our students are in taking a program that was all face-to-face to making it virtual but keeping it amazing,” Keida said. “That’s possible because our students are amazing, our data is amazing and the outcomes are amazing. Now this really great virtual option that is more accessible to all employees.”

Career preparation

Interns who run the program thrive because “in the health promotion and wellness department, this is what our students have been gearing up to do,” Keida said. “To participate in program implementation in some way and worksite health promotion gives them that chance to put into practice, everything they’ve been learning in our classes over the past four years and really showcase their skills. This gives them a chance to shine.”

“I think the biggest part for me is being able to implement this and to be with other people, particularly the participants, educating and showing them that we’re all in this together in trying to be well,” Hall said. “It’s been really nice to be able to showcase my knowledge of what I’ve learned and also it makes me be more healthy as well.”

The program earned a Student Scholarly and Creative Activity Grant recently, which will support incentives for participants that help reinforce and sustain wellness activities. These have previously included a journal where participants can document how they cope with stress, fitness bands, yoga mats and other practical items. 

It’s good to get something for free, but the session teaches them how to use it,” Keida explained. “It gives them tools to help them succeed.”

“The reinforcements help change their behavior for the long term,” Hall noted.

Writing the grant was a lot of work but a learning experience because neither she nor Hall had ever written a grant before, Kmetz said. Thus the successful outcome benefits participants, the program and students’ experience.

Similarly, the intern experience has helped the student build skills and confidence.

“The biggest thing for me is learning how to communicate and promote these kinds of activities,” Hall said. “This program has made me more aware of how to communicate health and wellness to other people and successfully be able to do it.”

For Kmetz, the experience underscores that she wants to continue doing something she loves.

“It’s made me realize that I love community nutrition,” Kmetz said. “I’ve been an educator for seven years. Currently I work full-time as a SNAP and nutrition educator and this has shown me that this is still what I want to do. I just love working within the community and seeing people, whether it’s virtually or face to face.”

The Quest presentation, with Hall, Kmetz and fellow senior Kyle Lauria, will showcase the program, the work the students do, outcomes and more. The student presentation as well as a session on another department initiative, Be Well at Oswego, will unfold virtually between 4 and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14, as part of the college’s annual celebration and scholarly and creative activities. For more information on Quest and a schedule of the day’s activities, visit www.oswego.edu/quest.

“We’re really trying to look at the whole wellness culture to create a wellness environment for our staff and faculty to really promote overall wellness,” Kmetz said. “Creating a whole new wellness culture on campus is a stepping stone and it’s a great way to work with staff to see that health is a priority.”

As for Discover Wellness, the next seven-week session will begin on May 17. Working under a cohort model, participants should register expecting to attend all sessions. For more information about Discover Wellness, watch future editions of Oswego Today or email Keida at [email protected] 

 

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