The transition back into a new school year is always an exciting time. Each new year gives us another opportunity to connect with our students and contribute to their future in so many ways. As we interact with them in the classroom, office hours, labs, and at events, it serves us well to remember the impact we can have on their well-being. Becoming a “well-being university,” as George Mason University calls their ongoing institution-wide effort, is not a simple endeavor, but it is an important one that takes the efforts of all our faculty and staff.
There is a significant body of national research on the benefits of fostering a campus culture of wellness. Well-being is complex and multifaceted, including but not limited to wellness that is physical, spiritual, emotional, social, environmental, and financial (this list is from our own Rob and Lola Salazar Wellness Center). J. Jeffrey Franklin, Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Experiences, encourages all us of to think about how each of these impinges upon our students’ academic well-being – in terms of academic purpose, sense of belonging, growth mindset, self-efficacy, trust, resilience, and flourishing, among others.
Research also shows that well-being is linked to crucial issues such as the quality of learning, equity for underrepresented students, community engagement, civic responsibility, degree completion, and success after college, not to mention happiness and fulfilment in life. Associate Professor, CTT, Joan Bihun in Psychology, reccomended this article on the topic, “Trust, Growth Mindset, and Student Commitment to Active Learning in a College Science Course,” by Andrew J. Cavanagh, et al. (CBE—Life Sciences Education, 17, spring 2018, pp. 1-8).
And while we are getting our goals set for contributing to student wellness this year, go ahead and mark your calendar for the 15th annual Undergraduate Experiences Symposium, Friday, October 4, 2019, 8:00 am - 2:30 pm. The theme this year is Pathways to Academic Well-Being: Purpose, Belonging & Resilience. The keynote speaker will be Nance Lucas, Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, and a widely read scholar on positive psychology, leadership, and well-being. In addition, we will have “tED Talks” by seven or more of our own faculty and staff, with associated breakout sessions, on topics such as: Physical well-being; Stress management & coping strategies such as mindfulness; Financial well-being; Teaching anxious/depressed students; Social well-being, belonging, and diversity/inclusion; Fostering Student Resilience; and, Purpose and well-being.
I hope everyone has had a chance to focus on their own well-being over the summer, and that we are coming back to campus ready to be of service to our students, colleagues, and community.