Office of the VP for Student Life

December 18, 2014

Unit spotlight: Health & Wellness

Health & Wellness has undergone some exciting changes in the last year. As many of you know, we have a small staff pulling off extraordinary programs (as is often the Student Life way). While we are proud of our innovative program, we know we couldn’t do this work without our partners in both Student Life and across campus.

Our Student Care program, run by Amanda Myhre, works with students to create plans for support and success, at times when life starts to threaten their ability to focus on their academic endeavors. For many of these students, having a safe place to connect makes all the difference for staying engaged in the Husky Experience. Over the last year, our Student Care program has worked with hundreds of students, helping them bridge our vast University with an individual and personal connection.

Dr. Jason Kilmer leads our Alcohol & Other Drugs program, which continues to bring evidence-based (and nationally recognized) education and training to the UW community. Jason is one of the most engaging and articulate speakers on this campus, helping students understand the impact alcohol and drugs can have on their college experience. Jason continues to pioneer education for Greek communities, residential life students, FIGS and TRIGS. As of this last year, he has also made significant connections with Husky Athletics, bringing his unique style of education informed by rigorous research with humorous and accessible delivery. While Jason continues to dominate the national spotlight on these topics, he “bleeds purple and gold” and remains dedicated to the UW.

One of latest and greatest changes in Health & Wellness is welcoming Melissa Tumas, former SARIS (Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence) specialist, into her new role as the Health & Wellness Training and Education Coordinator. This new position came out of the hard work and dedication of the President’s Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention. While the task force recognized that the UW is fortunate to have outstanding student service programs like SARIS and the UWPD Crime Victim Advocate, we lacked a campus-wide strategic plan for delivering education and training in these important areas. Melissa will be leading the charge for campus on delivering a streamlined and effective plan for training and education on issues of interpersonal violence, as well as other important Health & Wellness topics. The SARIS position will continue to exist in Health & Wellness, but with a new title of Health & Wellness Student Advocate. The name change allows us to highlight the important work of supporting students who come forward seeking help with sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking or harassment.

Suicide intervention continues to be a priority for Health & Wellness. As many of you know, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students (after alcohol-related incidents). We in Health & Wellness have partnered with Forefront, Innovations in Suicide Prevention, to bring a comprehensive education and intervention program to the UW community. Forefront has led the way in bringing this issue to light, not only on the UW Campus but also in the state legislature, pioneering new laws that require all health care providers to be trained in suicide response. Health & Wellness continues to work with students who are struggling with thoughts of suicide, or who have attempted suicide, to create safe and supportive plans, ultimately working towards their continued success in their academic careers.

As any good Student Life educator knows, you can’t have effective programs without the buy-in and participation of students. We are thrilled within the last year to have welcomed the new Peer Health Educators, a group of 40+ student volunteers dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of their peers at UW. Our Peer Health Educators inspire us every day with their extraordinary commitment to impacting positive change on campus. They help Health & Wellness “keep it real” when it comes to working with students.

Additionally, Health & Wellness has secured a gift from Diageo that is allowing us to take our programs to a global audience. Our Health & Wellness Global Partnership is our newest program dedicated to sharing ideas and bringing our evidence based programs to campuses and communities around the world. We are currently in the process of developing curriculum that will allow us to share some of our most effective programs tailored to international partners’ individual and community needs. We are excited to see where this new endeavor takes us and hope to report back to our Student Life family soon on the progress we have made in developing international partnerships and communities dedicated to the health and wellness of students.

It’s been a fantastic year and we are grateful to all our Student Life colleagues for your continued support and partnerships. We in Health & Wellness wish you all the best for 2015!