Student and staff team introduces ‘The Well-being Project’

A group of student leaders and staff members will introduce a new campus initiative — The Well-being Project — with a week of activities scheduled for Sept. 21-28 on the Rice campus.

The week will include activities ranging from meditation and canoeing to workshops on academic success, mental health, conflict negotiation and suicide prevention. For a full list of activities, visit http://wellbeing.rice.edu/WellbeingWeek2012.

The Well-being Project was designed to better help students manage daily stress, reflect on their goals and priorities, practice healthy emotional self-care and empower them to ask for help when they need it.

“At Rice, our well-being matters,” Wellness Center Director Emily Page said. “Engaging in our personal care and supporting each other is a way of life here. College or graduate school presents unique challenges for many of us, and we often encounter concerns that can impact our personal wellness. The Well-being Project is an initiative to guide us through these concerns.”

“During many recent conversations with student leaders across campus, students told us that well-being efforts on our campus need to emphasize positive mental health,” added Kate Noonan, director of student development and retention. “We heard that input, and The Well-being Project is now under way to meet those needs.”

Page added that the program has truly been a team effort, with the ultimate goal of highlighting programs and services the Wellness Center is already offering and listening and thinking creatively about programmatic solutions to ongoing concern about students’ well-being.

“Rice, like any other community, is full of opportunities and experiences that can lead to healthy choices as well as not-so-healthy choices and even outright dangerous choices,” she said. “We know that when students make choices about their personal well-being, they don’t do so without considering the messages they are receiving from their community. We want those messages to be positive and to reinforce the community values we hold. The Well-being Project is really a campaign aimed at sending these messages out to students in ways that will persuade them to choose wisely.”

According to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, The Well-being Project grew directly out of interests expressed by Rice students.

“The student presidents, including the Student Association president and the 11 college presidents, proposed a campuswide conversation about student health and wellness,” he said. “My staff has been working with student leaders in developing programs in response to this request. I’m excited by how quickly the team, both staff and students together, created the programs in this project.”

Associate Dean of Undergraduates Don Ostdiek said he shares Hutchinson’s enthusiasm. “I think a wider array of well-being offerings will make our students more successful and more content as well as generally healthier in their lives,” Ostdiek said.

The Rice Health Advisors (RHA) and Active Minds at Rice, both student-led groups, are partnering with the Student Development and Retention Office and the Wellness Center to coordinate the project. Baker College sophomore Emily Begnel, president of Active Minds, said she hopes their planning efforts will continue to further Rice’s conversation about well-being and make students more aware of the many resources available on campus.

“By promoting well-being throughout the year around campus, students and staff can gain a better understanding of what it means to be well and can incorporate healthy habits into their daily life,” she said.

McMurtry College senior Jenny Wen and Jones College senior Chris Keller, coordinators for the RHA program, are excited by the energy and support to emphasize well-being on campus.

“Overall, we know Rice has the resources necessary to address students’ needs,” Keller said. “This initiative will harness these resources through both better awareness of what is available and through new, better-tailored programming.”

“This is a great time to challenge ourselves to re-evaluate our goals and priorities: What do I really want out of my time at Rice? What will make me feel happy and fulfilled?” Wen added. “Through this reflection I hope students will realize how physical and emotional well-being is the foundation to our happiness and success.”

For more information on The Well-being Project, visit http://wellbeing.rice.edu.

About Amy Hodges

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.