KSU holds holistic vision for healthy implementation

Nicole Zahn

Kent State of Wellness is one of numerous university-level initiatives in the Strategic Roadmap being implemented on campus. Various strategies and tactics have been forming since last July to improve the health culture of the Kent State community.

“When I first started out at Kent State, my main goal was this dream of ‘What if we were the healthiest campus in America, and what would that look like,’” said Kent State President Beverly Warren.

The healthy campus initiative is among the five major priorities and 16 university-level initiatives for the Kent State community, which “prioritizes the health and wellness of students, faculty and staff,” according to the university’s website.

“The concept of the health initiatives is to change our culture,” said Angela DeJulius, director of Kent State of Wellness. “We want to create a culture that supports … fosters and promotes health for everybody.”

Kent State of Wellness hosted a week of forums during early November last semester to introduce the eight health priorities that will be applied to the university.

The eight priorities to be addressed are mental health, nutrition, physical activity, alcohol and other drugs, safety, sexual health and smoking and tobacco use.

Kent State has taken a first step in the direction toward a healthier campus with the campus-wide smoking ban policy, set to take effect July 1.

Smoking and tobacco use will be prohibited on any property owned by Kent State, including vehicles parked on university property.

The university’s Board of Trustees passed the resolution for beginning the smoke-free policy in July.

“The reason for passing the policy in July was to make sure that we have great education, great preparation, great communication about our move in this direction,” Warren said.

As of now, the communication committee for the policy has begun to introduce promotion of the transition by coinciding with events such as the Great American Smokeout, hosted in November.

The Great American Smokeout is a nation-wide movement hosted by the American Cancer Society encouraging smokers to quit smoking for 24 hours.

Kent State participates in the smokeout yearly. However, in 2016, the university was able to prominently introduce the policy amongst smoking cessation information and resources.

During the week of forums in November, Kent State of Wellness offered a student engagement forum that presented all eight of the priorities to students and allowed them to voice their opinions about the changes.

The eight priorities were discovered and targeted by a steering committee through Kent State of Wellness.

The committee looked at data from the Center of Disease Control, the Ohio Department of Health, the National College of Health, as well as previous studies from Kent State faculty and students.

The topic that created the most commentary at the student engagement health forum —  and will be implemented after the smoking ban — was mental health.

The initiative supports the areas where students may have more mental health needs that the university is unaware of.

“Many regional campuses have no mental health services,” said Diane Whaley, coordinator accreditation and assessment for the Division of Student Affairs.

Currently, Kent State offers individual counseling, consultation services, psychological testing and crisis intervention counseling as part of its mental health services.

Kent State of Wellness has a commitment from cabinet that will provide funds to allow them to provide more accessible resources throughout all of the university’s campuses.

“If you don’t know what’s going on with you mentally, it may lead to something negative,” said Elizabeth Garlinger, a senior communication studies major, at the student engagement health forum.

Along with students, faculty and staff play a large role in receiving wellness changes throughout campus.

Kent State faculty and staff are not offered free membership to the Kent State Recreation and Wellness Center because it is open to community members who have to pay a membership. this means they may not be able to have the option of exercising right at their fingertips.

Student memberships are already implemented as part of their tuition payment.

However, for healthier employees as part of the initiative, all full-time employees may earn up to $300 in wellness incentives by participating in healthy activities.

Activities include getting an annual physical, participating in the “Know Your Numbers” health screening and taking part in group activities.

For students living on-campus, the university will begin to implement recreation facilities within the Tri-Towers rotunda at the start of the spring semester.

“If you live on campus, the winter time makes it more difficult for students to actually get to the Rec (Center) … and it’s always so crowded,” DeJulius said.

Among the changes the university is pursuing, nutrition has become a major factor.

Currently, Kent State Dining Services is supported by a national vendor, Sodexo, for its food options across campus.

However, the university is seeking vendors who will coincide with the new healthy campus options.

“This new vendor will have to demonstrate how they would help transform our community into healthier options,” Warren said.

The university has already seen advancements in nutrition, including the very first gluten-free dining hall on a college campus, and vegan and vegetarian options including the Veggie-A-Go-Go program, which allows students to place takeout orders for vegan and vegetarian options.

“Other campuses such as Stark do not have healthy food options,” DeJulius said. “They usually just have a concession stand, so we want to work with Sodexo more to implement healthier options throughout other Kent State campuses.”

Beginning the first week of the spring semester, healthier food options throughout all Kent State campuses will be implemented.

“I’m excited to see what’s to come for the next year,” said Taylor Jamison, a senior  business management major. “I’ve never heard of any other university that cares a lot about its health and wellness. It makes me feel good to be at a school that cares so much about its faculty and students.”

DeJulius said the university is aiming to continuously promote a health culture.

“This is something that will never quite be done because health trends are constantly changing,” she said, “but it will make a great impact on Kent State.”

Contact Nicole Zahn at [email protected]