9/17/14 ASHLAND, Ohio - While most colleges and universities across the country work hard to prepare its students academically for life beyond college, Ashland University has made it a priority to also train its students to be healthier employees in the future. AU is one of only several schools in the country to establish a lifetime wellness requirement for students to graduate.
“Faculty made the decision in 2000 to make lifetime wellness part of the required core of a student’s educational life at Ashland University,” said Sue Heimann, dean of students at AU. “Since that time students have been required to take a lifetime wellness class that teaches them holistically about health and wellness including physical, emotional, social, intellectual, environmental and occupational, spiritual and financial dimensions.”
Dr. Debbie Sullivan, a professor in the health sciences department, recalled the change. “Three departments came together at that time to create an interdisciplinary approach to wellness to replace the physical education activity requirement with an academically focused course to develop lifetime wellness concepts,” she said.
Laura Kruger, who serves as the Lifetime Wellness coordinator at AU, said the students who graduate from Ashland University are not just academically prepared for the future, but are prepared to be healthier employees.
“We focus on moving toward optimal health, emphasizing individual responsibility and practicing self-assessments toward healthy lifestyle behaviors,” Kruger said. “Through health screenings, fitness assessments, nutrition, alcohol/tobacco use information, and stress reduction activities, we are preparing healthy students but also healthy employees in the future.”
The partnership with Ashland University’s Career Services Center also has allowed the University to successfully address students’ Occupational Wellness.
Karen Hagans, director of the Career Services Center, sees this as a positive for organizations that are looking to hire AU employees. “We are really helping students to have an overall healthier outlook. We are preparing students for the world with a holistic approach of academics, health and wellness, including occupational wellness,” Hagans said.
Kruger added, “This instruction includes an introduction to health screening and an action plan for the needed behavior changes to move toward a healthier future and great potential to be healthier employees.”
Ashland University’s work with lifetime wellness has not gone unnoticed. Just last month, Dr. Randy Gearhart, chair and professor of health sciences, was invited to the Ohio Statehouse for an Oct. 10 summit titled “The Ohio Summit on Building Healthy Academic Communities.”
Gearhart will serve on a panel titled “Policy and Environmental Frameworks to Promote Academic Health and Wellness.” His primary focus is physical activity.
“We have been told they are particularly excited to hear from an institution that has made wellness a core part of their curriculum -- curricular rather than straight policy solutions,” Kruger said.
The University also has established a Wellness Committee on campus that promotes wellness and health to faculty, staff and students and holds regular meeting with speakers addressing physical activity, nutrition and alcohol/tobacco use.
Ashland University, which has been ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.