University of Delaware
Director, Employee Health and Wellbeing
Worksite Health Promotion
12 years in the field
Total Eligible Population: 10,000 plus
Director Employee Health and Wellbeing, UD
OUR employees’ wellbeing is OUR mission
Very early on in my life, I knew I wanted to pursue a career where I could leave the world better than I found it. At 13, I started at the hospital where my mom worked as a nurse, pushing wheelchairs to and from units. By the time I entered the field of public health in 2007, I knew there were endless ways to help people live better lives – as long as I was willing to collaborate with others. This perspective still resonates with me and I believe I am in the right place!
Over the past three years in my role as the Director of Employee Health and Wellbeing at the University of Delaware, I have not only seen our culture activated through health and wellbeing, but it also has become more interconnected through relationships.
Soon after I came to the university, we positioned our unit to rebrand from wellness to wellbeing so we could intentionally focus on the whole person and their families. We also started promoting our services in a different way. We no longer refer to our unit as a benefit because it is not something we merely “do” or “have” on campus. Rather, our work transforms people. It helps elevate them to their highest level so they can live fulfilled and meaningful lives. It also strives to create conditions where they elevate each other, too.
I am most proud of how we have grown our wellbeing infrastructure, increased access to our programs and deepened the breadth and depth of our content. Wellbeing is starting to have tentacles and becoming a part of every conversation here at UD. Wellbeing is who we are and being well IS part of our development here as employees.
We have restructured our unit through relationship building and grass root efforts. We have built a climate we can see and are working towards a culture that we can feel. This past year in particular has me glowing with pride. We have not only grown the number of events and programs that we offer, but we also are seeing individuals advocating on behalf of their own health needs. Our wellbeing ambassador network also is rapidly growing and we are partnering with units all across campus to collaborate and leverage this great work. As a result, we are holistically touching the lives of our retirees, employees and their families every day.
One of the valuable credentials I have is my certified health education specialist certificate through NCHEC. This credential has allowed me to program and motivate individuals and populations through the lens of public health. It also gave me the foundation I needed to develop comprehensive programs that are impactful and sustainable. As a result, I have been able to translate good ideas into lasting work.
I am currently pursuing the Thriving Workplace Culture Certificate program through SALVEO partners (TWCC). This training is giving me the tools to keep employees connected and empowered while also educating leaders on how to inspire their teams. It has helped to build confidence in order to have difficult conversations that showcase the value in wellbeing work and not necessarily the ROI from this work.
Living the Mission
One of the greatest resources that landed me the position I am in today was an excellent leader who afforded me many opportunities in the field of health promotion. She mentored me through her work and she continues to be my mentor to this day. She taught me how to listen and also how to take time to undiscover the uniqueness of each individual.
The other experience that has been impactful in my career was the ability to motivate health outcomes within uncertain, complex and challenging settings and with various populations. It has allowed me to focus my lens on humanizing the health needs of these populations and not necessarily trying to “fix them” for everyone, but inspire them to care about it themselves, so they can resource and advocate on their own behalf.
My own experiences have shown the power of mentoring in creating future leaders. I have made it my mission to provide our students with critical experiences they will need to do this work once they graduate. We provide over 2,000 hours of practicum experience to undergraduate and graduate students to make sure they are proficient in current trends, programming and to help them understand what it is like to work in public health.
Demonstrated Success and Innovation
Over the past three years, my team has pulled together all health-focused groups (students and employees) to create the UD Wellbeing Collaborative. In this space, we strategically tackle health issues around campus to service both students and employees. This integrated stakeholder group is now part of our health-informed culture. Our work shows a united front where we make sure health is embedded in all that we do to promote and support the UD community.
Campus Events include:
A culture that cares initiative that we started three years ago was to expand on our employee appreciation platform. This engagement and value platform teaches employees how to lead in a cohesive way and helps them find value and purpose in their work. Our work now includes working with leaders across campus to develop climate tactics for their teams so communication is clear, environments are safe and trusting, and each employee understands how their work contributes to the bigger picture and is connected to it.
Another example of this expanded platform was setting up “UD GIVES BACK” day where employees could come and make a small boutique of flowers. They could either give them to a coworker as an act of gratitude or keep them for themselves as an act of self-care. Activities like these intentionally help to create a supportive environments where employees can make healthy choices and leaders can ensure those healthy choices are the easiest ones for their teams to make.
My vision for the health promotion and wellness industry is more emphasis on systematic connections to holistic health, where we create caring organizations that care about their people. It is vital to have the healthiest choice be the easiest choice but it can’t just stop there. We want the environment in our workplaces to support employees in this regard and also support them to care for one another without anything in return. An altruistic environment breeds trust, clarity and teamwork. Doesn’t that sound like a great place to be?
My advice is never say no to an opportunity, even as tedious as it may seem. Coming from a place of yes has afforded me layers of opportunity with the work that I do. The other piece would be to approach every health concern, program and problem from a place of authenticity. When you connect authentically, communication flows and solutions rise to the top.
As my mom has always said, if everyone in the world threw their problems in one big pile, likely you would want yours back. Practice pausing and reflecting on the goodness in the world and once you connect to that goodness, use that goodness towards elevating someone around you.