My journey begins at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota while attending a presentation delivered by Dan Buettner about Blue Zones. I remember thinking , “ how do I learn how to do that?” I completed my Master’s degree in Health, Nutrition and Exercise Science at North Dakota State University in Fargo North Dakota. I continue today by completing MOOC’s and attaining WELCOA faculty status . I currently reside as the Wellness Coordinator at the College of St. Scholastica, with a staff of 750 and student population of over 4000. I have had over seven years in the field.
Julie Zaruba Fountaine
Saints Step In. Saints Step Into community, hospitality, stewardship, love of learning, and respect. This is the mission of wellness at the College of St. Scholastica (CSS). I quickly learned about the values of our campus my first week on the job and over time have woven them into our wellness initiatives and mission. When I first started at CSS I was given the role of Wellness Coordinator which was a new position at the College. There was not a clear job description and I was given the freedom to create my own job description. I started out part time working nine months out of the year. Three years later I have a professional staff and a student staff of 14 and I am full time working 12 months out of the year. I believe the increase investment in wellness is due to following the Seven Benchmarks WELCOA has laid out. When I arrived I met with our President’s Staff to gather information and to capture support, addressing Bench mark one. Next in accordance with benchmark two I worked with various student groups (as at this time my role was limited to students and has since expanded to faculty and staff) to create peer health educators that would be advocates for wellness across campus. In the Spring of 2012 Benchmark three came into play with distributing my first college wide survey. The following summer I worked on creating a strategic plan, benchmark four, for wellness and was approved to work full time. Once the data was collected it was determined that our greatest area of need was related to mental health and financial health, benchmark five choosing appropriate interventions was the next step.
With the help of Welcoa resources I was able to modify programs for the students and collaborate with counseling services , residential life, and the financial aid offices to develop more programs to support students. It was very important to work on creating a supportive environment as mentioned in Benchmark six. This was completing through wellness trainings to create a common language, poster and social media campaigns to raise awareness and through holding many events related to wellness. Over the past three years I have continued to work on benchmark seven by evaluating every program, asking for feedback from participants, and having an open door policy for students and employees. Over the past three years at St. Scholastica retention rates and graduation rates of increased and there has been an increase in participation in Wellness events across campus from students faculty and staff. Also, the language around wellness is changing. Employees and students are thinking about wellness as a wheel and including the six dimensions of wellness in their thought process about their own health they are also acknowledging how it connects with our College’s values and mission to Step In.
I continue to work to Step In. People often stop into my office to share their lunch with me or ask me to join them on a walk. I enjoy being seen as someone that they can share their wellness activities with and not as someone that is going to judge their habits. So often individuals who feel judged by others will not participate in an activity or lifestyle change, I work hard to show that I am continuing to learn with them working as partners. I let them know how I schedule activity into my day and how I menu plan nutritious meals and meal prep on weekends. I am able to provide feedback based on my research, collaborative efforts, and attendance and presentations at national conferences.
Another way I have Stepped In is by working on innovating strategies to deliver behavior change. Often times the focus is on external rewards or incentives. I instead have worked on policy to deliver change that is sustainable and not fleeting. A few examples include working with residential life to develop a change in the Residential Assistant culture from policing to relationship building. Another example includes working with the city of Duluth to develop and pass a policy regulating the use of e-cigarettes. My last example of an innovative approach is to work with counseling services to change procedures to build resiliency groups to lessen the amount of students seen by counselors but still meet the needs of students.
The act of stepping in is a process. As many WELCOA webinars have mentioned our biggest opportunity will be to serve the increase need. I believe a common statement is, most people don’t value their health until they lose their health, then they turn to us. Within the next five years I plan to continue to Step into building the dream, taking time to dream, taking time to reflect and taking time to build a culture of wellness based on the concepts of community, hospitality, respect, love of learning, and stewardship. It is only through a holistic approach that we will be able to meet the growing need.