Recreation is more than just physical fitness. Instead, many campus rec departments, like Georgia Tech Campus Recreation, are now encompassing the complete eight dimensions of wellness with a Wellness Director, which include:
The Georgia Institute of Technology noticed this trend in fitness and decided to hire Dr. Suzy Harrington as the executive director for the center of community health and wellbeing. “The decision came down from senior administration. They had several reports on mental health, on sexual violence and sexual harassment, on a family-friendly task force,” said Michael Edwards, the director of campus recreation at Georgia Tech. “There was a number of reports and recommendations, and it all pointed in the direction that there were a number of things being done on campus, but we really needed a position to coordinate and to give direction and content.”
Prior to this position, Harrington was the chief wellness officer at Oklahoma State University. Like her new position at Georgia Tech, it was the first of its kind.
Her goal at Georgia Tech is to see a “thriving culture” of positivity, reaching to the rec center, health services and health promotion. “I’m looking to see all the great things that we have and put them in a structure,” said Harrington.
And she wants to open this up to sexual wellness as well. Harrington hopes to create an environment where students and staff are not afraid to address the subject, and she believes Georgia Tech has created that open discussion.
Students at Georgia Tech submit white papers specific to sexual violence and harassment. The university also provides sexual assault victim advocates for students, faculty and staff. “Sometimes we’ve been so focused on the students, we forget there are several thousand faculty and staff that need the same kind of attention,” explained Harrington. “Mental health is not just a student issue, sexual violence is not just a student issue. Stress and anxiety and depression and those things that go along with mental health issues are not just student issues. It’s a campus community issue.”
She is planning a retreat, open to both students and staff to decide what the mission statement and priorities will be, in order to best address “the harmony of our physical, emotional, spiritual, social and professional health and wellbeing,” explained Harrington.
“We are taking the wellness council that we have, called Go Tech, and expanding that and pulling together a retreat to see what our mission and our priorities are,” she added. “We’re developing a comprehensive mission statement about flourishing and a culture of health and wellbeing and caring. So we’re trying to come together with one voice right now.”
To best combine the eight dimensions, she plans to collaborate with additional psychiatrists, organizations on campus and the women’s resource center. But without recreation, Harrington said none of this would be able to come together.