Perhaps now more than ever scholars are searching for the best ways to better their physical and mental health. Ohio University recognized this need and recently rolled out its THRIVE initiative to improve the well-being of students.
The program provides services, information and events in the hopes of holistically improving individual physical and mental health. THRIVE’s two main pillars are CARE and CONNECT. CARE aims to provide the essentials needed for well-being like food, housing, safety and financial stability while CONNECT provides opportunities to build relationships.
THRIVE is inspired by the success of the school’s Make Respect Visible initiative. But where Make Respect Visible informs how Bobcats treat each other, THRIVE aims to shape how Bobcats treat themselves.
Mark Ferguson, the executive director of Well-Being and Recreation, said THRIVE is something his department considered launching for the last few years.
“The pandemic brought well-being to the forefront even more,” said Ferguson. “We have been going this direction for a while. We consider ourselves supporters of student well-being through our various services we provide. This really created a new vision about what we are. The highlight is our vision is to be a catalyst of well-being that is supportive of all.”
By visiting Ohio University’s Well-Being webpage, students can scroll down to the CARE section and find the following links ensuring basic needs are met:
- Shelter (Emergency Housing)
- Crisis Line
- Emergency Student Fund
- Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate Support
Clicking on any of those tabs will take students directly to a webpage full of information detailing how to find these necessities. For example, clicking on the counselors link will provide the phone number to setup a counseling meeting, Telehealth services and consultation hours.
“Right now we are using THRIVE to better communicate and leverage the ways we are supporting our students’ well-being,” said Ferguson. “It’s recognizing all of the different ways we can support students in a clear and cohesive way.”
The CONNECT portion of THRIVE acts similarly to CARE in that it has sections of tabs full of information. However, the purpose here is to link students with people, places and moments that will enrich their lives. The following links here include:
- Join a Campus Org
- Talk to a Well-Being Coach
- Find an Upcoming Event
- Find a Quiet Place to Pray/Reflect/Meditate
- Get Active
One of the main features of THRIVE is free, personalized coaching sessions provided through Well-Being and Recreation. The coaching allows students to learn positive strategies from trained professionals to focus on their strengths and set realistic, individual goals.
“One of the big components of how we are approaching it is well-being is different for everyone,” said Ferguson. “The things I find fulfilling are completely different for someone else. Creating that space for everyone is so important.”
To further this mission, a weekend of events for students followed THRIVE’s rollout on September 8, 2022. Offerings included sunrise yoga, a hike at Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park and a bouldering day trip.
Final Thoughts and Advice
Ferguson advised for other campus rec professionals considering a similar program to first ensure the culture of your department is ready for such an endeavor.
“There has to be a shared understanding of where you are going and what your focus is,” said Ferguson. “Building a culture within your own department where everyone can see how they contribute is the crux of making this impactful in the long run.”
He said it was paramount to provide adequate space to enable conversations within your staff about their own well-being and to be open to the expertise of others.
Moving forward, Ferguson said his department would be looking at expanding THRIVE and how they can better partner with other departments on campus. But for now, he is pleased with the reaction on campus.
“From my perspective, it’s been great,” said Ferguson. “From my interactions with students, they are wanting and needing this. Our challenge now is to build off the launch. The days of having a big facility and just pushing them to come in the door are gone. It’s about how we can reach out to students.”