How (and Why) Stony Brook Implemented So Many New Wellness Programs


Wellness programs are becoming increasingly common on college campuses, as rec centers begin to expand their focuses beyond just workouts for students. Campus recreation is playing a bigger role than ever in helping college students live healthier lifestyles beyond simply getting in a few bench press reps.

Stony Brook University, in Stony Brook, New York, has had a great amount of success implementing a wide variety of wellness programs into its offerings in just a year. And the success of these programs started with a partnership with an on-campus health expert.

“We had the university health educator, Kate Valerio, MCHES, realigned with our department,” said Jay Souza, the director of recreation and wellness at Stony Brook. “She has enhanced our services and programs by infusing a more holistic perspective to what we do and why we do it. We’ve been able to educate over 300 student employees on the importance of overall wellness.”

According to Souza, Valerio isn’t the only health and wellness professional lending expertise to students at Stony Brook. “We’ve been able to bring a provider from our Student Health Services to our facility for walk-in services for one to two times a week,” he said. “The campus dietitian comes once a week for walk-in hours, along with appointments for students.”

Additional services for Stony Brook students include:

  • Low-risk health screenings and referrals
  • Learning opportunities for nursing students, such as health screenings with rec staff supervision
  • Anonymous HIV testing
  • Suicide prevention workshops
  • Sexual awareness campaigns
  • Blood and organ donor drives

This multitude of programs has been part of Souza’s vision for the Stony Brook rec center for many years, but the arrival of a new senior administrator opened the door for the rapid addition of several new wellness initiatives.

“Approximately two years ago, a new position was created in student affairs — an assistant vice president (AVP) for student health, wellness and prevention services,” said Souza. “Prior to Dr. [Marisa] Bisiani’s arrival, I was exploring how we could enhance the wellness education and opportunities for our students. This was a great time for our team in recreation to consider changing our perspective.”

From there, the changes were implemented quickly. “Six months later, our department was realigned under the purview of health and wellness,” said Souza. “As soon as that change happened, we’ve been very fortunate to have the collaboration and support from our new AVP to roll out integrated services for our students.”

However, even with such strong support from Bisiani, there were still some challenges to overcome in the actual integration of new wellness initiatives. “Infrastructure changes needed to be addressed, such as computer system upgrades and server changes, equipment needs, scheduling, room availability, and staffing,” said Souza.

And with so many changes to the department’s programming structure, Souza and his team felt some rebranding was in order.

“Most recently, in order to effectively demonstrate our change and focus on wellness integration, our department name changed from ‘campus recreation’ to ‘recreation and wellness,’” said Souza.

As soon as the facility and staff adjusted to its new name and the increased amount of services and programs being offered, the new initiatives were very well-received across Stony Brook’s campus.

“After the alignment, we were welcomed by our new colleagues,” said Souza. “We shared how we all operate, and what we can do together to better enhance our programs and services more effectively — and efficiently — to better serve our students.”

Bobby is a former staff writer at Peake Media.

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