Described as a framework, rather than a plan, Rowan Thrive focuses on six dimensions of well-being – physical, social, emotional, community, purpose and financial – and aims to help students address their needs with strategies and “thrive” in a culture of well-being.
In June 2018 at Rowan University, a committee was created by former associate vice president, Tina Pinocci, and included members from Campus Recreation, Student Center and Campus Activities, and the Wellness Center with student health team members and counseling and psychological services. Members from Orientation and Student Leadership Programs and Social Justice, and Inclusion and Conflict Resolution offices joined in 2019.
Since Pinocci’s retirement, Kevin George, the director of Campus Recreation, has been co-chairing the Rowan Thrive committee with Scott Woodside, the director of the Wellness Center.
The committee had an ‘aha’ moment, leading them to realize the impact of well-being. It happened when a former campus rec student employee, whom they thought had been thriving, landed a dream job as a fitness coordinator at UCLA and then plummeted. “The student later disclosed to Tina she was feeling inauthentic, lacked passion, didn’t have social connections, had mental health challenges and eventually made the right decision to quit her job as a first year employee,” said George.
A year later, this former student was brought back to a staff development ‘Real World Connections’ workshops and led an exercise for 120 student employees on the ‘what you see and what you don’t see’ iceberg of life effect reflection.
“It was powerful to see our engaged students suffering from so many issues, and how we can provide them tools and ways to be resilient, overcome adversity and proactively enhance their well-being,” said George.
A number of resources guided the Thrive committee, including webinars and articles from NASPA and ACHA, the 2018 NIRSA Pre-Conference: Building a Culture of Health and Well-being, and books such as Gallup’s “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements,” BTP’s “Well-Being and Higher Education” and CAS’ “Cross-Functional Framework for Advancing Health and Well-Being.”
“We then created four work teams as part of the Rowan Thrive committee – programming, creative, activators and employee – with each member of the main committee on them, but also added two to three external people just on the work teams,” said George. “These work teams created goals, action plans and other initiatives while maintaining the rigors of their main responsibilities for their professional position.”
The following new initiatives will assist students as part of Rowan Thrive:
- Rowan Thrive will be embedded into numerous courses, such as Rowan 101, to ensure students who may not attend the co-curricular events will have an opportunity to learn about the initiative in a supported way. Additionally, beginning in the summer all students attending orientation sessions will complete an online questionnaire that will identify those in need of services and resources.
- Student Affairs will integrate Rowan Thrive into its programs and services. Ultimately, the well-being concepts will be integrated throughout the institution.
- McElwee and University Senate President Bill Freind will lead a university committee for well-being that will make recommendations about issues related to campus wellness. Students, faculty and staff will serve on the committee.
- The Dean of Students Office will host “Toward a Thriving University” workshops for faculty, staff and students.
Ongoing initiatives include:
- The Rowan Cares team: a group of staff working together to identify and provide resources to students who are experiencing difficulties academically, socially, personally or financially.
- Persuade. Refer (QPR): a suicide prevention training course open to all Rowan community members.
- Support groups through Healthy Campus Initiatives, including Chill and Chat, and Stress and Anxiety Student Support (SASS).
- Let’s Talk drop-in hours with counselors at venues throughout the Glassboro campus.
All in all, George elaborated the framework of Rowan Thrive is to be proactive, not reactive. “We cannot solely use the model of just hiring more counselors for mental health as the solution,” he said. “If we can use the ‘upstream’ approach to support well-being to students who are not in crisis, we could give them the tools to either prevent certain circumstances of crisis or give tools on how to handle unexpected crisis.”