Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Last year, the Health and Wellness Committee issued a campus-wide survey asking students their concerns regarding issues of student health. The responses indicated that there was a lack of knowledge about health and prioritizing individual health as a student at an academically demanding college. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two most critical issues identified were managing stress and learning about sleep.
To address this void, a new group called the Swarthmore Wellness Advisory Team formed at the beginning of the term. They kicked off the year by providing workshops for freshman to learn about the health resources available at Swarthmore. Yet soon after its inception, the team decided it would be best to merge with the Committee itself. The new creation, still called Swarthmore Wellness Advisory Team, is intended to complement the current array of support for students. Just as each dorm has a Student Academic Mentor to provide students with academic support and serve as a liaison between deans and students, members of the SWAT team will provide students with support in managing their personal wellness and making it a priority.
“The greatest challenge is to help impart the message, to find relevance of issues to students,” said Kelly Wilcox, Assistant Director of Student Life. “We can all know how important sleep is, but it’s the first thing that gets put aside when things get busy. [SWAT is part of] a bigger conversation about student values and choices, without judgment.” Wilcox was directed by the Dean’s Office, this summer, to lead initiatives to prioritize student wellness.
While the level and approach to wellness depends on the student, Wilcox described it as “a conscious decision to proactively take care of oneself so that one is able to fully engage in life and opportunities around them.”
The resources are available, said Erin Floyd ’10, who is spearheaded the merger between the Committee and SWAT team, but individual wellness often goes remiss given the strains on students’ lives. With peers on the hall, Floyd hopes to make it easier for students to prioritize wellness. Like other student advisors, each member of the SWAT team is being trained in the fundamentals of their trade. But the team also aspires to offer areas of specialization, “such as nutrition for vegetarians or weight training,” according to member Nathalie DeGaiffer ’10.
“I don’t expect the Swat mentality to change overnight,” said Katie Becker, member of SWAT team, in an email. But “even if work is still the highest priority, we just aim to have the other parts of life take a more prominent role.”
The team recruited members at an “Emergen-C” study break two weeks ago, and is now working on establishing its wellness advisory programs and figuring out how it will move forward from there.