Join Courtney as she chats with Marion Holmes, director of Adventure WV, about the nuts and bolts of the Adventure program, but how it fits into student wellbeing as a whole. We’ll also dive in to the Netflix documentary series “Cheer” to discuss how the desire to belong can sometimes overwhelm all others, to the detriment of our overall wellbeing.


Courtney: [00:00:00] All right, so welcome. Welcome. Welcome to Wellbeing Wednesdays, a podcast brought to you by the Office of Student Wellness here at West Virginia University. My name is Courtney Weaver. I'm the host. I'm also the director of the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion within the Office of Student Wellness.

That's not a mouthful. And with me in the booth tonight, today, it's not the middle of the night, is Marion Homes. She is the director of Adventure West Virginia. So Marion, say hello.

Marion: [00:00:33] Hello everyone.

Courtney: [00:00:35] All right, so we're going to talk about a lot of different things. Today in our teaser, we sort of talked about the different areas of the Office of Student Wellness.

One of those being Adventure. Adventure is a really big program here at the university. So I wonder if you could just give us a brief overview before we dive into more specific things.

Marion: [00:00:55] Sure Courtney. So Adventure West Virginia, like you said, we are part of the Office of Student Wellness in Student Life. We do a lot of things.

We are often known for our first-year trips program, which is programs for sure. Incoming students the summer before their first year here at WVU, and I do have to do the plug. Registration is open for summer 2020 if you know any incoming students, it is the best way to start your West Virginia career on a first-year trip with us.

So I have them register on our website. But aside from that, we also, up in the university research forest also operate our own low reps. Of course, two higher ups courses, zip line, canopy door. We do all the break trips. We go international, we go domestic, we have weekend programs. We have a skill workshop.

You upside down about one to learn how to get right, set up in that boat. Yeah, we do that. Anything that you think of it that has to do with group development, being outside leadership development, we do those things that Adventure West Virginia.

Courtney: [00:01:46] All right, and you also are a really big employer of students, right?

Marion: [00:01:48] We share our, so pretty much everything we do is led by students. A lot of my job and other professional staff's jobs is to recruit students, staff, and train them, and then they do all the delivery. So everything from the first-year trips, so jurors, six days, like all over the state, all of our workshops, all of our rentals, most of our challenge course facilitation, that is all done by student staff.

Oh, right.

Courtney: [00:02:09] That's amazing. All right. So thinking a little bit about what wellbeing is. So we're taking it, we're making it meta right now. Uh, instead of going micro, so. Um, there are a few different models for wellbeing that are pretty popular. One of them is from SAMHSA, which is the substance abuse and mental health services administration.

Marion: [00:02:31] Then there's acronyms. I know,

Courtney: [00:02:34] I know. I actually never remember that one, but I have looked at it several times this week and I think that's helped. And then the other one is from Nerissa. And don't ask me what that acronym means.

Marion: [00:02:45] Do you national intercollegiate. Recreation, sports authority. Nope. That last word was wrong, but I was pretty close.

I think

Courtney: [00:02:53] like sports authority was that

Marion: [00:02:55] gas where good associations probably. Correct.

Courtney: [00:02:56] Alright. Uh, so here at WVU, they're actually working on our own version of that model. Uh, and so I have a breakdown of what those. Components would be, and really at the heart of it, these models are looking at wellness and wellbeing as a more holistic, I don't know how to say it- holistic concept I suppose? State of being perhaps? Wellbeing as a state of being that probably not

Marion: [00:03:24] you exist in the world.

Courtney: [00:03:25] Yes. Um, so it has made up of several components, and this is, these are the ones that they've proposed so far. So we have emotional, which is, you know, about. Feelings. Uh, uh, so, but also about inner strength except in your feelings, both good and bad, and then hopefully how you can cope with life's ups and downs.

Then we have our physical, which is caring for your body through movement, through healthy sleep patterns, and also through balanced eating. Then we have social building those strong relationships and friendships as connections, uh, and support systems as well with both friends and family. Purposeful, which I always like.

It's expanding your sense of purpose and that will help you find meaning in your daily life. Occupational finding, personal satisfaction in your work. Uh, environmental. So living in a comfortable, safe, and satisfying place. Financial, uh, so learning how to manage your finances, but also making sure that you're secure in those finances, that you have access to the things that you need.

And then intellectual taking on creative projects like this one. Wow.

Marion: [00:04:29] Whoa. We're doing it. Oh, we are fulfilling ourselves at work and being creative and forming a friendship. Wow. We're just doing it. All right.

Courtney: [00:04:37] We're checking all the boxes. Oh my goodness. Um, so those are our components that we're looking at.

And now, so off the top of my head, when we think about the adventure program, to me, what jumps out and maybe probably jumps out for everybody, are the physical components. Cause a lot of what the mentorships trips are, you're doing active things like hiking and white-water rafting, kayaking, things like that.

Uh, but then also the social component. So bringing in those strong friendships, making those connections. But what do you see as some of the other perks to being involved with Adventure from this framework?

Marion: [00:05:10] So I think that, so you hit on what I would say is kind of the obvious one, which is what most people assume.

It just the physical one. And there's definitely physical, uh, that, you know, things we do are physical. You get some physical benefits from it. But I would say that in terms of like why I got into this line of work and why I think it's really beneficial. That's probably like on the lower end. Honestly, for me, I think you also hit on the one that's on the highest end for me, which is the social one.

I think we can hit on kind of all the others, but what we, what I feel like we really bring to the campus and to the. Both our students, staff, and folks who go on our programs is some really important and strong social connections. And I know that, I know that this isn't going to air today, but I, I want to point out that today is Valentine's day.

So I feel like I'm going to use the opportunity to really talk about how Adventure and how programs like ours really promote your social wellbeing and also have an opportunity to talk about who I call my research crush, I get to nerd out a little bit. I think we all like, I'm going to say we all, but this is probably not true, but like, you know, there's that one researcher and it's like, man, whatever they publish, you're like, yeah, that's right on.

I dig it. I dig it. Like your research and my personal experience with the live are there. They're the same thing. So my research cross is Roy Baumeister. When he wrote a little article, Oh, that Courtney has it right here. I'm going to read the exit exact title here. It's called the need to belong. Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation.

Now, this was published in 1995 and the psychological bulletin that I think it really stands the test of time here. So I get to, I'm going to use this like Valentine's day here to talk about my research crush and social relationships and then like how they come back to Adventure and how they all fit in that and wellness.

So I can just go off on a tangent, Oregon and handed back to you. I don't know. I don't know.

Courtney: [00:06:56] I'm ready to go with you on this journey. I want to grab your hand. Okay. Walk down this path with you. All right,

Marion: [00:07:01] so we're going, we're going to go on this journey. So as Courtney talking about social wellbeing is one of our, our wellness part of the wheel.

The wheel of wellness, no matter kind of which, which wheel you're talking about, social goes in there. So in my opinion, and in the opinion of my research crush, do I FM? I steroid? If you're listening to this. Shout out, he's going to listen to this. Right? Of course

Courtney: [00:07:20] everyone's

Marion: [00:07:21] going to get, he's still there.

He's publishing everything he does. I'm like, man, that's great. So Roy F Baumeister says that the need to belong is the fundamental human motivation. It's number one, like it supersedes everything. Some of us listening out there in psychology nerd land might be familiar with Maslow and Maslow's hierarchy of needs, you know, and as I say is pretty logical. It's like our baseline needs, our physical needs, like our food, shelter, safety, and then kind of as you get your most basic needs met, you kind of go up into some of these more social needs and then you kind of end with your kind of self-actualization as like your ultimate need. Their Baumeister's like you have that.

That's cool, but I'm actually going to flip it. I'm going to say that more important than food, shelter. Safety. All that stuff is the need to belong. The need to belong is the number one fundamental human motivation, and people will kind of sacrifice or subvert some of their basic safety needs, their food needs in order to belong.

He says, we are. At our core, deeply social animals, and I'm an introvert, like sometimes I'm like, Oh, people, I dunno about that, but it says, you know, for introverts as well, it's not about like know, wanting to go out to a party and see a ton of people. It's that there's this fundamental need to feel like we have connections in the world and that we belong in this world.

When you talk about two types of connections, he talks about kind of more intense connections, like maybe a romantic relationship or a very close friendship, but he also talks about just the kind of feeling connected that like when you walk around campus. Somebody knows your name, even if that person isn't your best friend, like, but you can say hello to them.

You recognize names, you recognize faces. So there are these two kinds of aspects of belonging, and he says that if we don't have both of them, we will seek them out and we will seek them out to the detriment of other needs that we might consider more basic. Food, shelter, safety, and some of the other kind of, well, uh, aspects of wellbeing like we talked about.

It gives a lot of good examples in the article. I'm sure that we're all going to look up this psychological bulletin from 1995 highly recommend use your WVU libraries, you out there as well. So he goes, lots of good examples of the times when folks put aside what we consider more basic needs in search of belonging.

So I'm going to ask us to go on a thought journey here.

Courtney: [00:09:31] I'm, I'm here, I'm with you. You already checked my hands

Marion: [00:09:34] dirty. And if we accept that, if we accept this premise that people will, they need to belong, and they will seek out a way to belong. And if we accept that as a basic premise, then we can, and what we accepted as a basic premise, and.

If we don't give folks kind of positive outlets to belong, then they will seek out maybe some less healthy outlets to belong. Whether that's connecting with people through kind of unhealthy behaviors, whether that's connecting just in ways that kind of don't promote all the other aspects of wellbeing, right?

So here's this premise, right? We need to belong. We're going to get it in one way or another. We're going to get it in a way that promotes our holistic wellbeing, or we're gonna get it in a way that. Doesn't promote our holistic wellbeing because it is the fundamental human motivation. So then our job, one of our jobs here at the office of student wellness, or an adventure, or you know, as being good people in life, is to try to help folks get into belongingness situations that promote all of their wellbeing, not just that fundamental need to belong, right?

So if I get to like kind of wax poetic about like. Why I work at Adventure, why I do this. It's that it's, it's really working to provide some of those, like both of those intense connections and those kind of more like passive, like you fit in a larger community. Connections to fulfill that most baseline human, I'm a social animal, need to belong in a way that promotes all of our other areas of wellbeing rather than that the detriment of those.

So I had an, how'd you like our little, our journey there?

Courtney: [00:11:04] I liked it. You know, it's, what is it? It's not about the destination. It's about the journey. So

Marion: [00:11:12] yeah,

Courtney: [00:11:12] I was with you all a hundred percent of the way. So in your experience working in higher education, have you seen examples of students who have done well with.

Finding that sense of belonging and remaining balanced and then sort of the inverse of that where they've become too involved to their detriment.

Marion: [00:11:30] Yeah, definitely. I think that, so I mentioned our first-year trips program registration is open

Courtney: [00:11:37] plug, plug,

Marion: [00:11:37] plug, plug, plug. A summer 2020 registration is open.

So I think that, um, that program. I hope it does a good job of promoting that sense of connectedness, of belongingness. And we've actually went out back, and when I was in graduate school, I did research on the Adventure West Virginia program here. And we continued to do kind of research on it. And what we find is that students do tend to report that they, um, they have better connections with peers, and they have better knowledge of wellness that are just kind of two of the areas that we found that they tend to report veteran than a, like a, um.

A comparison group appears like a, a similar group. Right? And then we kind of did some more follow-up research and found, um, through doing some qualitative research that a lot of that, uh, connections with peers and knowledge of wellness really comes down to trust. Being in a small group, going through kind of a series of challenges together, really learning about each other.

I'm learning about people in ways that you might not learn about the mean if you like, go to school with them for years and years and really developing a sense of trust. And when you have trust, you feel connected and you're more kind of apt enabled to have maybe some difficult conversations about wellness or about the route.

The other thing. So I think that we see a lot of our students who go through the first-year trips develop a pretty good sense of trust with a group and therefore a sense of belonging, which promotes all of our other areas of, um. Of wellbeing. And I also, I think you mentioned that a lot of our programs are, most of our programs really are run by students, staff.

And I really see that in our, in our staff as well, that that being a part of our staff community, I think is like a really fun and great and challenging community to be a part of. And I think that's probably true for most of that. Really all of the areas in student life like that, the folks who really identify strong, we're sitting in the da here, so I'm thinking about the da, but I'm sure that all the, the da staff kind of feel that sense of belongingness and purpose and all kind of through, through like a, a community that promotes kind of healthy belongingness.

You kind of fill out that whole wellness wheel. Yeah. So I think that that's something we do particularly well in Adventure. I think it's something we do like particularly well in student life. And then are we going to nerd out with, uh, with our, our, another example? We are okay. Yes. Okay.

Courtney: [00:13:51] Before we go into our other example that we had chatted about earlier this week, uh, I do want to make a plug because I have trained, I've done a training for this year's.

A first-year trip leaders, and I must say they're phenomenal young people. So if you know someone who going to be a new student start in the fall, I really do encourage you to have them sign up for a first-year trip because it's a great group of young people. And it was a pleasure to work with them. And I'm jealous that you get to work with them

Marion: [00:14:17] all the time.

All the time, all the time.

Courtney: [00:14:20] So this brings us to our next regular segment on this podcast, which is wellbeing in pop culture. Now, Marion and I have both nerded out as many, many people in this country have on the Netflix documentary series. Cheer. Uh, so cheer is, if you don't know it is about the cheer team at Navarro college, which is a community college down in Texas.

Uh, and so they have actually have one of the best cheer programs in the country. They are national champions. They're grand champions. They are ridiculous athletes. Um, and they're also a very cohesive unit. Uh, and I just want to get, Matt talked into my office every day. I feel like that would be a great motivation to start, but, um, but let's talk about how.

Their sense of belongingness perhaps can be seen as taken to the extreme and to the detriment of other aspects of their wellness.

Marion: [00:15:21] Yes. So I did nerd out on watching cheer along with, I think lots of other people. Um, when I suggested to my husband, he goes, first answer, yes. Second answer. Why? Um, and I mean, aside from just enjoying, like I enjoy watching athletes do their thing.

So there's, there's part of that, but I think that as I started watching it, what was really interesting. Is this question of belongingness and what people do to belong and how they sacrifice other parts of their wellbeing wheel in order to belong? If you've watched it, I mean, the athletes are absolutely incredible.

They're, they're very dedicated and they're dedicated to the extent that many of them during the course of the season that we. Got to witness with them, got injured and not, not an insignificant way. There were traumatic head injuries. There are concussions which we know have long, can have really longstanding effects on a person's health and wellbeing.

There were all sorts of musculoskeletal issues. There is also, um, that real challenge to get their schoolwork done right. There's kind of lots of other things that really impinge on, or that kind of being a part of this community really, um, can be detrimental to physical health. To kind of their academic wellbeing.

And also according to you brought up that some of the students will stay at Navarro for a third year after having graduated in order to be part of that team. Right. So what, as I was watching it, I was struck by the, the, the show gives a lot of background of these, of, of the, uh, of the athletes as well. A lot of them come from some challenging backgrounds.

And what I really, one of the things I took away was that this being part of this community gave them. I mean, it gave them a very strong sense of belonging to something and belonging to something that matters. And the, um, the, the, the trying hard and the working hard, of course, that, that's all part of it.

But just like the, the, the, the, that identity, like this is my identity. It's not just that like, I belong, but like, this is who I am. Right? And so. That to me, that was like fundamental human need to belong. There it is right there. These folks have felt kind of on the outskirts. They have felt not included.

They have felt somehow othered in so many parts of their life, and then they have found this community and they are not othered anymore. They intensely belong. They have a, they have connections and they also have kind of those intense relationships. And I'm like, wow, there it is. There it is. But when that.

Isn't facilitated kind of with the, the whole like wellbeing in mind, how that can get kind of like perverse towards like only fulfilling our, our belongingness need to the, to the detriment of our, to the detriment of your, and I, I can't talk enough about how like concussions are a big deal. And then I think some of the stats are that cheerleading has the, um.

When the higher instances, I think I called them catastrophic or the effort for, um, female athletes, catastrophic injuries. And so folks will kind of knowingly take on the risk and even work through what are called catastrophic injuries and why. And I would say it's probably because of this intense sense of belonging that they haven't, they haven't found anywhere else.

And so I think there's been a lot of. Um, I, I try not to, you know, read the comments. Right. But, um, based on, uh, being a member of society, I feel like there's a lot of discussion of the coach. Cause the, the, they, they love their coach. They do, they love her. But here, worshiper, you're a worshiper, right? Um. And I can see a lot of good in her, but I also reflect on kind of as also as kind of a leader of a community, you know, intense community of students, staff how like in some ways I identify with that and other ways I'm like , like not at all would I want to promote my kind of belongingness or my community in a way that is detrimental to.

Other aspects of their wellbeing. Right. So, um, that I feel like there's a kind of an onus of responsibility on the leader or on the leadership of a cup. Um, I call it like an intense belonging community to be aware of that intense need to belong and to be aware of how, um. If you don't get to facilitate that carefully that the your, the group members may do things that are really negative for other aspects of their wellbeing, if that's kind of their, the implicit expectation for being part of that group.

And that is your responsibility as, as a leader in that group to, to watch out for, to watch out for that. And just in set norms that don't expect that. Beautiful.

Courtney: [00:20:01] What a beautiful summary of a phenomenal documentary


Courtney: [00:20:07] Well, I think that actually about wraps it up. How long have we been going, Nick?

Marion: [00:20:12] Two minutes.


Courtney: [00:20:16] It's episode in the books. Well, thank you so much, Marion, for taking time out of your busy schedule to come and chat with us. Uh, w why is it us? It's just me. Um, but

Marion: [00:20:29] as are all of our listeners, including potentially. Roy F Baumeister and Monica Aldama

Courtney: [00:20:36] cheer coach.

Marion: [00:20:37] Is that Veronica? I think we should talk about this.

If you're listening. I think you're great. I also have some kind of thoughts about like, um, some implicit expectations that you have and maybe like understanding some psychology of belongingness, but I'm, I'm available whenever.

Courtney: [00:20:51] Yeah. Okay. Well,

Marion: [00:20:53] Monica,

Courtney: [00:20:54] we'll leave that invitation open for opening invitation.

All right. Well, thank you all for joining us on this. We'll be in journey. We will catch you next week on Wellbeing Wednesdays.