Courtney Weaver is joined by Dr. Tara Hulsey, Vice President of Health Promotion and Wellness and Dean of the College of Nursing to talk about wellbeing initiatives at the University Level. Dr. Hulsey also discusses a new project from the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness – Building Community Wellbeing Wherever You May Be – that students are encouraged to participate in! For more information, visit: https://hsc.wvu.edu/health-promotion-and-wellness/home/.

Transcription: 

Welcome everyone to Wellbeing Wednesdays. My name is Courtney Weaver. I'm the director over at WellWVU here at West Virginia University. And my guest today is a doctor and Tara Hulsey who wears many hats at the institution. Many like very important hats, top hats, I would say. Um, so not only is she the vice president of health promotion and wellness, uh, she's also the Dean of the school.

School of nursing. So welcome Dr. Hulsey. Thank you again for joining us. Thank you for having us. Alright. Um, so why don't you tell everyone a little bit about your role here? You're at the university? So my role as Dean of the school of nursing is that oversee the school of nursing. And we have currently four undergraduate programs and.

Six graduate level programs across four campuses. I'm actually in conversation about maybe adding a fifth campus. And we also, the school of nursing also offers a number of continuing education programs for current nurses that are practicing. And my role as vice president for health promotion and wellness.

Uh, I oversee the, the office of health promotion and wellness, and this is a university wide initiative. Um, we also have a planning steering committee and that planning steering committee is comprised of senior level administrators across the university. And their role is to really set priorities around wellbeing initiatives for the university.

And we've done a number of, um, focus groups and data collection activities. And through those, the planning steering committee has developed the West Virginia university wellbeing wheel. All right. Well, so we've actually been, you mentioned the wheel on quite a few episodes of this podcast, but technically I know that it's also not, um, um, uh, like super public yet.

Cause you want it. I, from my understanding, it was, you wanted it to have kind of this big reveal, but because of Kobe that obviously did not happen probably in the way that you all had imagined it happening. Um, but why don't you tell us a little bit more about the wheel. Sure. And you're right. We had big plans of doing campus conversations actually in March.

Um, you know, real big public launch of the office and where we were and what we had accomplished and what we had developed over the last a year and a half. But COVID did put a big stop to that. So the wellness wheel is actually a graphic representation of our priorities and our priorities are in the areas of physical social.

Community purpose, financial and emotional. And through our conversations with students, faculty, and staff around the university, we really found that people felt like the emotional component was actually woven throughout the other, uh, wellness components. And so we are working with, um, of folks around the university, students, faculty and staff representatives that are serving on priority action teams, which we've developed around each of those wellness wheel components.

And so, um, they're, those folks are going to be developing they're in the process and already meeting they're in the process of identifying goals for each of those areas. And that's going to guide really how we move forward strategically with the initiatives and resources that we have. And my we're actually in the early stages of the next piece of it, which I envision is actually using national benchmarks around each of those components to measure success of activities and initiatives that we have.

Great. Yeah, I'm a few weeks. We had Dr. Julie Brazinski as a guest, and she sits on the purpose priority action team. And I know several of my colleagues in student life also sit on those priority action teams. I'm on the. The advisory council part of it. So I'm involved too. I promise. No, we are very appreciative of that.

And actually honestly, the, the, um, the willingness to serve and the energy around this initiative is great. It's just a lot of people around the university don't even yet know about it. And again, it's, it's really because we haven't had. COVID just really put a big damper on our plans for making sure that everybody knew where we were, what we're doing and the areas in which they can get involved.

Yeah, that's for sure. COVID just went and ruined everything for everyone in many ways. Alright. So how does the office of health promotion and wellness support wellbeing at the university? Okay. Through a generous gift that we received, actually, president gee was given a generous gift by alumni Natalie in West Bush and Natalie actually chairs my school of nursing advisory.

So, so she's been involved with the school of nursing for quite a while. And I've met her. For several years, um, the bushes gay, generous gift to president II to ask and asked him to do with it, what he saw fit for the university. This was a vision that he had had for quite a while. Somebody in the role that would oversee all of the wellness activities and health promotion across the university was something that he had actually spoken to me about, uh, over a year prior to his developing this role.

And the office. Um, so they actually allowed this to come to fruition and we actually maintain through the office, uh, maintain, uh, inventory, health promotion, and wellness inventory. And what we started that over a year ago. Um, initially just to try to get a handle on everything that's going on, because that was really the purpose of this role.

And this office is there was not one person in the university who knew or had any idea of how much was going on and all the areas of the university and all the campuses around health promotion and wealth. And I am not saying by any means, it means that the inventory that we have even today, which changes date yeah.

Encompasses everything. But we have more of a handle on it than anybody has so far because we have the effort and their resources put to put into it. So right now, as of yesterday, we had over 74, um, initiatives that we programs, actions. Research projects, initiatives that are related to wellbeing. And so our job is really to leverage the resources, to serve faculty, staff, and students, and make sure that the work that is being done around the university is aligned with West Virginia university's values and also with limited resources to really prioritize and, um, put some effort into evaluation.

Of the things that we have going on as well. And the long-term goal is really to expand, um, efforts that we have within a university level. We identify as very effective the state level and beyond that's the long-term goal. Wow. And so this inventory that you all are creating currently, is it available for anyone to look at or will, are there plans to make it available?

It's actually currently not available for public just because it's being added to right now daily, I do foresee it becoming available. It's actually in an Excel spreadsheet right now and it's, it's just grows exponentially as I've, as I've mentioned. Um, but we will have components of it on our website, which is, is.

Developing as well. So we do have a website and encourage folks to check it out. It has the wellbeing wheel on it, and it does have our priority areas and it will have, I have more information. So I envisioned that, um, we will get to a point before, too long where the inventory will be there. But again, that's everything that we know of.

Not necessarily what our top priorities are at any point in time, but I do think it would be helpful for faculty, staff and students who are interested to know what all we have identified and how much the university currently has going on. Yeah. I think that would be really helpful. Cause I know on our end we often hear, when we ask students say, what would you like to see?

They often refer to things that already exist, but just aren't aware that they exist and where they can find them. So you're sort of. Getting all this information together is really great. Um, and so in my role, well, the review offers a lot of different kinds of programming in alcohol and drug education, sexual health, uh, nutrition and fitness.

But what types of programs and services does the university provide that help students enhance their overall wellness? Well, there, we actually have a lot as a, as I mentioned over 70 plus programs, but around for students, you know, refresh activities have been advertised really well. This semester in particular campus recreation and adventure, West Virginia provided wonderful opportunities for the students and have been doing some virtual activities, the courage center, and be well programs provide much needed services as well off around emotional wellbeing, which is of course a priority right now.

Right, for sure. And having worked with the refresh program, there's some really cool opportunities that students can take advantage of that are totally free, like crafting with stars of HGTV and cooking classes. And it's, it's pretty cool. Um, so can you tell us about a few more programs that support students' wellbeing?

Yeah, we actually, as I mentioned are constantly identifying things no about, um, which is exciting, but it started out very overwhelming to be honest with you, but it's just amazing how much we already had going on around the university at all of our campuses. But for example, the mountain, your hub has a financial aid peer educators’ program, which we did not know about.

So the peer educators are actually well-trained student employees at the hub, and they talk to students about challenges that they may be having associated with financial wellbeing. And another resource includes collegiate recovery program, which I think a lot of students do know about and the serenity place and their offering activity like meditation and yoga and trainings to help support people that are in recovery and finding purpose in their life to move on.

So each of these programs are some way aligned with the physical, social purpose, financial community, and emotional components of the wellbeing meal. Yeah, for sure. Um, and so we always like to do a wellbeing snapshot, basically where we say, this is the topic that we're talking about, and this is, this is how it applies in real life.

So for our snapshot today, can you just give us sort of a quick pic of how you view wellbeing at WVU this fall? Cause it's definitely not your average semester. No, it's not. And we've really kind of shifted. Um, what are. Priorities were pre-code that are what we may have thought we would highlight as a top priority of it too.

Um, it's a different aspect now, given what everything that people are dealing with it is around emotional. So while there are so many programs available for students with wellbeing, we do know that this is a challenging time. So students really maybe feel disconnected from the campus or maybe disconnected from home depending on really where they're living right now.

So in addition to the demands of schoolwork, you know, students are probably, we know a lot of students are experiencing additional stress, um, and the faculty and staff and all of us around social distancing and okay. COVID-19 so our office is working with groups across the campus to identify the supports that we currently had in place that we can, um, put additional resources behind and move forward to help.

Students navigate through these difficult times. So for, in terms of plans for the upcoming year. So what are your ideas for programming for this year? Yeah, this emotional wellbeing. That's, that's really our top. And we've had conversations with faculty, students, and staff across the university who have really expressed their concerns around mental health.

That's really been the recurring theme over the last few months. And so this year we'll be intentionally sharing, coping skills, strategies, and resources for people who may need additional support. I actually had a meeting yesterday with the health science center, deans around looking at ways we are going to purposefully incorporate coping skills into our curriculum.

Great. And so starting with health science center, but then branching out across the university. So we want to be intentional about sharing those coping skills and strategies for folks. And we know that sometimes people can cope by just having, you know, a conversation with somebody that they trust or a family member.

Um, other times they really need more intensive support. So we have a number of professional resources at the university, including of course, career center and be well that offer individual counseling. Group meetings and workshops. So even if students are physically not on campus this semester, they still could take advantage of those programs virtually.

Right. And so, um, we've talked a little bit about, about students feeling a little more isolated this semester. So what are some ways that students can feel more connected to WVU? Well, we're actually, our office is actually going to launch a campaign called building community wellbeing, wherever you are.

So tell me, tell us a little bit more about that. Yeah. So whether a student's located in Morgantown or wherever they're located across West Virginia, we're really all one mountain, your family. And we want to underscore that. So even if we're physically distant this semester or next semester, hopefully not, but perhaps, so we're all connected to the university.

And so what we do in our communities, regardless of the community that we reside in, um, we're mountaineers. And that's a reflection on us. Right. And so how has the campaign related to COVID-19? Well, we have a lot of stuff. No two are in the community that are doing things within their community to help around COVID.

But, you know, in direct ways we need to be wearing our masks in public and keeping physically distant and washing our hands. So, you know, really adhering to those three main things we all need to be doing. And we know that, but in less obvious ways, the building community wellbeing is really about how we serve our community.

So students who are living at home this semester, maybe contributing by donating blood or by working at a food bank. We do have students who are supporting families by serving as first responders. So we really want to highlight the students, um, around, within this COVID pandemic and celebrate the ways that they are working and building community wellbeing, wherever they are.

Okay. So if a student wants to participate in the initiative this year, what do they need to do? We want to blast things out. We want to get photos of students in the community and really show what all we're doing and try to connect us as a one in a Mountaineer family. And so they can do good things as we know that we, they are and represent us well, which is so important.

So students can wear there WVU apparel when they're in the communities doing service and have someone take a picture to send into our office, we'll be publishing those. Um, we will need a photo release. Um, so it's better if the students by themselves or the students, or by themselves in a picture versus having community members in those pictures as well.

Um, but those photos can be sent to our office, the office of health, promotion and wellness, and we will take it from there. Okay. And so they can find the information on the website, correct? To send them the photos. Yeah. And all you have to do to find our website, because West Virginia is just Google West Virginia university health promotion, and wellness, and it'll pop right up.

And I really do encourage folks to check it out. As I said, we're continuing to add things to it, but, um, it gives me much more information than I have. It had time to do today, but are you also find information about our program director, dr. Amy Sidwell, and she will be organizing this campaign and getting it off, off and running for us.

So she'll be in touch to get any press releases that we might need and can take it from me. Okay. And so wrapping up, is there anything else that you'd like to share with our listeners? I would just really, first of all, I thank you for the opportunity in the conversation and to encourage students really, to take advantage of the wellness services that we have the university.

And even if you're not on campus this semester, and if you don't know where to start or you're uncomfortable asking for help, please reach out to our office and we'll be glad to get you connected. All right. Well, thank you so much, dr. Holes, and we really appreciate you taking the time out of your very busy schedule to talk to us today, uh, and to all of our avid listeners.

Um, thank you so much for tuning in and we'll catch you next time on Wellbeing Wednesday.