Wellness Collaborative launch event in review

What does it look like when 400 people come together to create a culture of wellness? On June 25th, 2019 amid a sea of staff, faculty and students engaged in discussion and plans for the future of the University of Waterloo, it looked like a community ready to make a change. 

                                 groups of people sitting at round tables

The Wellness Collaborative is the driving force to bring about impactful changes on campus guided by the Okanagan Charter and Healthy Workplace Statement. The launch event informed and called out to University of Waterloo to take a step towards culture change. The need for collaboration resonates across campus as the greatest impacts come from multiple groups with different strengths working together towards a common goal.

As Vice-President, Academic & Provost, Jim Rush, explained during the opening remarks, we are here because “we’ve made a commitment from the senior leadership of the institution to raise our profile as a health promoting university, embedding health and wellbeing into all aspects of campus culture, business operation and the academic mandates of the university”. The health and wellness of our community is vital to our institutional success. We all have a role to play and Jim noted how "overwhelmed and delighted he was to see so many different people from various parts of the university with such a mix of students, staff and faculty." The attendance to this launch event was very inspiring at this early stage. 

The Wellness Collaborative also recognizes and celebrates Wellness Champions on campus, such as Dr. Wade Wilson, who opens each lecture with a mindfulness exercise and discusses with his students how they can incorporate this strategy into their day-to-day lives. Wade led the Wellness Collaborative participants in a similar exercise to depict how wellness can be incorporated into our current roles on campus. Stacey Majaury from Athletics also led the group in a stretch break to promote physical activity which is a key area of wellness.

                                 stretch break

Keynote speaker, Matt Dolf, shared some tangible activities that UBC implemented from their UBC Wellbeing Strategy around healthy drink beverages and increasing physical activity on campus, by making important changes to the built environment, policies and service delivery, followed by strong communication campaigns to increase awareness of opportunities and spark involvement. During the presentation, Matt highlighted the unique opportunity we have as a post-secondary institution, to create a “living lab” on our campus, to be aspirational in our work, and to consider not only our wellness, but also sustainability of our campus.

The room was abuzz with conversations about “what it would like look in 10-20 years if our campus is a place where people leave more healthy than when they arrived.” Participants had the opportunity to share ideas about what individuals and groups are currently doing to contribute to the wellbeing of our campus community and what the Wellness Collaborative could do.

The opportunity for group discussion and sharing, along with inspiring closing remarks from the executive sponsors, Marilyn Thompson, Associate Provost, Human Resources and Chris Read, Associate Provost, Students, left participants feeling excited about the many opportunities.

We’ve also heard from many of you since the event! Many people left feeling like the University of Waterloo is an engaged and excited campus community that is collaborating on health and wellness, while others took away ideas for immediate action that they can implement in their own role and department. We also heard great ideas for how future events could be improved and the importance of balancing the planning process of the Wellness Collaborative, with the need to take timely action – as there is an opportunity for change now.

Finally, we leave you with a quote that keynote speaker, Matt Dolf, shared. “If the frogs in a pond started behaving strangely, our first reaction would not be to punish them or even to treat them. Instinctively, we'd wonder what was going on in the pond.” — Dan Reist, UVic, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research.

This is an exciting step for the University of Waterloo and with such a diverse campus community, everyone can contribute to well-being in some way.

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