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SUNY Plattsburgh Wellness Week Aims to Educate, Connect Students to Services

wellness week Vlad Perry Jema Abbate

SUNY Plattsburgh’s spring Wellness Week will feature dozens of workshops, activities, speeches, classes and more for students, faculty, staff and community beginning Monday, Feb. 26.

The slate of programming, which runs through Friday, March 1, includes workshops on practices like meditation and sound healing, education on issues like domestic violence and disability accommodations, art activities, a keynote speaker, food samples, games and more.

Vladamiere Perry, a community director for campus housing and community living, is co-chairing the committee that organizes Wellness Week once each semester with Jema Abbate, a graduate student in the clinical mental health counseling program who is interning at the Student Health and Counseling Center.

‘Provide Resources, Build Community’

“Students really want to complete and finish their education, and events like this can help provide them with resources that they need to plug gaps in their life or needs that they have or the opportunity for a little bit of community,” Abbate said.

Offices across campus will rotate tabling in the Angell College Center throughout the week to speak with students about their services, Perry said.

“Students often don’t know what’s available to them on campus,” Abbate said.

Beyond that, it’s an opportunity to break down barriers that might make it easier for students to ask for help if they need it, Abbate said.

“Say the students see some of the UP officers acting silly at Wellness Week. It might make them more willing to interact with some of the employees on campus.”

‘Healthier Students are Stronger Students’

Karen McGrath, vice president of enrollment and student success, said she is passionate about student wellness.

karen mcgrath vp student success“One of the things that has been critically important to me is that we are thinking about students in the totality of their experiences, and we know that healthier students are stronger students, and healthy does not just mean physical well-being. It’s all dimensions of students’ life,” McGrath said.

She said the university focuses on supporting students in eight areas of their life: Physical, intellectual, financial, emotional, occupational, environment, social and spiritual.

Each element of wellness is like spokes on a bike tire, McGrath said. If one spoke is bent, the bike becomes wobbly, and the student becomes destabilized.

“We have seen mental health needs of college students grow exponentially, and it’s just been further exacerbated by the pandemic,” McGrath said.

She cited a recent survey by the American College Health Association that found the majority of students reported the things most adversely affecting their academic performance were depression, anxiety, stress and sleep disorders.

“How much of that is from not getting enough physical exercise or from not eating healthy? Or having anxiety because you have housing insecurity, or you’re so concerned about money in college that you’re stretching yourself or you’re working 40 hours a week and going to school, and you’re staying up late to get your schoolwork done so it’s disrupting your sleeping patterns?”

Wellness Week aims to provide education or connect students with services to help them address some of these issues, McGrath said.

Event Highlights

Wellness Week highlights include:

  • Boris, the therapy dog at 1 p.m. on Feb. 26 in the Angell College Center lobby and 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 29 in Memorial Hall during the Wellness Fair
  • Mindfulness and body workshop at 2 p.m. on Feb. 26 in the Memorial Hall studio inside the fitness center
  • Accommodations for students with disabilities presentation at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27 in the new Accessibility Resource Office space, ground floor of Feinberg Library across the hall from academic advising in the former large computer lab space, where staff will discuss accommodations for students with disabilities, what documentation is required to receive them and more
  • Lorin Phillips, from CAMPUSPEAK will discuss “Fierce Confrontation: Compassionate Strategic Leadership for Difficult Conversations” at 6 p.m. on Feb. 29, in the Warren Ballrooms, Angell College Center
  • Narcan training by Alliance for Positive Health Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m. in the Cardinal Lounge, Angell College Center, where participants will receive free Narcan kits

narcan posterOrganizations tabling at Wellness Week extend beyond campus and include the Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance, Tobacco Free Clinton Franklin Essex Counties/Champlain Valley Family Center, Planned Parenthood, Behavioral Health Services North and more.

Wellness Fair

The week’s activities culminate at Thursday’s Wellness Fair in Memorial Hall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The campus dietician will serve food samples containing heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, Burghy will be giving out free hugs, Title IX staff will educate students about healthy relationships, and students can learn about the new fitness center from staff.

Other university offices that will provide information about their services to students include the Cardinal Cupboard (campus food shelf), TRIO Student Support Services, Accessibility Resource Office, University Police, Global Education Office, and the campus’s Truth Racial Healing & Transformation Center.

Taking Care of Employees

Wellness Week isn’t just for students, McGrath said. Many of the events are designed to cater to faculty and staff too.

“How do we take care of our employees? We’re providing educational opportunities and fun opportunities to focus on ourselves.”

New Wellness Coordinator

McGrath said SUNY Plattsburgh has plans to build on Wellness Week to comprehensive wellness programming with new funding from SUNY.

Part of that will be hiring a wellness and health promotion coordinator.

“They’re going to be thinking about wellness/well-being throughout the rest of the year as well. The idea is how do we create an integrated programming calendar for our students and the campus community that works on all dimensions of a student’s life,” McGrath said.

“There will be programming on financial literacy, self-care, nutrition, intellectual development, fitness, financial literacy, which we know for our students is incredibly important, occupational, vocational, career. By pulling all these dimensions of a student’s life together, we’re going to really be able to offer integrated, broad-based programming for our students.”

The Plattsburgh College Foundation recently received a $1 million challenge gift from alumna Cindy Kansky ’76 to support all aspects of student wellness so they can be successful. The newly launched Cardinals Thrive campaign aims to add an additional $1 million in gifts from alumni and friends to sustain Kansky’s gift.

History of Wellness Activities

Boris While efforts have gradually grown over time, SUNY Plattsburgh has long prioritized the well-being of students, said Kristina Moquin, senior counselor in the Counseling Center. The center launched a stress-free zone in the early 2000s before midterm and final exams, Moquin said.

“It was in the ACC, and there were usually de-stressing activities, information and therapy dogs.”

Earlier in the pandemic, the Counseling Center offered virtual events with their pets called Yappy Hour, she said.

“Therapy donkeys visit (campus) a few times as well close to finals time in the spring, and they are actually coming again this April,” Moquin said.

In-Person, Telehealth Counseling

The Student Assistance Program provides free telehealth counseling services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students can text or call 1-800-327-2251 or visit port.BHSonline.com and enter the username SUNYPlattsburgh.

Students can make an appointment with counseling or medical providers by contacting the Student Health and Counseling Center at 518-564-2187 or [email protected].

Abbate said she hopes students leave with at least one piece of information they can use in their lives like a coping skill.

Perry echoed that and encouraged students to learn more about what is available to them.

“Everyone wants to give them these resources.”

A full listing of events can be found via a custom Google calendar and event highlights are in the university’s calendar of events.

— By Assistant Director of Communications Felicia Krieg

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