Wellness a key part of the student experience

I’m keenly interested in wellness and how the totality of our experience informs our wellbeing — especially our mental and emotional state. Programs based on cutting-edge wellness research will become a defining part of the DU student experience.

I didn’t compete in my first triathlon until I was in my 40s. Now, some years later, the training involved has become part of my daily routine. Running, swimming, biking — I do it because it supports my wellness; it supports what I want to achieve and work toward as an academic, husband and father; and, of course, it supports my role as chancellor of the University of Denver. Through my training, I find clarity, stress relief and discipline. And, according to compelling research, I may even be building new neural connections. 

Mine is just one approach. For many, running is torturous. For many others, a 25-mile bike ride sounds about as enjoyable as a root canal. The important thing is the model, not the mode. 

Through my own wellness practice, my interest in the topic, discussions with colleagues and researchers, and through watching others define and cultivate wellness, I have come to believe that this is an incredibly powerful dimension of our experience. Most important, I have come to believe it is an essential part of the student experience at DU and will help us distinguish this great university in the years to come.

The world is changing. Technology is disrupting, well, everything. The job market is shifting, as are demographics. Students, caregivers and parents, employers and society are asking higher ed for new answers to the age-old question: How are we preparing students for purposeful and fulfilling lives and careers? 

I believe DU has everything we need to meet the coming changes and challenges with energy and fresh thinking. Whatever the future holds, we will continue to ensure students leave our campus with a great education, valuable skills and impactful experiences. But we can do more. A focus on and a commitment to wellness is just one of many new dimensions — new opportunities — to better serve students today and for the rest of their lives. 

At DU, we’re already making strides. We offer telecounseling so our community has easy access to emotional and mental health support resources. Our nationally recognized Collegiate Recovery Community connects and supports students bravely facing addiction recovery. Our highly distinctive Learning Effectiveness Program helps us increase access to a DU education by offering avenues to students learning across a wide spectrum of neurodiversity. 

Our new Community Commons and the Burwell Center for Career Achievement, both set to open later this year, are designed to build social connectivity, and the Dimond Family Residential Village, based on cutting-edge research, will support a sense of belonging. 

For many years, the Graduate School of Professional Psychology has done incredible mental health work on campus, in the community and through impactful research. And our student-athletes’ commitment to excellence in their sports and in the classroom is itself a testament to the kind of holistic mindset I believe will increasingly become a part of the DU culture. This is wellness, in all its diversity, complexity and vitality. These are the first-laid stepping stones toward making this university a place where students explore and care for themselves—academically, without a doubt, but also physically, mentally, spiritually and socially. 

The benefits of wellness are also incredibly practical. Through wellness, students are better able to manage stress. They build important social networks, which helps them obtain their degrees and aim even further. They sharpen their mental acuity. They find joy. Think of all they could achieve for themselves and for society when supported by such a bedrock. 

I think there is both space and a hunger for higher education — for DU — to think bigger about the student experience. Girded by the entire community’s dedication, our faculty’s groundbreaking research and our staff’s commitment, this can determine our future. In the face of change, our best way forward isn’t an unknown path; it’s an expansion upon the ground we’ve already cleared. It’s what we’ve always done so well. It’s giving students what they need — skills, knowledge, support, experiences — to be the best they can be so they may leave our campus to chase their goals and change the world for the better. 

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