Advice & News

June 5, 2024

Helping Students Reach Their Highest Potential Through Well-Being Programs


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How do you define well-being? On episode 57 of the HigherEdJobs podcast, Amy Hoch, a psychologist and associate director of the Wellness Center at Rowan University, said that well-being is how people create a life worth living. Well-being programs and resources can help students, staff, and faculty move in the direction of their highest potential.

Well-being is an optimal but dynamic state, said Hoch.

"It's both individual and interconnected," she said. "It's a process and it really has its roots in positive psychology, an area of study that looks at how people really create a life worth living."

Leaders at Rowan University have moved away from a Western medicine approach to help their students optimize their lives. Instead of looking at problems, making assumptions about a person's issues or challenges, and then creating interventions or solutions for the problems, they are looking at well-being in a more holistic manner.

Social Connections Play an Important Role

Promoting well-being includes encouraging students to make social connections and acquire a feeling of belonging to make life a little easier. Experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic was a good reminder about the importance of social connections in our lives.

"When we are isolated from people, when we don't have things like social connections, we're lonelier and we don't do as well," Hoch said. In this episode, Hoch describes how Rowan University has made its well-being programs a pillar at the institution. Her tips for other colleges seeking to do this include to:

  • Identify influencers on campus.
  • Approach the issue with prevention being top of mind.
  • Seek student and employee input.
  • Create programs and resources outside of the Wellness Center.

Hoch said that higher education institutions offer ripe ground for optimizing well-being. But if you are at a college where you feel alone or isolated, you could experience the opposite effect. Employee well-being should also be a priority on college campuses.

Faculty, Staff, Leaders Need Well-Being Support

"If we at higher education institutions, the administration, faculty, and staff, are also not cultivating well-being of our own, it's likely that we won't be able to do that for our students and for our colleagues," she said.

As an administrator, Hoch manages staff and meets with students. She educates people around her about well-being, and she models it, too.

"I am really invested in my calling as a psychologist... and really cultivating this idea of well-being that's going to have a ripple effect on those people around me," she said.

She and other administrators also have an opportunity to create policies and procedures that consider the well-being of employees at the university.

"That then has an impact on our policies that impact students," Hoch said.

Similarly, she said that she has an opportunity to think about diversity and inclusion in a way that helps people in the workplace, so that people feel a sense of connection and belonging.

"We are interconnected in that way, too, right?" said Hoch.

Advice to Address Well-Being in Higher Education

Hoch's advice for other institutions looking to make a difference in well-being includes providing adequate funding -- including pursuing grants -- modeling it and prioritizing well-being.

"We just know too much about how trauma impacts productivity and absenteeism and mental health issues," she said. "If we have that knowledge, then we have to be charged with addressing it somehow."

Hoch said that university leaders should review hiring procedures and ask employees how they are taking care of themselves.

Other questions to consider include:

  • How might you, as an employee or leader, respond to requests from the institution to go beyond your capacity?
  • How will you work to change policies that might be built into an institution and that are hard to change?

"If you're really going to elevate well-being, it's having dedicated people who are assigned to be working on this issue that is the sole issue that they're working on," she added. At the same time, everybody at the university or in a workplace has a responsibility for well-being. It can't just be the wellness center.

"We have to instill in people that this is something we all can model and can have a huge influence on our students lives and on our own," she said.

Hoch was recently featured in a HigherEdJobs article on innovations in student well-being on college campuses.

Have a question for HEJ to explore on the podcast? Email us at podcast@higheredjobs.com.

Listen to the entire episode for more from Hoch and our hosts, Andy Hibel and Kelly Cherwin.

HigherEd360 is part of the HigherEdJobs network.