NIRSA is always eager to support the innovative and value-driven work of our members, but it’s particularly exciting when we get to promote that work on our association’s biggest stage: our Annual Conference. The 2017 NIRSA Annual Conference & Campus Rec and Wellness Expo is proud to feature a standalone general session panel entitled “Creating a Culture of Well-being” on Wednesday, February 22 from 3:30pm-4:30pm to do just that.

What is a culture of wellbeing and why do I need it?

Health and behavior issues have become pervasive among today’s college and university students—and campus presidents, administrators, and other major decision makers are taking notice. Health and wellness is key to students succeeding in their studies, forming and maintaining positive relationships, engaging in their campus communities, and completing their degrees.

The profession of campus recreation is based on serving the diverse and dynamic campus community, with a particular focus on developing students. Our association utilizes this platform—and the ability to engage students at ‘the point of sweat’—as a vehicle towards realizing our vision of building healthy people and healthy communities worldwide.

This means our profession is uniquely well positioned to not only impact the students struggling with these health challenges, but also to collaborate and lead an integrated approach to health and wellbeing on our campuses. The required campus cultural shift—viewing health holistically and prioritizing the health of all students—is one that several NIRSA members have already begun making on their individual campuses.

You may already be familiar with a few of these examples: as wellness centers are emerging on college campuses both as a new concept and as a re-imagining of traditional recreation offerings, NIRSA has had the opportunity to feature several such institutions and their approaches to integrated wellness in the NIRSA News.

What should I expect at this session?

NIRSA Executive Director Pam Watts will be facilitating this panel discussion, which will feature six NIRSA colleagues who have worked to create a culture of health and wellbeing on their campuses and have advocated for it being a top campus priority. Their individual approaches, collaborations, challenges, and paths to success have varied in response to their campus’ unique needs, demands, and opportunities; however, they clearly share a passion for and dedication to producing tangible results and helping students thrive and flourish.

The featured panelists include:

  • David Bowles – Executive Director for Recreation & Health Promotion Services, University of Florida
  • Stacy Connell – Associate Director University Recreation, North Carolina State University
  • Michael Edwards – Director of Campus Recreation, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Suzy Harrington, Executive Director, Center for Community Health and Wellbeing, Georgie Institute of Technology
  • Tom Roberts – Assistant Vice President Recreation and Wellness, University of Richmond
  • Chris Wise – Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs for Health and Wellness, Virginia Tech

This is important work for NIRSA, and for the profession, as it moves forward. As Pam explains, “Creating a culture of health and wellbeing will be as impactful on student success as the shift to independent administration of campus recreation in the 1980s or Learning Reconsidered in the early 2000s. Campus recreation professionals are in a unique position to leverage their competencies and predisposition for collaboration to lead this important movement in service to their students and campus community.”

In addition to the facilitated questions, attendees will also be able to hear first-hand from a student who benefited from her campus recreation department being a leader in integrated wellness. While her experience is one case study among so many examples, it poignantly confirms the impact initiatives like these have on the students NIRSA members are committed to serving.

This sounds great! Is there more?

Continue this discussion the following day, from 8:00am-9:30am, by hearing from several of our Canadian colleagues in a session entitled “Campus Recreation’s Role in the Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges.” This session will also discuss building health into all aspects of campus culture through the lens of 2015’s Okanagan Charter, a call to action for post-secondary institutions on this very topic.

Of course, you can also check out the NIRSA 2017 program for even more sessions related to health and wellbeing. Then, continue the conversation either on social media—you can reach NIRSA on Facebook or Twitter—or in the NIRSA Connect community.


  • For more information, please contact NIRSA Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships Erin O’Sullivan.
Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships at |

Erin O'Sullivan is currently the Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships at NIRSA.