At their recent Board meeting, the NIRSA Board of Directors endorsed the Okanagan Charter, a document that was crafted to aid in the promotion of health and wellbeing on college campuses around the world.

The Charter’s aim is to help college campuses promote health and wellbeing by providing a framework that can be used as a guide for integrating a culture of health and leading health promotion both locally and globally. The goal is to provide a resource for colleges looking to implement health and wellbeing promotion into all policies and practices, including everyday operations, business practices, and academic mandates. As of now, the Charter has been signed by ten universities, all of which are Canadian institutions—including NIRSA member institutions Mount Royal University and McMaster University.

NIRSA values and goals align with the charter

The NIRSA Board of Directors endorsed the Okanagan Charter not only because the charter’s goals align with NIRSA’s Strategic Plan and share NIRSA’s Strategic Values of Health & Wellbeing, Global Perspectives, and Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion, but also because the endorsement provides a resource for NIRSA members who also wish to advance a culture of health and wellbeing on their respective campuses.

NIRSA members have been at the forefront of promoting integrated health and wellbeing on their campuses. For example, in February, the University of Arkansas celebrated Love Yourself Week, an initiative meant to honor inner wellbeing and promote positive self-image within an academic environment.

In 2016, NIRSA spotlighted four universities whose recreation centers have focused on integrated wellness by embracing a more innovative approach to recreation. These schools and others have shifted from focusing solely on sport to addressing a range of wellness-related issues such as sleep hygiene, mental health, stress, and social wellbeing.

NIRSA’s Canadian members have also been on the cutting edge of holistic health and wellbeing promotion. A recent example is York University where the Fitness & Lifestyle division of the Athletics & Recreation department teamed up with the Canadian Diabetes Association to create the Gluco-Fit Project, a community exercise program geared toward disease prevention or management of type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Other prominent organizations are signing on

Mount Royal University and McMaster University have taken their commitment to health and wellbeing a step further by being among the first to endorse and sign the Okanagan Charter. The Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) has also recently endorsed the Charter. CACUSS is a student affairs organization that helps connect higher education institutions across Canada. Their endorsement helps align institutions that are a part of CACUSS in their mission to integrate healthy practices among their students and administration.

Representatives from the World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization have also pledged to utilize the Charter in integrating health and wellbeing into the operations of their respective organizations.

NIRSA’s Board of Directors hopes the Association’s endorsement of the Charter will bring awareness to these issues for all NIRSA members, regardless of location. The NIRSA Board endorsement comes as the Okanagan Charter is about to celebrate its one-year anniversary on October 31, 2017.

Please join the Board of Directors in celebrating the creation of a document that furthers the work that NIRSA and its members are wholly committed to: promoting health and wellbeing for all.

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

Bill Crockett, RCRSP is currently the Executive Director of Campus Life Services at the University of Maryland Baltimore and the President on the NIRSA Board of Directors. He can be reached at Pam Watts is NIRSA Executive Director. She can be reached at