Project Description

NIRSA Assembly’s Guide to Health & Wellbeing Resources

Programming & Special Events

Last Updated: August 28, 2020

Below you’ll find information and ideas about what NIRSA member institutions are doing around health and wellbeing promotion programming and special events, along with details about related resource investment.

The NIRSA Assembly has compiled here a wide range of ideas and unique programs that can be implemented or adapted at your institution.

The events and program examples have been grouped into four sections: low or no cost special events, smaller programs, larger programs, and programs that extend beyond campus.

Low or no cost special event

One-day to weeklong special events that required less than $1,000 in direct expenses.

Cornell University’s Spa Night

  • Every other Tuesday
  • Purpose: to give students a break from academics and de-stress by doing a craft/activity (varies week to week), free food, and fun!
  • Target audience: Students
  • Event lead and collaborations: Noyes Recreation Community Center
  • Direct costs: $650 per spa night plus student staff working event. Food: $300. Massage: $75/hour per therapist. Arts/crafts: $50.
  • Funded by: Noyes Recreation Community Center
  • Time commitment (Planning/putting on event): the event lasts 2.5 hours with two students working; planning and shopping required three hours for each spa night.

Sam Houston State University’s Nutrition Education

  • Purpose: The purpose of this program is to provide our students with the opportunity to meet with a dietetic intern about eating healthy, as well as give them the ability to ask any questions they may have about nutrition.
  • Target audience: students
  • Event lead and collaborations: Rec Sports Fitness program put on the event in collaboration with the Department of Family and Consumer Science Dietetic Master’s program.
  • Direct costs: no cost.
  • Funded by: no cost; dietetic interns are provided by the Dietetic Master’s program.
  • Potential improvements: student commitment follow through after they sign up.
  • Time commitment (Planning/putting on event): dietetic interns worked in our fitness assessment office from 8:00am-5:00pm Tuesdays through Fridays.
  • Attendance: The interns had nearly 60 sessions with students through six weeks.
  • Assessment plan/results: Nearly all participants got what they wanted out of their session. Their internship director had such good feedback that going forward we will have dietetic interns for 12 weeks instead of six. This will allow us to do different programs and workshops for our students and give us an ability to meet with more students.

Small programs or events

Typically, these programs or events last longer than one day and can cost $1,000 or more in direct expenses.

Cornell University’s Mental Health Awareness Week

  • Purpose: To bring awareness to mental health and fight stigmas around mental health.
  • Target audience: Students, faculty/staff, and spouses/partners
  • Event lead and collaborations: Cornell Wellness Program, Cornell Recreational Services, Cornell Minds Matter, Gannett Health Services, and many other student organizations collaborate to deliver this campaign.
  • Direct costs: $100
    • Tuesday- Gratitude and Granola- Create and send postcard to someone special
      • Buy granola and fixings, postcards and postage
    • Wednesday- there is free access to all fitness facilities and group fitness classes.
      • We are already paying the fitness monitors and instructors to be there.
    • Thursday- Domestic Violence Awareness day – tabling with information, resources, and candy
      • Buy candy
  • Funded by: Cornell Fitness Centers, Noyes Recreation Community Center, and Cornell Wellness Program.
  • Potential improvements: Communication with Cornell Minds Matter to have more events coincide or collaborate on more events.
  • Time commitment (Planning/putting on event): 5 hours planning, 6 -8 hours at events throughout the week.

Sam Houston State University’s Fit Fest

  • Purpose: The purpose of this event is to introduce students to new fitness classes, while also collaborating with our health promotions department to offer a more holistic approach to being healthy.
  • Target audience: Students
  • Event lead and collaborations: Rec Sports.  We generally collaborate with Health Promotions as well.
  • Direct costs: Between $1,000-1,300. About $60 for our instructors, depending on the schedule; but we also provide volunteer points to those that volunteer. Points can be used to buy incentive items throughout the year, such as t-shirts.
  • Funded by: Rec Sports
  • Potential improvements: We could do a better job at getting sponsors for this event.
  • Time commitment (Planning/putting on event): Our instructors do most of the planning as we generally allot 20-30 minutes for each of them to teach, it takes a few minutes to create the actual schedule.
  • Attendance: anywhere from 300-500 will participate.
  • Assessment plan/results: We have always done one day from 5:00-7:00pm, with 20-minute demos of each format. Our instructors have requested that we try extending this program to full classes so participants get a better idea of what they get from each class. We will be doing three days in Spring 2018 and highlighting different formats each day that will have giveaway items. We will usually sell an average of 30-40 passes the day of this event.

Texas A&M University’s De-Stress Fest

  • Purpose: The purpose of this event to help students during finals week. The goal of this event is also to create a “Student Wellness Committee” with many campus partners, with the intention of growing and developing Rec Sports’ relationship with those other organizations/departments to create more wellness collaborations in the future.
  • Target audience: Students
  • Event lead and collaborations: Student Health Services has been the primary “wellness” liaison on campus, but we are beginning some collaboration with them. Texas A&M Rec Sports, student health services, Student Counseling Services, ResLife, and Health Promotion all help to put on this event.

Large programs or events

These programs or events typically run over the course of the year and can cost $5,000 or more in direct expenses.

Texas A&M University’s Wellness Works

  • Purpose: This program provides free fitness classes, as well as a “Wellness Release Time” where full-time employees are given the opportunity to use 30-minutes of their regular work hours, up to three times a week, to exercise or participate in physical fitness activities.
  • Target audience: Faculty and Staff
  • Event lead and collaborations: Texas A&M Rec Sports and Division of Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness. Texas A&M Rec Sports is under the Division of Student Affairs.
  • Funded by: This initiative is all funded by the President’s office, and was an initiative started by President Young.
  • Learn more about this program at the Texas A&M University website.

MIT’s Wellness Your Way

  • Purpose: Outreach program designed to bring wellness activities, education and programs outside of the rec center.
  • Target audience: Departments, lab, centers, residence halls, and student organizations.
  • Program lead and collaborations: We collaborate with roughly 50 different groups each year and offer over 400 hours of activity/education.
  • Direct costs: Range from $55/hour – $90/hour, depending on the topic.
  • Funded by: the group who hires us.
  • Potential improvements: We need to incorporate assessment into each one. They are all very different and some are completely custom so there’s no good cookie cutter way to asses.
  • Time commitment (Planning/putting on event): Roughly 15 hours/week spread out over four different fulltime staff members.
  • Learn more about this program at the MIT website.


  • Purpose: ENGINEERyourHEALTH PLUS is a three-year pilot program for MIT Students, generously funded by the Vice President for Student Life’s office with the goal of enhancing the student life experience through fitness, exercise, wellness and recreational opportunities. Student Support Services and MIT Recreation have identified and seek to eliminate barriers such as cost, time, location and knowledge of services.
  • Target audience: Undergraduate students
  • Event lead and collaborations: Student Support Services
  • Direct costs: $10,000 annually
  • Funded by: Division of Student Life
  • Potential improvements: offer to graduate students as well; better system to track students.
  • Time commitment (Planning/putting on event): two hours per student; currently, about 30 students are participating.
  • Attendance: 30 students
  • Assessment plan/results: overall, results of post-assessment survey are very positive.
  • Learn more about this program at the MIT website.

Sam Houston State University’s EveryBODY/Be-YOU-Tiful Week (Body image and eating disorder awareness week)

  • Purpose: Educate and bring awareness to students that may suffer or know someone that suffers from body image or eating disorders. This is also a time where we encourage body positivity through various programs that change from year to year.
  • Target audience: Students
  • Who put on the event/collaborations: Rec Sports and Health Promotions
  • What was the cost: $0, beyond the costs of marketing materials.
  • Who funded the event: no cost for the program itself.
  • What can be improved: This program continues to improve while we collaborate Health Promotions. This started as a Rec Sports program and as we later found out, Health Promotions had a similar program. We have since combined these efforts to offer a consistent message and information.
  • Time commitment (Planning/putting on event): The time commitment varies, but we generally use volunteers depending on what program we do each year.
  • Attendance: varies depending on the program.
  • Assessment plan/results: This program has improved with the addition of Health Promotions. I generally get our personal trainers to volunteer, as well as promote this program in many of our group fitness classes throughout that week. We could expand the program to reach more of campus and we see this happening through our collaboration with Health Promotions.

University of Washington at Bothell’s Finals Stretch Week

  • Purpose: a series of events, workshops, activities for students to de-stress before finals week.  Some programs we have done are: Power Snacks, De-Stress with Dogs, Massage Therapy, Flu Packs, Sleep Packs, VitaliTea workshop, make your own trail mix, I’m Knot Stressed (paracord bracelet making), Paint Your Stress Away, dance workshops
  • Target audience: students studying for final exams and papers
  • Event lead and collaborations: Peer Health Educators and Outdoor Wellness Leaders
  • Direct costs: $0-$1,000 depends on the program and budget. Most of these are $100-$300, but depending on audience size, marketing materials, and budget we can spend as much as their program wants or needs.
  • Funded by: Health Promotion and Outdoor Wellness, but all funds are sources through services and activities fees that students pay.
  • Potential improvements: students want more programs with food.
  • Time commitment (Planning/putting on event): depends on the program; students plan program a quarter in advance and they work 12 hours a week.
  • Attendance: depends on the program.

Programs that extend beyond campus

These programs are created by an organization or government entity and are not tied to one single institution.

Exercise Is Medicine (EIM)

In 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association (AMA) co-launched Exercise Iis Medicine® (EIM) – a United States-based health initiative that has since been coordinated by ACSM. The purpose of EIM is to make physical activity assessment and promotion a standard in clinical care, connecting health care with evidence-based physical activity resources for people everywhere of all abilities. The scientifically proven benefits of physical activity remain indisputable, and they can be as powerful as any pharmaceutical in preventing and treating a range of chronic diseases and medical conditions.

Exercise Is Medicine – On Campus (EIM – OC): A Microcosm for Change
Exercise is Medicine

Exercise is Medicine® on Campus (EIM-OC) is a program calling upon universities and colleges to engage in the promotion of physical activity as a vital sign of health.  EIM-OC encourages faculty, staff and students to work together toward improving the health and well-being of the campus community by:

  • Making movement a part of the daily campus culture
  • Assessing physical activity at every student health visit
  • Providing students with the tools necessary to strengthen healthy physical activity habits that can last a lifetime
  • Connecting university health care providers with university health fitness specialists to provide a referral system for exercise prescription.

Healthy Campus
American College Health Association

Healthy People 2020 is a set of nearly 600 evidence-based national health objectives spanning 42 topic areas that were written with the goal of improving the health of all Americans over the next 10 years.  The American College Health Association convened the Healthy Campus Coalition, a multidisciplinary team that worked to determine the Healthy People objectives most relevant to the campus community and provide a national, campus-focused data source that can be used to measure, track, and benchmark. Topic areas and objectives were selected, and a comprehensive set of evidence-based tools and resources were adapted from Healthy People 2020 to support Healthy Campus 2020 efforts.

Healthy Minds, Healthy Campuses
Canadian Mental Health Association

Co-led by the Canadian Mental Health Association BC Division and the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses (HM | HC) is a vibrant province-wide community of practice that engages students, campus professionals, faculty, administrators, and community partners. This initiative facilitates creative and collaborative learning opportunities to build capacity in campus mental wellness and healthier relationships with substances. For over a decade we have worked with campus stakeholders to bring research and theory into practice and inspire innovation toward systemic, sustainable change with the ultimate goal of fostering conditions that enhance student wellbeing and learning.

SNAP-Ed – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education
United States Government

SNAP-Ed is an evidence-based program that helps people lead healthier lives. SNAP-Ed teaches people using or eligible for SNAP about good nutrition and how to make their food dollars stretch further. SNAP-Ed participants also learn to be physically active.

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