On August 15, the Office of Student Engagement and Wellbeing (OSEWB) released its new plan for cultivating health and well-being at Tech and laid out the strategies and goals to be achieved in the next decade.
Officially known as the Action and Transformation Roadmap for Cultivating Wellbeing, this new report was published one year after the Institute began implementing its Cultivating Wellbeing initiatives as part of its strategic plan.
With the establishment of OSEWB and Luoluo Hong joining as its inaugural vice president in 2021, Tech revised its health and wellness plans and released the roadmap after comprehensive research and preparation.
Expanding on previous plans, the new roadmap identifies four main goals: cultural change, capacity and creativity, community and connection, and engagement and continuity.
Together, the goals seek to enhance prevention efforts and clinical care and enhance the Institute’s positive attributes for promoting well-being while mitigating the negatives.
To inform these goals, OSEWB has surveyed engineering students in recent years and compared their findings to national databases to assess areas for improvement. During the 2021-2022 academic year, OSEWB also had many discussions with people on campus and identified 10 main themes in the conversations.
Many of these topics revolve around the apparent need to improve Tech’s wellness initiatives and the disconnect between students’ beliefs about the Institute’s health and wellness and what the data collected shows. Each of the four goals contains a number of strategies beneath them, focused on the eight dimensions of wellness recognized by the Institute. Some are concerned with improving the physical health of students, while others target the mental health needs of the campus community.
Together, the strategies take a holistic approach to health promotion and well-being. They also include preventive measures to promote health before more active care is needed.
While Tech aims to improve its infrastructure to promote health and well-being, the roadmap also recognizes that “institutions of higher education can seek to impact and influence the context, climate and correlates known to be associated with with higher levels of health—the existence, but ultimately the unique and complex set and interaction of conditions that contribute to well-being varies from student to student—and may also vary for each individual throughout their lifetime.
Implementation of the plan and its effects may seem slow, but the roadmap is designed to be flexible, allowing unexpected events or findings to change its course to suggest more individualized care.
The roadmap strategies will be implemented over the next three academic years, and progress towards the goals will be assessed and adjusted by 2030. The report also highlights the role that social justice plays in achieving the overall wellness at the institute.
Achieving the outlined goals will take time and effort, but campus leadership remains optimistic expected changes.
“We’ve had a lot of complaints from students who feel like some of the programs that Tech offers, particularly in mental health, don’t really fit the bill [students’] expectations within those goals,” said Julia Johnson, fourth-year PUBP and vice president of undergraduate student well-being Government Association (SGA). Johnson highlighted some changes SGA is excited about, such as the creation of a Mental Health Care and Resource Center from existing ones welfare departments.
Johnson also reported that the SGA wants to act as a liaison between the student body and the administration for health and welfare concerns.
A recent example of this was highlighting student concerns about the Institute’s reduced COVID-19 response and organizing a town hall to encouraging discussions on this issue.
“We don’t want to just react; we want to be proactive in some of the things we pursue,” Johnson said of other wellness initiatives.
While she said they were disappointed with the lack of results from the goals to cultivate well-being, Johnson hopes the SGA will be on board with them and help promote the health and well-being of students going through both good and bad. bad times at Tech.
Students may also contact the SGA Well-Being Board through their website to report concerns or advocate for campus initiatives.
Hong, as vice president of student engagement and well-being, is also proud of the roadmap’s goals and excited about the changes it includes.
“Improving the health, well-being and wellbeing of students will not be about initiatives and strategies alone. This will require a deep, lasting cultural shift — to really look hard at our values, our attitudes and beliefs, and our assumptions about what is ‘normal’ and accepted,” Hong said.
She also emphasized the importance of data collection to inform the roadmap, as “knowing the reality of students helps create alignment between perceived problems and stated goals” and leads to better outcomes.
Hong’s view underscores the idea that improving well-being at Tech may take time, but is necessary to create a lasting impact.
“Cultural change work requires persistence and patience because it doesn’t happen in one semester or even one year,” Hong said. “In my experience with other efforts to change institutional culture, it usually takes 3-5 years of concerted, sustained effort—and that assumes everyone is on board with the direction we’re headed: students, staff, faculty and administration.”
As implementation of the roadmap strategies is just beginning to take effect, students may notice new initiatives and programs popping up on campus. All members of the technical community can help foster a greater sense of well-being at the Institute and can find the road map of the OSEWB website.