The University of Richmond implemented its new wellness requirement, WELL 100, for all first-year and transfer students this fall after a successful pilot program in the 2020-21 academic year.
"WELL 100: Introduction to College Life at the University of Richmond" is a 14-session course designed to help new students adjust to UR, according to the course description on the Health Promotion website. The course touches on well-being topics; diversity, equity and inclusion; sustainability; the value of the liberal arts and involvement and career exploration.
“The three [course] objectives -- adjustment, transformation and community -- are key,” Director of Health Promotion Heather Sadowski said.
The adjustment objective aims to help new students understand what it takes to be a thriving student at UR, Sadowski said, while the goal of the community objective is to support understanding of what it means to be a Spider and establish friendships and affinity groups.
The transformation objective is meant to teach students to be thoughtful, engaged and successful at UR, she added.
The new program also serves as an extension of orientation -- which includes having a student leader -- throughout the fall semester for first-year and transfer students, said Andrew Gurka, director of new student and transition programs.
“The course is co-facilitated by a professional staff member that does have a master’s degree, and then there are WELL 100 peer instructors,” Gurka said. “Some of them are orientation advisors that are teaching for us.”
Senior Zena Abro currently serves as a WELL 100 peer instructor after she co-taught the pilot program last year.
“I think a lot of my role is bringing in the personal student perspective and experience,” Abro said. “Sometimes it’s nice to have that staff perspective where they can provide a lot of facts and knowledge to the students and also have the student perspective in terms of experience and insider knowledge.”
Health Educator Marieka Turner, a professional staff member who teaches WELL 100 alongside peer instructors, has her students fill out a notecard at the end of each class with either a takeaway or a question regarding the lesson to register their attendance, she said.
Some students have written questions about specific topics covered in class, such as alcohol education, while others have written about the importance of the liberal arts, another course emphasis, Turner said.
One response that stood out to Turner read: “My biggest takeaway from today’s class is liberal education is vital in preparing young adults to meet their fullest potential. Our society demands divergent thinking & I am grateful to be attending a school prioritizing both life preparation & career training."
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Aside from the positive responses coming from the notecards, Turner has seen increasing interaction among the students in this course, she said.
“I also have been seeing just a lot of positive engagement with the students and the peer instructors,” Turner said. “GroupMes are forming, at least that’s what I see in my classes afterwards. The students are talking to the peer instructors, and the peer instructors are able to provide more stuff that I don't think the staff are able to provide in the sense of like, ‘What should we do today?’ or ‘Tell me about how to like engage more with professors.’”
The instructors aim to keep the course content updated and make sure that they deal with current events on campus and in society, Sadowski said.
“I think really after these first three weeks we're seeing so many positive pieces," she added. "I can only see [WELL 100] continuing to have even more success. I really just look for it to grow, and just enhance the student education as we go from here.”
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