College Well-Being Team: Students Teaching Students to Live Well
All around campus at George Mason University, students are helping other students learn how to reach their full potential by tapping into the strength that comes from well-being. University Life’s student well-being team, a small group of students who are passionate about helping others reach their full potential through well-being, have been busy giving their time and wisdom to other college students.
“The main focus is around peer-to-peer education,” said Stefanie Juvinel, the team’s graduate assistant, who is pursuing a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies focusing on well-being. “Students who are especially interested in well-being can spread the word on well-being knowledge and ways to apply that knowledge to their lives. A lot of people are curious about well-being and interested in learning more about it.”
The team spreads that knowledge in a variety of ways, including workshops and events like Well-Being Week in October 17–21 and the DeStress Fest in December. Workshops the team has produced so far cover the topics of self-compassion, stress management, gratitude, mindfulness, and resiliency. Students present those workshops in settings such as residence halls and University 100 classes. In addition, this semester the team also presented a self-defense class for women on campus.
“We’re trying to partner with different organizations that are already involved in well-being work on campus,” Juvinel said. Some of the many campus organizations the team partners with are: Mason Student Government, Registered Student Organizations, Patriot Activities Council, and Active Minds, said AnnaMarijka Tilleman, the team’s co-director at the Office of Student Involvement.
Since Mason emphasizes the importance of well-being for all students — no matter what they’re studying — opportunities to engage in well-being activities abound on campus. The team is “a resource for people to let them know about the many well-being activities going on throughout campus,” Tilleman noted. “Since we’re a well-being university, there are a lot of different well-being activities for students to choose from.”
Having lots of options is important, she added, because “Well-being is a diverse thing and people can represent it in different ways as they incorporate it into their lives.”
Team facilitator Logan Murray, a junior who is majoring in social innovation and enterprise, first became interested in working with well-being issues after joining Mason’s Mindful Living LLC group. “We were talking about things that matter — our values, and how to take care of ourselves. It was so significant and so foundational.”
But besides mindfulness, Murray also especially enjoys playfulness — a practice that isn’t as often associated with well-being as mindfulness, but still fuels well-being. “The creative side of well-being is so important,” he said. “When you make time to play, you can get into a zone where you’re fully present and ideas just flow.” He and his roommate often play music together for fun and to unlock creative ideas.
Diverse perspectives among Mason students enrich the student team’s activities on campus, said the team’s faculty member Lauren Long, Executive Director of Student Involvement. The team “offers students from a variety of backgrounds and interests a way to come together around the consideration of how we can live our best lives possible and how we can create opportunities for everyone to thrive. It creates energy, and connections between people that would not necessarily find things in common to come together about.”
No matter how differently students may practice well-being in their lives, Juvinel said, “We really should be dedicating time to what matters the most. If we want to help others through our work, we need to help ourselves by learning about how well-being can empower us.”
Murray said that many people recognize the importance of well-being but need to learn more about how to incorporate it into their lives. “We all know what it is inherently, but how do you express it? It’s so simple, yet so powerful. I enjoy helping students talk about it and helping them find ways to express it in their lives.”
Whitney Hopler works as Communications Coordinator at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being and has written for many media organizations, from About.com to the Washington Post. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.