Updated: Sep 15
Maybe not. Colleges and Universities must find more ways to address the complexities of student wellness.
"I'm living the dream" has become a common, although somewhat tongue in cheek, response to people asking each other how they feel. I know that when I use the expression, I am feeling pretty good about life but also appreciate that not every aspect of my life on that day is exactly what I dreamed it would be.
We often view wellness in simplistic terms, it is a feeling, a mood or a moment in time when we are struck by a particular emotion. So, our response to people when they ask how we are is based on how we “feel” at that moment. However true wellness is far more complex than that. It spans all aspect of our life even if at that moment we are not in tune with one aspect or another.
Dr. Peggy Swarbrick an Associate Director of the Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies at Rutgers University developed the “8 Dimensions model” which has been used to craft an effective framework for the pursuit of wellness. “In no particular order, these dimensions are: Physical, Spiritual, Social, Intellectual, Emotional/Mental, Occupational, Environmental, Financial.”
There is no doubt that colleges are striving to enhance the wellness of their students. The pandemic raised the awareness of campus leaders to the need for enhanced mental health services https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/09/20/colleges-expand-mental-health-services-students. The University of Kentucky has recently started a new program to address financial wellness https://kykernel.com/87805/news/new-uk-invests-program-incentivizes-student-wellness-and-financial-education/. Several colleges including Seton Hall have focused on athlete wellness with the decision to offer a wellness app to student athletes https://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/grant-funds-app-to-support-mental-wellness-for-seton-hill-athletes/. The trend toward outsourcing campus health services to address staffing shortages, mitigate risk, and expand services has also been a positive development https://www.on-sitemedservices.com/post/the-future-of-campus-health-centers-can-be-found-in-the-trend-toward-more-urgent-care-facilities.
That said, social wellness should be of particular interest and focus. Much has been written about the social impact of wearing masks, social distancing, remote learning, isolation, quarantine, and the reduced socialization of students. The national trend toward fewer high school graduates applying for college may in fact be the result of deficiencies is the area. This may also be the case for the decline in college transfers and the post-transfer persistence rate https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2022/09/13/new-report-college-student-transfers-declined-by-nearly-300000-during-pandemic/?sh=70d3254176c3.
Just like you and I who need to more fully understand the true meaning of being well and go beyond how we feel in the moment, in a post-pandemic world colleges must continue to strive toward a more comprehensive and integrated approach to student wellness. Dr. Swarbrick’s ‘8 Dimensions model’ would be an excellent place to begin.
In the meantime, I will continue to live my dream.