Students promote wellness and health across campus

At the Engemann Student Health Center, students, faculty and other members of the USC community can often find a cheery dog prancing down the halls. Professor Beauregard Tirebiter, also known as “Beau,” is a full-time canine staff member that works as a wellness dog at the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion.

Beau is not the only staff member that works at OWHP. In fact, the office proudly presents a program that provides USC students the opportunity to get involved in health promotion on campus. These students are referred to as wellness advocates and wellness links.

After selection through a thorough application process, these students go through a training course that enables them to become aware of the tactics and strategies that enhance an individual’s state of wellness. Additionally, the students train to become familiar with available campus resources that aim to improve the well-being of USC students.

“We have the benefit of having some very grounded, well-rounded, passionate, intelligent students who are really interested in not only increasing their own state of health and well-being, but increasing the health and wellbeing of the greater USC community,” said Diane Medsker, the health promotion specialist at OWHP.

One of the primary purposes of these student volunteers is to allow OWHP to stay connected with the student body. The office hopes to achieve this goal by providing various free workshops for student groups.

Wellness Advocates are trained to host CARE Workshops, which are sessions that focus on personal and community wellness. These workshops are broken down into various concentrations, like mind, body, connection and community.

“Health promotion is different from health care, and people don’t really understand that,” said Paula Swinford, the director of OWHP. “It’s not about a bunch of people deciding what’s wrong with the population and fixing it, but it’s about the population itself figuring [out] how to empower itself, how to advocate for itself, how to work for itself.”

Many students have benefitted from these types of services provided by OWHP. 

Last semester, Stacy Moroz, a wellness advocate, hosted “desk yoga” workshops. A sophomore majoring in health promotion and disease prevention, Moroz noted that she experiences difficulty in allocating time for herself to attend yoga lessons due to her busy schedule.

Moroz’s workshop informed students about some easy stretches one could do behind a desk. These stretches intend to target areas where stress and tension build up. She advocates for these stretches because they provide students with an additional mental break. 

Furthermore, wellness advocates and wellness links are encouraged to develop their listening skills.

“I feel like a lot of what goes on at the Wellness Office is conversation, and I feel like people often think that that’s a waste of time, which it isn’t,” Moroz said.

Volunteers are instructed to employ motivational interviewing when dealing with a struggling peer. This technique focuses on listening to an individual’s personal concerns and guiding them toward finding their own solution.

“It’s a technique that a lot of different practitioners use to help a person or elicit from a person to call on their own resources and to come up with their own plan of action,” Medsker said.

OWHP promotes other events that deal with mental health. On Thursday, USC hosted a Mental Health Awareness Rally, sponsored by Student Counseling Services and AIM for Mental Health, at Alumni Park. This event aimed to raise awareness for mental health, as 25 percent of students struggle with mental health issues, according to Student Counseling Services.