This brief essay is designed for the use of resident assistants who are interested in the Wellness model, and can be used as a guide to develop, manage, and implement a successful programming year. I hope that this article will be helpful to your successful programming year.
Wellness, What is it, and why is it special?
The Wellness model exists at universities across the country as an exception to traditional campus living arrangements. The Wellness option is similar to other non-traditional environments such as honor student or academically oriented floors as they are designed to place students together that tend to have similar backgrounds and interests. The Wellness model differs as it possesses the ability to develop an extremely strong community from both carefully planned programs and intense interactions with each individual.
Where to start— how about the beginning?
If you are thinking about becoming a resident assistant for a Wellness floor, you must decide if this option is right for you. Typically, a successful Wellness floor requires many programs, more than what would be required from a traditional RA. Programming will make or break a Wellness floor; you must want to go above and beyond any programming barriers. You will also need to be more aggressive in building a strong community; this will require a substantial amount of interaction with your residents. This is not an attempt to try to scare away any potential candidates, the rewards of having a successful floor is worth more than any amount of words, but it takes a lot of work. If your schedule or lifestyle will not allow the time and effort it will take to run the Wellness floor, I would strongly advise not to attempt to program fully with the Wellness model, it would be tough on yourself, and not fair for your residents. However, any R.A. can pick and choose Wellness themes for programs.
Once you have been hired to be a Wellness RA, you need to check to see what type of infrastructure has been established. Your university might already have a set criteria of particular subjects you will need to program around, how many programs are required, and so forth. Most universities have a policy of empowering their resident assistants, allowing them flexibility to achieve success on their floors.
If your university does not have a Wellness floor option, and you do not even know what Wellness means, I apologize for going on so far without defining Wellness. Wellness is generally defined as living a healthy lifestyle, and that is exactly what it means for the Wellness program. Many people think that the Wellness program is a fancy name for a substance free floor, but there is much more to the program than an alcohol/tobacco/and drug free environment. Some of the issues addressed by Wellness include social health, mental health, professional development, and others to be addressed further in this article.
How to make the Wellness model work…
The Wellness wheel is an idea that Salisbury State University has adopted from other university Wellness models. There are many other models, ranging from six aspects to twelve. The eight topic model works well as there are eight months to program for during an academic year, which makes programming convenient, as you can program one topic a month. The twelve topic model evolved out of resident interactions, as they felt it was clever to have a twelve step plan, involving other aspects including service, sexual, hygiene, and personal.
After you have determined what type of model that you would like to use, you should evaluate the makeup of your floor, and determine who are your residents. It is very important to get a good feel of the interests of your residents. To program effectively, you will need to program around them. What are they interested in; TV shows, sports, undergraduate majors? You should also determine what they know, and try to expose them to something new. Multicultural programs fit in here, as you could examine other people’s religions, beliefs, and lifestyles.
As you look at your programming, you need to start from the first day that your residents arrive to develop that strong floor community. Encourage open doors, have social programs at a central location of the floor. You need to have your residents interacting socially with each other to have any success during the year. I have found that the most important time of a year is the first two weeks. If you can get the floor interacting, and you bust your butt to help people open up to each other, your year will be much easier. If you do go overboard the first month it should be alright, because classes should not be as hard in the beginning, so you should have some leeway and time to do so.
Program, Program, Program.
There are millions of programs that you can do to accommodate the Wellness model, which is what makes it so attractive. Instead of doing a lecture on sex and alcohol or showing a movie on racism, use your imagination! I would strongly encourage you to be as creative and original as possible when planning your programs, but I will give a brief list of potential programs for the twelve-step Wellness model.
a. Spiritual: a trip to a place of worship of a religion not represented on your floor. This could include Judaism, Hinduism, or how to meditate.
b. Mental: stress relievers, study tactics, or test taking tips.
c. Physical: workout, kick ball, wiffle ball, proper eating habits.
d. Social: the best community developers; party cause it is Wednesday, movie night, bowling trip.
e. Environmental: go to a park and pick up trash, go bird watching, fishing.
f. Professional: how to do a resume, cover letter, or graduate school information session.
g. Emotional: it takes a grown man to cry, relationship advice, or how to cope with the loss of a loved one.
h. Intellectual: quiz shows, floor history tests, or a university word search.
i. Service: you can incorporate service projects to any of the other topics. These are great community builders.
j. Sexual: sex trivia, sexual scavenger hunt, condom Olympics.
k. Hygiene: shower shoes, bathroom etiquette, room inspections.
l. Personal: me time, kick that habit, and who am I?
This is a short list of examples of programs that Wellness RA’s have done at Salisbury State University in the past. The programs can come in forms of service projects, games, roundtable discussions, or what ever you would like to do. You should plan ahead, use a wide vary of programs topics, and always have fun with your programs. They are not designed to be a burden for you, but an aid in developing a strong floor.
Good programming is the key to a strong community; a strong community is the key for you to have a successful floor. Challenge the standards, go above and beyond any expectation, and have fun with your floor. Good Luck!
Submitted by Michael Torreyson, Resident Assistant, Salisbury State University