In December of 2015 the Division of Student Affairs received funds from Texas A&M University to be used for professional and personal staff growth. Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Tom Reber, has been spearheading the committee charged with using these funds to organize staff development and wellness programs. “This is an opportunity to give back to staff since they provide so much to the students. The wellness fund will offer opportunities for staff to develop and grow which will in turn provide better resources and enrichment to students,” said Reber. Opportunities for staff to expand and develop will not only be beneficial professionally, it will help to foster environments where new innovative ideas can have positive effects on the student experience at Texas A&M University.
To understand how to best make use of these funds, the committee sought input through a survey of Division staff members. The survey results led the Division to begin their first programs in February of 2016, by focusing on physical wellness. Staff were given the opportunity to sign up for afternoon yoga and toning classes and evening group walking and jogging. Staff were also given the opportunity to review and purchase ergonomic standing desks. In the few weeks since the program began, staff participants are already seeing and enjoying the benefits. Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs, Cindy Smith, said, “After taking the yoga and toning classes I feel more focused and alert all afternoon. It is such a boost to my day and my overall health is improving. I think offering these opportunities says a lot about how much the Division of Student Affairs cares for its staff.”
The standing desk program has also been enormously successful, with over 86 standing desks requested by staff. Standing desks provide numerous health benefits especially for those whom work in front of a computer on a daily basis. Business Coordinator Vicki Parker, is one division staff member who is already experiencing the benefits of working with a standing desk. “I have more energy and move easier when I stand at least half of the day at my desk. It helps to provide the ability for movement, yet still feel productive. We really need to take care of ourselves and this puts a resource in our hands to do so,” Parker said. These first few programs are just the beginning for staff development and wellness within the Division.
The staff wellness fund will provide recurring resources for program development. One such program is the Division of Student Affairs Professional Development Grant, recently announced on March 14th 2016, would have the potential to impact not only staff but future student programs as well. The grant would provide staff with additional development opportunities in areas of workshops, certifications, courses and other related fields. Grant funds would allow staff to travel locally, nationally and internationally to events that may have been closed to them previously due to monetary limitations. The DSA grant will help to provide an environment for staff to network, interact, and review programs, partnerships, or other opportunities that they can bring back to the division and valuably develop.
“The staff wellness fund will allow different departments, units and staff to be interactive on level that was not possible before. I hope it helps to foster relationships, ideas and unity throughout the division. The healthier the staff the more productive the staff are and these funds provide the means to do so,” Reber said. The staff wellness fund has already provided numerous opportunities for development and will continue to do so with future programs.
Written by: Courtney Rhodes