WesWell, the University’s Office of Health Education, received a huge boost last week from the This is Why campaign: a $4 million gift courtesy of John ’62 and Ruth Huss. WesWell strives to ease the mental and emotional strain of University life on students through its We Speak, We Stand bystander intervention and Peer Health Advocate (managing drug and alcohol use) programs. In addition, the office works to address issues concerning sexual assault, sleep, nutrition, and stress. WesWell also acts as a liaison for students to advocate for changes in campus policies that promote a healthier and safer campus environment.
“At Wesleyan, we live together, we learn together, and we look out for one another,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean Mike Whaley in a press release on the University’s website and in an email to The Argus. “WesWell’s continued commitment to promoting and supporting a healthy, safe campus community will help make that goal a reality. The educational mission of the office is so important to making sure that Wesleyan students have the knowledge they need in order to make good and healthy decisions. I’ll be working with Tanya Purdy and others in Student Affairs to assess our most pressing needs and to deploy these new resources in ways that will have the most positive impact. Wesleyan students can achieve so much when they have a healthy foundation.”
When asked about how the funds from the donation would be allocated, WesWell Director Tanya Purdy spoke about the need to increase support for preexisting programs.
“We are always improving existing programming through our thorough evaluation process, which takes a great deal of time and expert resources,” Purdy wrote in an email to The Argus. “The We Speak, We Stand program, the Peer Alcohol Health Education Coach program, the Wellness Experience program, the Recovery@ program, the Safer Sex, Cold & Flu, and Stress Relief kits we offer. [This includes] the close to 100 individual health education sessions we provide each academic year, which are just a few of the projects WesWell needs to be able to maintain and consistently offer quality improvements for.”
One aspect of WesWell’s platform that makes it such an attractive option for increased funding is the office’s active approach in forming smaller communities within the University. For example, their Recovery@ program (which Purdy mentioned as one potential outlet for funds) creates a network between students and administrators who are recovering from drug or alcohol abuse. The program does not offer formal therapy, but is instead run primarily by its members through discussion and social engagements with the greater Middletown community.
One area where WesWell’s This is Why donation could prove particularly useful is in providing safer sex supplies. As the office writes in its commitment statement, “Safer sex supply availability on campus sends the clear message that engaging in safer sex practices is important in any sexual relationship, no matter if it is short or long term.” Student organizations that purchase large orders of the supplies place a considerable strain on the office’s ability to distribute them free of charge. This gift is crucial to the office’s mission of offering both material and emotional support to the University community at an affordable cost.
In the near future, Purdy believes that she needs to do further research to determine exactly how the funds for such a sizable gift will be allocated.
“I would like to conduct another student health needs assessment to see what would be the best use of WesWell’s resources in terms of impacting overall wellbeing so that students can succeed academically and personally,” Purdy wrote.
Purdy also hopes that news of the gift will spark further interest in getting students to volunteer for WesWell. The office offers two paid positions for University students, including hosting four WesWell Interns who advise the Director of Health Education and Peer Health Advocates. The other paid position is as manager of WesBAM!, Wesleyan’s Body and Mind program which offers a variety of dance and exercise classes.
“WesWell’s volunteers play a huge role in making all of the programs successful,” Purdy wrote. “We rely on them to deliver much of the education and resources that WesWell offers. Our hope is to provide all of our volunteers with an experience that allows them to gain some professional development in the fields of health education and public health in return for their very valuable time and energy.”