Gustavus Announces New Comprehensive Wellbeing Initiative

Posted on December 4th, 2013 by


In continuing with its 150 year tradition of preparing students for lives of leadership and service, Gustavus Adolphus College has announced a new comprehensive Wellbeing Initiative that will provide students, faculty, and staff with programs and services focused on fostering the health and wellbeing of individual members of the College and create a healthy organizational culture in which all members of the community can thrive personally, academically, and professionally.

In announcing the program, Gustavus President Jack Ohle said that the initiative has been in the planning process for more than four years with an emphasis on engaging stakeholders and building capacity with both on and off campus constituents. He went on to say that the Wellbeing Initiative is built on the recommendations from the College’s strategic planning process, Commission Gustavus 150, as well as the strategic visioning of the College’s National Advisory Board on Wellbeing. President Ohle, in announcing the program, said “The College has received a $250,000 commitment from Tim ’83 and Elaine Peterson of Wellesley, Mass., that will allow the College to launch the program and fund it for two years.”

“Education has always been a pillar of philanthropy for our family,” Tim Peterson said. “Elaine and I are excited to support this truly innovative program, which will help young people holistically prepare for success in life and benefit the Gustavus community.”

“With the generous support of the Petersons and the commitment of numerous faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the College, we find ourselves on the leading edge of a national movement in higher education,” said Steve Bennett, the College’s Associate Dean of Students who has overseen much of the planning of the initiative to this point. “The programs and services that encompass the Wellbeing Initiative will allow us to better equip our students with skills and capacities to be grounded, healthy, purposeful servant leaders in the world.”

Bennett and the National Advisory Board on Wellbeing have endorsed learning outcomes for the nine different dimensions of the Gustavus Wellbeing Model: emotional, intellectual, physical, environmental, relational, financial, career, vocational, and spiritual. Those learning outcomes will be addressed through several different programs and services.

One of the signature programs of the Wellbeing Initiative will be the Be U Wellbeing Group Coaching program. This peer-based coaching program will create a safe, courageous space for students, faculty, and staff to come together in small groups to reflect on important issues in their lives; expand, refine, and build new skills; to be present with one another and ask powerful questions without giving advice; and to learn problem solving techniques from one another with an end goal of creating a vision and action plan for their own personal wellbeing. Forty students and 10 to 12 faculty/staff will be trained as group coaches in January, while the program will eventually cater to 120 students and 36 faculty/staff during the Spring Semester.

“This program is particularly exciting because Gustavus will be one of the only colleges in the country using a comprehensive approach to group coaching,” said Scott Gilyard ’83, who chairs the College’s National Advisory Board on Wellbeing. “This is a unique opportunity for students to invest in their own personal and professional development and acquire the skills that will distinguish them as a leader both now and in the future as graduates entering the workforce or graduate school.”

The Wellbeing Initiative will also fund a faculty development component that includes a Faculty Fellows program. An application process will identify three faculty members who will receive stipends to develop scholarly projects related to wellbeing that will benefit students. These projects will include new courses, the redesign of existing courses, and the development of research opportunities. There will also be a summer Wellbeing Faculty Institute where leaders of the initiative will engage additional faculty members who are interested in wellbeing programs, courses, and scholarship.

Other distinctive components of the Wellbeing Initiative include an on-campus Wellbeing Roundtable, a working group of nine faculty and administrators representing each of the dimensions of wellbeing charged with advancing a comprehensive and integrated approach to wellbeing programs and services. A Gustavus Wellbeing Assessment instrument is currently being developed with the goal of providing baseline assessment that will assist community members in identifying and accessing the programs, resources, and services that will enhance personal and community wellbeing.

The College will open a Wellbeing Center, which will be centrally located in the C. Charles Jackson Campus Center. A new Director of Wellbeing will be hired to oversee the various Wellbeing Initiative programs, as well as the Gustavus Employee Health Promotions program, and the Peer Assistants, a nationally recognized student organization committed to promoting healthy and productive lifestyles at the College.

More information about the Gustavus Wellbeing Initiative can be found online at


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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