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Mel Pendleton and Travis Mecariello
Personal trainer Melanie Pendleton '05 works with Travis Meccariello '09 in the Clive M. Beck Fitness Center

Living well at Transylvania: A holistic approach to health

By Lori-Lyn Hurley

Education professor Amy Maupin has lost 43 pounds since January 2007, but her overall goal isn’t a smaller dress size, it’s a sense of well-being. Inspired by the emphasis placed on wellness at Transylvania, Maupin sees paying attention to her own health as contributing to the broader community.

“Taking care of myself is just as good for Transy as it is for me,” Maupin said. “My energy can affect the energy of my students. If I feel stress and anxiety, then I think my students will feel it. When I feel better, I perform better, but I also reduce health care costs and keep insurance premiums down.”

A healthy student, faculty, or staff member benefits both the individual and the University, but what does it really mean to be a “well” campus? Transylvania answers that question with a comprehensive, proactive program of information, activities, and curriculum enhancements that touches on all aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

Six dimensions of wellness

A wide variety of activities are offered on campus, each geared toward self-development in one of the six dimensions of health: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, occupational, and financial.

“A lot of people think wellness is just eating right and working out,” said human resources specialist Debbie Clark. “That’s a big part of it, but our program addresses each of the areas of wellness.”

Fitness and wellness director Ashley Hinton-Moncer keeps in mind the goal of a healthy Transy family as she designs programs that raise awareness and motivate good health practices campus-wide.

She, along with Clark and human resources director Jeff Mudrak, head the Wellness Works program at Transy, which seeks to enhance the quality of life for faculty and staff by identifying strategies and practices that encourage healthy living decisions.

Ashley Hinton and Dean Vetter
Fitness and wellness Director Ashley Hinton helps Dean of Students Mike Vetter with a weigh-in

Hinton-Moncer said that promoting wellness means proactively assisting others, helping change attitudes so that changes in behavior are possible, and searching for alternatives to improve health and overall well-being. As with any wellness program, a balanced lifestyle is the goal.

Clark added that the biggest goal of the wellness program is to reach more people. “We have some really good programs, and we keep adding more to that,” she said. “It’s just communication—getting word out to people and trying to get them to take the initiative.”

Other faculty and staff members who have made dramatic lifestyle changes include director of alumni programs Natasa Pajic ’96, who lost 30 pounds and began running marathons, and drama professor Tim Soulis, who tries to run, swim, or row his age in minutes.

“In my area of theater, I have to have stamina to cover all the bases for a production,” Soulis said. “But even more than staying in shape, exercise keeps me young in spirit and creatively fresh.”

Wellness for everyone

The wellness program is equally important for those who have not made dramatic changes, but have been encouraged to maintain and even increase activities they are already involved in.

“If we can get everybody to participate,” Clark said, “the whole place benefits. From a productivity standpoint, people are happier when they feel good. From an employer’s perspective, a well campus impacts retention. We’re offering things that stimulate people, plus they know their employer cares about them.”

Though she stays busy looking for new ideas to bring to campus and responding to feedback about the opportunities already in place, Hinton-Moncer said the multi-dimensional aspect of the wellness program keeps her energized.

“You can’t get burned out,” she said, “because you just switch dimensions.”

 Virginia Hamilton
Virginia Hamilton, a sophomore from Bardstown, Ky., works out in the fitness center in the Clive M. Beck Athletic and Recreation Center.

One of those dimensions, physical health, has a prominent home on campus. The Clive M. Beck Athletic and Recreation Center provides a great opportunity for the Transy community to engage with physical wellness. The 97,000-square-foot facility includes classrooms, a health and fitness center with state-of-the-art exercise room, a multi-purpose gymnasium, a jogging/walking track, and other amenities that serve academics, recreation, intramural, and intercollegiate athletics programs.

President Charles L. Shearer is a regular user of the track in the upper level of the Beck Center, and any given weekday will find faculty, staff, and students walking or running during lunch hour.

“You can come over to the track and see that people are walking in skirts and tennis shoes,” Hinton-Moncer said. “It’s not intimidating at all. Anyone can feel comfortable.”

For those interested in a more intense workout routine, there’s the option of working with a certified personal trainer, an approach that has become very popular. Personal trainers work with each individual to determine needs and goals, then create training regimen and nutritional recommendations to reach those goals.

Melanie Pendleton ’05, assistant softball coach, is certified through the American Fitness Association of America and works with students, faculty, and staff.

“Most of the clients I work with want to lose weight,” she said. “The great part is seeing progress, helping people reach their goals, and seeing them not only progress in their weight loss, but also change in their perspective.”

Making a lifestyle change

Physical fitness also has ramifications for the other aspects of wellness. “There’s a huge emotional component,” Pendleton said. “You feel better when you exercise; it’s a stress reliever. It’s a lifestyle change more than anything. You’re not going to see success losing weight unless you change your lifestyle. It’s exciting to be part of that.”

Pendleton said she’s seen an increase in health and fitness awareness across campus. “This year especially, the Beck Center has seen an increase in usage,” she said. “It’s always hopping. It’s the place to be.”

Group fitness classes offered during lunch and in the evenings are free and adapt to the needs and requests of class members. Classes last summer included walks to the Lexington Farmer’s Market, for example, combining exercise with the opportunity to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

Nutrition is another aspect of physical health that has drawn increased attention at Transy. Last year, Sodexho’s Balanced Way program was introduced in the dining hall, offering an easy way to select nutritiously sound meals rich in whole grains, lean proteins, more fruit and vegetables, and less fat.

“Foods are well-marked in terms of calorie content and get a person thinking about what they’re eating,” said dean of students Mike Vetter. “It makes eating in the dining hall an educational process; people are learning which foods are the better ones to select.”

Weight Watchers groups on campus and fitness challenges like The Biggest Loser also offer opportunities and incentive for weight loss. Nutritionist Sandy Hall conducts one-on-one nutritional counseling sessions on campus with students, faculty, and staff members who want to learn about weight loss or gain, eating on campus, sports nutrition, heart health, and even how to save money at the grocery.

“That’s an absolutely free resource that most schools don’t have,” said Hinton-Moncer, “plus she’s easy to talk to and has a practical approach.”

This wellness initiative at Transylvania can be traced back to the Employee Health and Wellness Fair, which started as a small showcase in 2002 and has grown into an annual event that fills the Clive M. Beck performance gym with a wide variety of vendors and services.

The 2008 fair featured health advice from more than 40 local businesses and organizations, flu shots administered by campus nurse Laina Smith, free massages, product samples, and bone density screenings offered by Lexington Clinic.

“The field of wellness is changing all the time,” Hinton-Moncer said. “We have to continue to make changes to accommodate the changing workforce.”

Wellness for students

The Health Fair is an event for faculty and staff, but wellness is a goal for the entire campus that begins with students. A healthy lifestyle is one of the six goals for learning outlined by the Office of the Dean of Students.

“We’ve had this goal for a few years,” Vetter said, “but it’s really picked up steam. One of the things we do well at Transylvania is enable people to make connections between what they’re learning and what they’re doing.”

One place where students make that connection is in the Lifetime Fitness course, required of all students, which underscores the University’s belief that a sound body is the natural complement to a sound mind. The class emphasizes that physical activity leads to improved cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, strength, and endurance for everyone. Proper nutrition, stress management, and other wellness concepts are key to the program.

“The number one goal of this course,” said professor of physical education and exercise science Sharon Brown, “is to teach students the importance of physical fitness and provide them with opportunities to improve.”

The course has immediate impact on the lives of students like junior Stephanie Huffman, whose passion for fitness led to her certification as a personal trainer in December 2008 through AFAA. She plans to one day own her own fitness facility and become a certified nutritionist. She already has a roster of fitness clients at Transy, both students and staff members. “They all have different goals, and it challenges me as a trainer,” she said. “I love it.”

The lifetime fitness requirement for students covers the wellness components that the University is building on for faculty and staff. It blends academics and health issues to exemplify the mind-body connection at the heart of the wellness program.

This connection is evidenced by the wellness book group, which has read and discussed books that are not only intellectually stimulating, but also relevant to other areas of health, such as In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and, most recently, Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.

“We do a survey every now and then and find out what employee concerns are,” Clark said. “Finances are a huge stressor right now, so we read the Dave Ramsey book as a way to say, ‘We know you feel this pressure, here’s something that might help.’”

One approach to the social aspect of wellness is In the Loop, a knitting group that meets weekly and provides more for its participants than simply knitting skills.

“I had never knitted before,” said fine arts division secretary Tammie Williams, “but I’d always wanted to learn. It’s been fun. Each person who comes to the club brings a different and interesting experience. There’s a good mix of us, some new to knitting, some experienced. I think the best thing about the knitting club is the support you get from others. It’s a good positive vibe.”

knitting club members
Experienced knitter, secretary to the dean of students Marian Baker, and members of In the Loop gather in the Pioneer Hall of Fame Room in the Beck Center: From left, fine arts division secretary Tammie Williams, Writing Center secretary Becky Mills, campus nurse Laina Smith, Baker, study abroad and special programs secretary Frankie Kozicky, cataloging specialist Elizabeth Laumus, and AmeriCorps Vista coordinator Ashley Gutshall.
The future of wellness

Plans for the future of the overall health and wellness program include a possible Wellness House for students, similar to the International House, where residents would live together in an environment that fosters a holistic approach to health. “Students are interested in this option,” Vetter said, “which shows that they’re paying attention to the wellness initiative.”

There is also a push to address the issue of smoking on campus. Transy has annually held a smoke-out day for several years, and offers help with smoking cessation, but Vetter believes it’s an area where more could be done.

Pendleton said she thinks Transylvania is a fit campus overall, and she credits Hinton-Moncer’s energy and excitement for getting people involved.

“The way we think about wellness has evolved and continues to evolve,” Hinton-Moncer said. “A lot of people now, if you say the word ‘wellness’ to them, they can name the six components without thinking about it, whereas five or 10 years ago, that wasn’t true.”

“We’re trying to reach everybody,” Vetter said, “not just those who work out in the Beck Center, but everybody.”

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