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April 26, 2013
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

SRU earns 'Healthiest Employer' honor

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -Slippery Rock University has been named one of the Healthiest Employers in Western Pennsylvania by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The designation illustrates the University's fitness and wellness gains spearheaded by professors, student groups and Cheryl Norton, SRU president.

Employers were selected based on the results of a Business Times 75-question survey.

Jeff Lynn, SRU professor of exercise and rehabilitative science, Joy Urda, SRU instructor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences, and Marcia Kotek, SRU benefits and transactions manager for the Office of Human Resources, completed the survey.

Lynn said the questions focused on fitness opportunities provided as well as the University's participation in Highmark insurance health programs.

"Our selection for this designation should be viewed as, not just recognition for being on the right path toward wellness, but also as a catalyst to continue leading the way in terms of innovative and pioneering programming," Lynn said. "The SRU wellness committee and our president are committed to facilitating a culture that embraces wellness as an essential facet of life for all individuals in the University and surrounding communities."

The Business Times will recognize SRU and other winners at a June 13 wellness expo in Pittsburgh's Omni William Penn Hotel.

The top winner in each category, based on employee counts of 0-99, 100-499, 500-1,499, 1,500-4,999 and 5,000 plus, will be announced at the Expo.

The Healthiest Employer awards program recognizes organizations committed to creating a healthy workplace, and showing leadership in six categories: culture and leadership, foundations components, strategic planning, marketing, programming and interventions, reporting and analysis.

Lynn said SRU has initiated a number of fitness opportunities on campus and has scheduled a May 2 "Wellness Through Play: Make it Part of Your Day" program. Activities, on the Quad, will include bocce, horseshoes, can jam, Frisbee, badminton, long-rope jump, hopscotch and jacks as well as distribution of healthy snacks.

"We will post signs with quotes from famous philosophers and scholars along the walkway espousing the benefits of play/recreation - to put into perspective why it is we are doing this and to add the educational value," Lynn said. "In addition to the services provided by our health insurers, we are rapidly developing initiatives to create awareness and provide opportunities for students and employees to improve their own wellness."

Existing wellness programs at SRU include: 10,000 Steps, Exercise is Medicine, a Wellness Speaker Series, Yoga, Drop 10 in 10, Tai Chi and Common Hour Table Tennis. Healthy U is a wellness and prevention program that has been developed by the Pennsylvania state System of Higher Education to help its employees achieve healthier lifestyles and become more engaged in all aspects of their health.

Randy Nichols, SRU professor of physical and health education, said the department will initiative a number of new wellness activates for faculty and staff in 2013-14, offered one a month. They include bicycling, standup paddle boarding, kayaking, cross- country skiing, snowshoeing, roller-skating and disc golf. Employees will earn Healthy U points by participating.

Nichols said physical activity benefits physical and emotional health. He said 13 percent of depression diagnoses are attributable to physical inactivity. Activity also combats chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

Nichols said the award is an important honor for the University and testifies to the University wellness progress.

"Our students, faculty and staff have really created an atmosphere for wellness on campus," he said. "We want prospective students to have an expectation that if you come to Slippery Rock University, it is a place of health and wellness."

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.