SRU begins month-long President’s Commission programs



Sept. 10, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University is expanding the reach of its six President's Commissions - disability issues, gender identity/sexual orientation, racial and ethic diversity, sustainability, status of women and wellness - to offer month-long learning focuses for each area.

The yearlong program has been broadened to incorporate collaboration between all of the commissions, so that participants obtain a fuller understanding of connections between fields.

The first offering, Wellness Month, begins with a kickoff social from noon to 4 p.m., Sept. 11, in SRU's Robert N. Aebersold Student Recreation Center lounge. SRU will mark Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Month in October, Disability Month in November, Racial and Ethic Diversity Month in February, Status of Women Month in March and Sustainability Month in April.

Wellness Month will offer more than 15 programs and events structured under the umbrella of seven wellness areas - physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and social.

A Sept. 17 panel discussion will combine wellness, spirituality and sustainability when John Hicks, assistant professor of secondary education, discusses Laudato Si, an encyclical on the environment by Pope Francis.

Hicks said he would explain the philosophical underpinnings of the pope's treatise, illustrating that one can't separate human beings from environmental wellness because both are part of an interdependent, physical cosmos.

Hicks said Pope Francis wrote his encyclical for the whole world because, "It is one planet and one universe. If we don't take good care of it, we're all going to be in bad shape."

Many other interdisciplinary programs will be offered during the year.

"All of the commissions are working together to schedule events," said Hannah Brewer, SRU assistant professor of public health and social work, who is involved with the Wellness Commission. "The commissions are all interrelated, and I think the neat thing is different commission experts are passionate about their area, and those experts can teach others about their areas. That is why we have been reaching out to diversity and sustainability."

Wellness Month's other programs include introducing a new Wellness Commission Fit Bit Community, Zumba, Walk The Rock, yoga, animal-assisted stress prevention and a worship music event.

The President's Wellness 5K/2K Run/Walk will take place Sept. 26. Cheryl Norton, SRU president and a champion of holistic wellness, intends to sign an Exercise is Medicine President's Proclamation after the event declaring October as Exercise is Medicine month.

"The work of the commissions is invaluable in helping to focus our campus community on our individual uniqueness as well as on the uniqueness of others," Norton said. "This recognition allows us to have a greater admiration and respect for the role each person plays in the success of our institution."

Other Wellness Month events include "Take Back the Tap Campaign" to decrease consumption of bottled water, a session on carpal tunnel and a spiritual reading book event.

renee bateman


"We're going to focus on all the dimension of wellness, beyond the physical, to include emotional, spiritual and occupational wellness," said Renee Bateman, health promotion coordinator for health services. "We're giving staff the opportunity to come to some of the events, and we have events targeted for students."

Adding to the University's goal of making fitness a lifestyle is the organization of a "Fit Bit" community. Fitbits are wristbands that enable users to track heart rate, sleep, distance walked, calories burned and other health gauges.

Brewer, who will serve as the Fit Bit community coordinator, said "Fit Bits are a hot fitness trend; they are something a lot of people even outside the fitness industry are getting into for rehabilitation, disability and other initiatives"

She said Fit Bit promotes collaboration between users of different backgrounds. "They promote accountability because users can share results," she said. The wristbands cost between $130 and $200.

Brewer said the goal of Wellness Month is to advance the culture of wellness on campus, not just in exercise science and other departments but campuswide.

"The main goal is for each person to take ownership of his or her health and fitness," she said.

The president, working with commission co-chairs, developed the idea for broadening the focus. Erin Strain, director of leadership development, will assist the commissions with planning efforts.

SRU organized the month-long programs so that they correspond with national campaigns. SRU will offer racial and ethic diversity in February, which matches up with Black History Month.

tina moser


Tina Moser, assistant to the president in the President's Office, said the commissions are seeking new members who are willing to volunteer.

"Any student, faculty or staff member interested in participating can apply for a position through the President's Office," Moser said. "New people bring fresh eyes, and we're always open to that."

Moser said the commissions serve an important role on campus as a means of exploring and implementing initiatives that advance "Best Practices" in their area of focus.

"As a result of the work of the commissions, we've introduced important campus programs such as Safe Zone training, the President's Climate Action Plan, Walk The Rock," wheelchair basketball, Girls ROCK Day and 'Walking Tacos' during finals week," Moser said.

Dallas Jackson, assistant professor of physical and health education and co-chair of the President's Commission for Disability Issues, said, "It is my intention to help lead this commission's efforts toward reducing barriers, as well as, increasing facilitators within the campus environment for individuals with disabling health conditions at the Rock. These efforts will include on going planning, development and implementation of programming and educational events that promote advocacy and awareness across campus."