February 3, 2023

COLLEGEVILLE, PA — A small liberal arts college in this central Montgomery County community has reportedly become the first of its kind in the country to sign the Okanagan Charter, an international charter promoting well-being on college campuses through the integration of health into all aspects of campus culture.

According to the university, the international pact was first presented in 2015 at the International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges.

Ursinus President Robyn Hannigan signed the international charter as her first act after being sworn in at a ceremony in mid-October as the college’s newest president.

“Wellness can’t be an afterthought,” Hannigan was quoted as saying in an article on the college website. “As a society, we have navigated adversities related to mental and physical well-being that existed before and have been exacerbated by the pandemic. As a college community, we must support the entire student, as well as each of our staff, and promote healthy living viewed through a broader wellness lens.”

According to Ursinus, the Okanagan Charter gives schools common languages ​​and principles for well-being in “person, place and planet,” and as a signatory to the charter, Ursinus is joining 16 other colleges or universities across the country in embracing the covenant.

While other schools have joined the pact, Ursinus says it was the first liberal arts college to do so.

The college said it created a sweeping new health and wellness department last year, which included hiring more staff and setting up a flex space trailer on-site to provide more space for medical and counseling support for students who need this.

“The new department combines athletics, clinical services (medical care, counseling and sports medicine) for the first time, provides an overview of health trends on campus and enables comprehensive troubleshooting of problems, especially in the field of mental health,” says the article on the site .

Laura Moliken, vice president of health and wellness at Ursinus, was quoted as saying that the college is “prepared to create a culture around healthy lifestyles, behavior, choices and community support,” and that the Okanagan Charter provides a framework for how this university can address health and wellness issues in operations, administration and student life.

“I am very pleased to be able to lead this very important project,” said Moliken in her statement. “By signing this charter, we have the opportunity to lead this effort nationally, among our liberal arts peers, and for all higher education.”

According to information about the charter found online, the pact was created by scientists and professionals from around the world when they gathered at the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges.

The purpose of the charter is to guide educational institutions, given their unique role in “research, teaching and service to their communities”, to be global leaders in the development of health-promoting strategies on campus, thereby helping to influence surrounding communities and global businesses equally about strategies for well-being.

“The key is to move beyond traditional approaches to influencing individual behavior and move to systems levels and environmental strategies that affect the health and well-being of people, places and planet,” reads the online Okanagan Charter information .

In addition to the US, several other countries around the world have joined the pact, including the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, and others.

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