By Tisa Mason
HAYS, Kan. -In today’s fast-paced world, finding a balance between work and life can often be a challenge. However, Fort Hays State University has taken steps toward prioritizing the health and happiness of its staff, faculty and students. Through its innovative wellness initiative, Well Tiges, FHSU fosters a healthier work environment and creates a community dedicated to holistic wellness.
Well Tiges launched our Student Affairs Department last year with the aim of creating a stimulating and vibrant work environment. This program has since grown into a diverse community of wellness seekers benefiting all faculty and staff members at the university.
The initiative focuses on the entire spectrum of well-being, including mental, physical, social, professional, financial and other dimensions of well-being of the whole person. Monthly educational meetings serve as a cornerstone, providing participants with practical knowledge and strategies for everyday application. “The initiative fosters camaraderie and mutual support among employees, fostering a sense of community as different departments unite their efforts to improve their health and well-being,” shared Kelly Meyer, Online Enrollment Counselor and Well Tiges Board Member.
The success of Well Tigers is demonstrated in the improved wellness of the participants and the general sense of support and responsibility within the community. The program was recently expanded to include all faculty and staff members at FHSU, further reinforcing the idea that a healthy and happy team is critical to the success of any institution.
Robyn Brungardt from Financial Aid shared her positive experience with Well Tiges:
“Last year, Student Affairs launched the Well Tiges program and I decided to participate. It required me to be accountable and gave me the tools to monitor my mind, body and soul. We often think that wellness is just an activity, but it is much more. Well, Tiges got me thinking about reading for fun, working on my finances and budgeting, and my general well-being. My son was getting married in the spring, which helped me lose weight and feel better for the big event. It’s always more fun to exercise with friends and colleagues. I’m so glad that it’s now a campus-wide initiative and I’m grateful that the university is supporting me on this journey.”
At the core of the Well Tiges program is the belief that small, sustainable changes can have a significant impact on personal well-being. Drawing inspiration from James Clear’s book, Atomic clothing, the initiative encourages participants to build their wellness journey using a habit-based and systems-based approach. By developing new habits, individuals can modify their behavior and reshape their identity.
Jess Albin, Interim Director of Counseling Services and a member of the Well Tiges Board of Directors, shared the following example: Suppose a person is trying to quit smoking. When offered a cigarette, a person focused on behavior change might say, “No, thank you. I’m trying to quit smoking.” A person developing a new identity might say, “No thanks, I’m not a smoker.” Consequently, part of the Well Tiges program includes the distribution of “Identity Stickers” at events where participants can complete the following sentence, “I am the type of person who…”
Well Tiges is an elective, year-round program designed to accommodate individual preferences and schedules. Participants have the flexibility to choose events that align with their interests and goals. The program emphasizes the development and maintenance of unique habits that contribute to personal health and happiness, providing participants with the tools necessary to create their own positive and fulfilling lifestyle. Or as Jess described it, “Well, Tiges provides the hammer, it’s up to each employee to decide where to put the nail.”
The Well Tiges Board of Directors selects a specific dimension of wellness each month and then creates themed group events and activities. Weekly events such as Park Further Friday, Walk and Talk and a cycling group offer additional opportunities for physical activity and socialising.
In addition, Well Tiges encourages participants to engage in actions that promote well-being, such as checking the mental health of loved ones on World Mental Health Day. The program also includes special events such as Well-Being Day, where participants can enjoy chair massages, healthy snacks and a hydration bar provided through a partnership with the FHSU Massage Clinic.
Presented by faculty from our Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP), Exercise is Medicine on Campus (EIM-OC), a student wellness companion, is a program developed by the American College of Sports Medicine. Expanding Well Tiges in this way further supports the university’s commitment to well-being. The vision of this program is to see students discover, share and adopt behaviors to promote a culture of physical activity and chronic disease prevention and management.
“Physical inactivity is a rapidly growing public health problem and contributes to various chronic diseases and health complications. HHP professionals love creating relationships with people who foster positivity and joy around physical activity and movement,” shared HHP Assistant Professor Emily Washburn.
This program will also offer HHP undergraduate and graduate students first-hand experience facilitating elements of the EIM-OC program.
Well Tiges offers a personalized approach to wellness, encouraging participants to make sustainable lifestyle changes and create a positive impact on their overall quality of life. Fort Hays State University’s Well Tiges program is a testament to our university’s commitment to the health and happiness of its employees. By fostering a stimulating and vibrant work environment and promoting well-being, FHSU sets an outstanding example.