Syracuse University Magazine

Healthy Outlook


Before her day hits its usual hectic pace, Catherine Kellman likes to take a moment in the morning and reflect on something she’s thankful for. It’s a simple technique she learned last spring at a lunch-hour presentation on gratitude and it helps her start her day with a positive outlook. “In this busy world we live in, I think we forget about those things and don’t take time to reflect on them,” says Kellman, assistant director for the Office of Residence Life on South Campus.  

Jennifer McLaughlin, associate director, benefits planning and administration, for Human Resources, credits a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class she took last spring with helping her to learn breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga as a way to effectively manage stress. “What a journey this class was for me!” she says. “I felt a true life shift. I walked away with great tools to live a more peaceful and ‘present’ life.”

Both classes were part of the Syracuse University Wellness Initiative (SUWI), which was relaunched in fall 2014. “We’re trying to provide learning and educational opportunities in the area of health and wellness for faculty and staff that cover a broad range of topics—whether it’s a physical activity, nutrition, stress reduction, or just general learning in terms of wellness topics,” says Gail Gro­zalis, executive director of the Wellness Initiative. As an example, she cites a couple activities held this fall: a webinar on mindful eating, and a Massive Open Online Course on “The Science of Happiness.” SUWI is also collaborating with Weight Watchers to offer campus, community, and online options for its program, providing a 50 percent subsidy for benefit eligible faculty and staff. And last spring, SUWI began offering free smoking cessation classes as part of the University becoming a tobacco- and smoke-free campus in July.

The initiative also partners with Recreation Services, the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion (which sponsors Healthy Mondays), and other campus organizations to promote healthy lifestyle activities, such as Walktober, which encourages people to head outdoors for a walk. “A balanced healthy lifestyle means different things to different people; however, making healthy food choices as often as we can, engaging in some sort of physical activity that brings enjoyment, and being aware of stress levels and identifying coping skills that work for us are basic components that will help us feel our best,” says Grozalis, a registered dietitian. “A healthy lifestyle is about long-term behaviors rather than a quick fix.”

To spread the gospel, Grozalis regularly posts information on the SUWI website and distributes fliers. She also created the Wellness Champion Network, calling on volunteers from across campus to engage their colleagues in activities. Shannon Nanda G’07, assistant director of graduate admissions at the Whitman School of Management, collaborates with several staffers there on a host of activities, including a wellness newsletter. “I want to help my colleagues who either need the extra nudge or a partner to get them on a path to wellness,” she says. Department of Public Safety (DPS) officer Michael Patsos echoes that sentiment. He started a DPS wellness program five years ago and says participating in running events and other activities together builds camaraderie. “When they laid out everything involved with the Wellness Champions, I thought it was a great opportunity,” he says. “It gave me ideas to take back to the department.”

For Grozalis, such enthusiasm can be contagious, motivating others to consider their health and take steps to improve it. She recommends setting achievable goals and then building on them. “Remember that old cliché that small steps add up to big achievements,” she says. “They truly do.”     —Jay Cox

Photo by Steve Sartori