What Happened to Wellness Week?

Wellness Week, a long-standing staple of winter term that had been in play since 2010 and focused on presenting programs on health promotion and risk reduction, has been removed from this year’s academic calendar. This decision was reached last year by Amy Patel, Medical Director and Co-Director of Wellness Education, and Carol Israel, Instructor of Psychology.

According to Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life, efforts that once went towards developing the “crash course week” will be concentrated on more long-term programs. This includes the Foundations Empathy and Balance Curriculum for Juniors, required PACE classes for Lowers, and weekend wellness activities such as Zumba, Yoga, and Tai Chi.

“We hope our sustained, consistent, regular programming will help our community shift habits and adopt healthy behaviors that are sustainable,” wrote Elliott in an email to The Phillipian.

In addition, numerous institutions such as the Brace Center, the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center, and the Tang Institute have brought speakers on campus to discuss health-related topics which are now being integrated into the Physical Education and Biology curriculums.

“We have so many programs that could fit under a wellness week umbrella that have already or will occur. We want to make sure that students can engage in the events we have scheduled, and allow adequate time to process and reflect on the events we have planned,” wrote Patel in an email to The Phillipian.

The removal of Wellness Week has also been attributed to negative student feedback regarding the lack of time available to reflect on the issues discussed.

“We completely agree [with the feedback], and we are working on spreading out the programming and offering sessions afterwards to allow for discussion, reflection, and conversation,” said Patel.

“We acknowledge that a week to discuss wellness is insufficient, and prefer that wellness education is spread throughout the year. We are making great progress in that direction, and will continue to seek student feedback and participation in our ongoing wellness education efforts,” Patel continued.

Traditionally, Wellness Week took place during the middle of Winter Term. Students were given several days off from classes to attend workshops, performances, and speeches meant to promote mental and physical health. Originally, the content was focused around alcohol and chemical dependency but later expanded to encompass topics ranging from depression to sports psychology.

“The people who are devel- oping the program are doing a good job making [Wellness Week] a more consistent, year-long approach,” said Kathryn McQuade, Instructor in English and house counselor in Nathan Hale House.

Gerardo Segura ’18 appreciates the positive effects Wellness Week has had on him in the past.

“I think one of the most important things is just the idea of having a Wellness Week on campus. The school shows initiative towards actually caring for student wellness, not just physically, but in other ways. Since we’re in such high-stress environment, I really appreciate efforts to keep students healthy both mentally and physically,” said Segura.

Some students, however, agree with a long-term approach when talking about these kinds of issues.

“In-depth and substantial discussions should be explored within the school throughout the course of a year,” said Junah Jang ’20.

Lior Hirschfeld ’17 said, “I felt like [Wellness Week] ended up, for me, almost more stressful than normal weeks. Although the activities themselves… were really relaxing or really interesting and engaging a lot of the time, just the amount of time that they took up from the schedule ended up making it harder to fit all of your work into the week.”

Jenni Lord ’19 appreciates the decision made by the administration.

“I think there’s definitely enough topics [that the school dis- cusses], but the processing times are not enough. [There’s also] just a lot of stress… and I did find, ironically, that teachers give way too much homework during wellness week. The fact that nobody likes it, it’s good that the school’s responsive to that,” said Lord.