New Sykes Initiatives Emphasize Student Input

The Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center is often seen as a place where students go if they are in need of physical or mental support, explains Jill Winnett, Wellness Center Program Coordinator. This year, however, Winnet and other members of the Sykes team hope to expand this perception by drawing more student involvement to complement ongoing campus-wide initiatives.

Winnett notes that Sykes is a resource for all students regardless of whether or not they are feeling well.

“We want to encourage kids to just come and hang out and experience different things when you’re feeling really good. We’re trying to change that stigma of only being able to come [to Sykes] if you’re not feeling well because there’s much more that we can offer as a whole,” said Winnett.

To promote wellness initiatives, Sykes relies on partnerships with offices across campus. Amy Patel, Medical Director, emphasized that this collaboration is vital in ensuring that the work that Sykes does reaches a wider audience and is not solely contained within the building.

This year, Sykes is continuing its partnership with the Dean of Students Office to bring back Barn Babies, a program that allows students to interact with farm animals. The fall date for Barn Babies is September 30, the same day as the campus-wide flu shot vaccinations.

Sykes is looking to provide weekend wellness activities like yoga, zumba, and meditation on a more consistent basis, in the hopes that they become a more central part of the Andover community. Patel says she hopes that the consistent variety of programs will cater to the diverse interests of the Andover community.

“There might be a form that resonates with one person but not another and so being able to give more exposure to different ways to be able to have fun and also to relieve stress at the same time,” said Patel.

Patel also wishes to attract more student input and collaboration for this year, noting that the best way to achieve successful programming is to bring students into the conversation.

“We always want students to be a part of the conversation, but finding really structured ways to be able to have students have a voice in the programming that we’re doing and in the work that we’re doing. We’re eager for it, but we have to be very intentional about it to get the feedback, so we’ve been trying to increasingly bring that element into our work with students in some of the extracurricular activities,” said Patel.

Patel continued, “It is an inclusive programming for all. We want anybody and everybody, and if there’s somebody who feels like there isn’t a program for them, they should come and talk to us… These are programs for students, and they are best done if there is a student voice contributing to the programs.”

One opportunity for student involvement is a position on the student advisory board that oversees the Andover end of the website “Student Health 101.” Winnett described the website and its role in promoting wellness education.

“‘Student Health 101’ is an online blog that’s specific to [Andover], and there’s different articles and they have giveaways on it as well, but it provides all different categories related to health and wellness, so it’s kind of like an online magazine,” said Winnett.

Patel detailed the role of the student advisory board and the opportunity to increase Andover’s presence on the website.

“In years past, we’ve had student interest, and so it would be great to be able to generate an Andover voice in being able to select content like what articles are going to be written, what topics are of interest, and then helping to vet the articles,” said Patel.

Sykes promotes the website on their social media, another area that they hope to develop this year as a part of their student outreach initiative.