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Friday, August 19, 2022


Wellness Center celebrates 20 years of helping students

This month the UH Wellness center celebrates 20 years of serving as an outlet for students campus-wide to better their social, intellectual, emotional, occupational, physical and even spiritual health.

Specializing in prevention, the UH Wellness center has served its community in full-stride and continues to do so across virtually all dimensions of wellness.

Director of UH Wellness Gail Gillan has been closely involved in the center’s upbringing since its creation in September 1991. She said that she wanted students to know the difference between medical information and wellness prevention.

“I was here 20 years ago. At that time, the idea was to bring a substance abuse prevention program to campus,” said Gillan. “There’s been a health center on campus for a lot of years, but wellness as a prevention on campus is relatively new.

“ When we wrote the grant and brought wellness here, it was still a part of Counseling and Testing Services. There have been and still are other departments on campus that do some wellness promotions in some specific areas, but what’s unique about what we do is, it’s more comprehensive. We focus on prevention and promoting a healthy campus and involving students directly in the process of their own wellbeing,” said Gillan.

Originally, Gillan and others saw substance abuse prevention as a part of wellness not so much in isolation, but in relation to other kinds of wellness issues, a perspective from which the original grant was written.

Once completed, it became fully institutionalized on campus primarily through the training of peer education, Gillan said.

“A lot of universities get grants to institutionalize programs, but they aren’t able to sustain them. We’ve had a lot of success,” Gillan said.

“The University was really supportive, and (the program) was sustained past the grant period, so it’s been here since.”

UH Wellness specializes in prevention, but it also hosts informative workshops, collaborates with other departments to organize national awareness days and health campaigns, and offers a class for students with an interest in bettering their overall dynamic.

“We do workshops on a variety of topics — everything from stress management to sexual health to healthy relationships,” Gillan said.

“We also have a peer education program. We teach a class called HLT 3300, where we both train and recruit our peer educators. In addition to that, we offer a one-hour lab where students who are interested in being peer educators can get addition training.”

Through student voting, the Wellness Center was formally named STEPS but was modified within several years for a better fit.

“We started being more multidimensional, so we changed the name to Wellness Center because we wanted to see it as a comprehensive program. More importantly, we wanted the campus to see it as that,” said Gillan.

Twenty years strong, UH Wellness has been recognized numerous times by prestigious institutions, including the U.S. Department of Education and The National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors. Among the UH Wellness achievements, Gillan identified two that stood out.

“We started as primarily a peer education program and we are very small, so really I think we have accomplished two things. One: we’ve become an integral part of campus life and the well-being of students –– and to me that’s extremely important,” Gillan said.

“In doing so, we’ve also evolved into a program that’s really driven by research and evidence-based programming. We know we will have a positive impact on students.”

UH Wellness will be having a celebration Nov. 29 at its primary location in the University Center and will be offering cake to those who pass by.

The following day, UH Wellness invites students, staff and alumni to partake in an open house commemorating their 20th anniversary.

Festivities will be located at their secondary location in the CRWC Wellness office.

“We are inviting our leadership as well as other peer educators, the administration, staff and faculty who have been involved in wellness over the years. They will be able to come by and see what we’re doing now and what we’ve accomplished in the last 20 years,” Gillan said.

“We’re pretty excited about what we do here. We have some wonderful staff and great students.”

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