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Oxford launches Center for Healthful Living

Students were introduced to the Center for Healthful Living at a recent event on the Oxford quad, complete with climbing wall, information tables, yoga instruction and other demonstrations on adopting a more healthful approach to life.

As a liberal-arts intensive institution, Oxford believes in educating students across all disciplines and the wide spectrum that includes the humanities, arts and sciences, regardless of what the individual might choose for his or her major course of study. A liberal arts education celebrates the whole of knowledge, and it also celebrates the whole person. That emphasis on the whole person was an impetus to Oxford's recent establishment of the Center for Healthful Living (CHL).

Says Stephen H. Bowen, dean of Oxford College, "This idea first took shape in the spring of 2010 with a task force that included Joe Moon, Oxford's dean for campus life; Kent Linville, then dean for academic affairs; Ken Anderson, then associate dean for academic affairs; Brandon Feldman, athletics director; and Oxford's physical education faculty. I charged them with designing a new approach to healthful living at Oxford, one that would integrate existing efforts and determine what new ones were needed. They were asked to design a plan that not only included expanded course offerings, but also broadened the notion of healthy living beyond traditional academic courses, intramurals and intercollegiate athletics."

After months of careful planning, the CHL took shape, and it was fully implemented in fall semester 2012. The concept was rolled out to students at a recent event on the Oxford quad, complete with climbing wall, information tables, yoga instruction and other demonstrations on adopting a more healthful approach to life.

The CHL is an intentional approach to healthful living that encourages physical activity in an assortment of venues. Teachers in the CHL include faculty with physical education expertise, coaches holding master's degrees as well as part-time properly credentialed instructors with special skills and certifications-such as scuba, sports medicine, aerobics, outdoor education, CPR training and nutrition.  

In addition to promoting movement and physical activity, the CHL also provides opportunities for students to learn about broader aspects of wellness and healthful living. Amanda Yu, Oxford's full-time health educator, designs ways to educate our students on issues and habits that can interfere with their college success — sleep deprivation, stress, substance abuse, eating habits.  She has established a group of peer health educators called the Healthy Eagles, who take the messages of healthful practices into their residence halls and daily lives. They become an added resource for their fellow students as well as RA's and residence hall staff.

Another aspect of the CHL is Play Oxford, which began in the 2011-12 academic year. This innovative program lets students earn academic credits while acquiring the healthy habit of making room in their schedule for varied exercise. Participating students spend half the semester in an instructed skill or activity and the other half in a monitored, yet self-scheduled personal program of physical activity. Students have a large range of activities to choose from-from cardio activity to group-fitness classes, intramural sports and more.

The CHL operates Bike Oxford, a popular program that lets students rent bikes for short-term rides. It serves as a liaison to organizations, such as Outdoor Oxford, that engage students in physical activity as recreation. The CHL partners with other Oxford programs that promote wellbeing. Current examples are THE ZONE, a space for meditation jointly sponsored by the CHL and the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life and an ongoing program on stress management offered by the Office of Counseling and Career Services and promoted by the CHL.

Bowen adds, "This is already becoming a primary part of the fabric of Oxford life."

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