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Holistic Wellbeing Initiative to Teach Life Skills to New Students

Holistic Wellbeing Initiative to Teach Life Skills to New Students

The Wellness Center opened in fall 2015 and will be home base for some of the events and resources offered through the Wellbeing Initiative.

When Christine Osgood ’94 S’10 began the Wellbeing 101 info session in January, she asked everyone to close their eyes. People set down their paper cups of Caribou Coffee and plates of crumbly coffee cake, and the area around the library fireplace fell silent as she began to tell a story.

It was about a neighborhood that was home to individuals of all ages and appearances and abilities. Residents were keenly aware and appreciative of how they were uniquely created, and they eagerly contributed their time, strengths, and energy for the good of their thriving, Creator-reflecting community. They knew that their personal flourishing was intrinsically tied to the wellbeing of the wider community, and it was a beautiful thing to be behold.

Osgood paused and added, “Holy smokes. Can you imagine what it would be like to be part of a people who actually lived like that?” As members of the audience opened their eyes, many nodded and smiled. One responded with a guttural “huh.”

Osgood was recently named director of wellbeing, and the audacious vision she shared is at the heart of the new campus-wide Wellbeing Initiative. As a two-time alumna who has almost two decades of experience across various Bethel departments, she’s uniquely equipped for the job. She’s taught undergraduate courses from theology to psychology and has held positions in Student Life, counseling services, and the Academic Enrichment and Support Office. She now brings her varied experiences—and love for the Bethel community—into her new position dedicated to pursuing the type of thriving, community ethos she described.

“It’s a synthesis of everything I’ve done in the last 19 years,” Osgood says. Beginning in fall 2017, undergraduate students will take Introduction to Wellbeing as part of their general education requirements. It carries over elements from a number of courses that are being phased out, and—along with another new inquiry seminar course—will launch students into their college careers with a solid foundation of self-awareness and tools for building healthy habits and effective learning strategies.

“It’s very exciting—I wish I had been able to take these two classes as a student at Bethel,” Osgood says. “We’ve really kept the best—and got rid of the worst.” Students in the wellbeing course will work toward establishing a shared vision for what “thriving” looks like in the interdependent areas of wellbeing: emotional, spiritual, cognitive, relational, meaning, and physical.

They’ll build positive habits in each area and complete “infusions” (short-term experiences or challenges) to help them think more broadly and challenge their assumptions and personal limits. The same holistic curriculum has been expanded into a collection of challenges, events, and resources so that staff and faculty can learn and grow alongside students.

A pedometer challenge has encouraged employees to take sporadic walking breaks this spring, and weekly educational Lunch & Learn events in the Olson Boardroom and at the Anderson Center explore specific topics and tips within each area of wellbeing. While there’s a focus on self-improvement and making positive “micro-choices,” at the heart of it all is pursuing Osgood’s working definition of wellbeing: “a justice-infused peace, wholeness, and flourishing for individuals and systems aligned with God.” For a university like Bethel, which has long focused on bringing community to the center of academic learning, it’s a natural and inspiring focus.

“This wellbeing is both something to pursue and a gift to be experienced,” Osgood says. “We were designed to live like this…designed to be whole, flourishing people. There is something incredible that happens when we are aligned with God.”