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Learning Center Experience
What is a typical day for you as director of wellness? If you don't really have a "typical" day, can you describe some of the things you might do throughout the course of a week?
Finally, what is your work environment (e.g., corporate, public health, academic, etc.)?
I work at a private university in Georgia. Employee Wellness is a department of one, so I wear many hats throughout the week. I work individually with employees and their dependents on their personal wellness goals such as weight loss, improved fitness, stress management, and smoking cessation. This can involve just a one-time meeting with a client to help them jump-start their own journey, or weekly meetings with those who may need personal training or an accountability partner.
I also facilitate our group programs and challenges. Throughout the year we offer a wide variety of programs including Steps Challenges (tracking daily steps via pedometer or activity device), Walking Clubs, Stress Break Seminars, and Weight Loss Challenges. I also organize our monthly "Lunch and Learn" series that invites health, wellness, and medical professionals to speak on a wide variety of health-related topics.
In addition, I direct our group fitness program, which involves supervising our group fitness instructors, creating schedules and personally teaching two to four group fitness classes weekly. Finally, I direct our HealthyU program-a university-wide incentive program that rewards employees for engaging in healthy activities.
At larger institutions or companies, several people may handle the diverse components of my job, but since the university is fairly small, I get to wear many different hats every day. While some people might not prefer a "department of one," I really enjoy it. The opportunity to work in many different areas of wellness has allowed me to develop various skills that I might not have gained if my role was limited to one or two areas of a department.
How did you pursue your current director position? What degrees, certifications, or prior roles acted as stepping stones?
After losing weight and beginning an exercise program of my own, I wanted to help others make changes in their own lives. I pursued my Masters of Health, Exercise, and Sport Science at The Citadel. During my time as a student, I worked as a graduate assistant for a grant program that worked with teens and at-risk youth to make healthier choices. My component was working on increasing activity and education about healthy eating.
Upon graduation, I worked at Special Olympics in Georgia, where I organized sports competitions for children and adults with special needs. While I enjoyed working with the athletes, the position emphasized event planning as opposed to health promotion. I came to my current role in 2008 and have thoroughly enjoyed my time here-it has been a great learning experience and I continue to grow and be challenged.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
First let me say that this job is not without its challenges. I would never recommend a job in health promotion or wellness to someone who wasn't passionate about this-someone who comes to this field looking for a "job" won't last long. I've seen many clients fail-unfortunately, more fail than succeed-which can be hard for a professional who seeks to help people and promote change.
However, when people do succeed and lose weight, get active, feel better about themselves, complete a goal, or get off chronic disease medications, you share in these victories. I firmly believe that the successes I have witnessed over the years far trump the frustrations and challenges.
What advice would you give our students who want to pursue a similar career path or goal?
You have to love fitness and wellness yourself. I don't believe that a wellness professional needs to be a certain size or have a certain body type, but a professional must live the lifestyle. To be successful, they need to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, manage stress, get adequate sleep, and have a positive attitude about all of these things. I firmly believe that our clients get more out of what we do than what we say.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual and not of Kaplan University.
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