HAWP aims to teach campus about health and wellness

After a decade away from her alma mater, Leah Berkenwald ’07 is back as the Wellness Promotion Program Manager for Health and Wellness Promotion (HAWP). 

HAWP helps to coordinate campus-wide health and wellness efforts through different methods, such as educational programs, peer educators and collaborations with other groups on campus, according to their website. 

Berkenwald told The Brandeis Hoot in an interview that there hadn’t been an official health and wellness office prior to her arrival at Brandeis. She realized that she could shape the program however she saw fit. 

She went onto explain the main purposes of HAWP: health education and training student leaders on campus on different health and wellness topics. Something that Berkenwald really likes about being a part of HAWP is her ability to partner with other departments all across campus.

“Health and wellness touches everything,” Berkenwald told The Hoot. “No department on campus isn’t involved with health and wellness, so I get to work with people all across campus. I get to work with athletics, the library, students, etc.” She added that she really enjoys the collaborative aspect of all the work she does. 

HAWP is split up into four main sections, Bridge to Wellness (BTW) peer educators, educational workshops and trainings, research and assessment and Body Positive Brandeis. 

Bridge to Wellness (BTW) Peer Educators

Bridge to Wellness (BTW) Peer Educators have been working tirelessly to foster and prioritize healthy decision-making skills surrounding nutrition, stress management, mental health, fitness and substance abuse. Through a series of workshops and training events, peer educators and students feel both educated and empowered to make the right choices. 

Jack Rubinstein ’20, one of the BTW Peer Education Coordinators, briefly shared his experience with the BTW community in an email with The Hoot, saying, “So far my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I really like my coworkers, and everyone has been really passionate about their ideas. I always feel inspired to learn in that environment.” 

The program works to promote accessibility and connectivity to campus resources in order to adhere to students’ concerns. 

“I chose to apply to BTW because it’s the kind of group I really wish existed when I was a first-year. I feel like a lot of my health needed figuring out in a way that a peer educator could’ve really helped me with,” wrote Rubinstein. 

The 2019-2020 Peer Educators come from a variety of social and academic backgrounds, but all share the values that are at the core of the BTW Program: to empower, educate and meaningfully advise.

The intention of this program, alongside the numerous educational programs being offered, such as “Sleeping well @ Brandeis,” “Making Peace with Your Body” and “Watch Your BAC,” is to create a campus environment that values community health and general well-being. Educators and staff are trained in manners that are tailored to their respective audience and have developed a toolbox of skills and a myriad of advising techniques that enable them to connect with other students, assign appropriate resources and/or offer personalized advice. 

Berkenwald also told The Hoot in an interview that “I am a huge believer in the power of peer education. When I arrived, there was a gap. We have so many students interested in health and wellness, so it’s the perfect fit to create a peer education group to fill those [gaps]. With the peer education group, I can really expand my reach.”

Berkenwald found that there were many peers doing great work through various organizations across campus, but no one was doing things on specific topics such as alcohol and drugs, stress management and nutrition. The BTW Peer Educators have enabled more conversations on these critical subject matters and invite all students to openly and comfortably share their questions and/or concerns.

Educational Workshops and Trainings

As a health education program on campus, HAWP offers a variety of different educational workshops and trainings, available to students, faculty and staff, on various topics including alcohol and drug interventions, managing stress and how to intervene as a bystander, according to their website. 

Student programs are oftentimes taught by the BTW Peer Educators and include topics such as group bonding and intervention strategies.

HAWP also offers trainings for various student leaders across campus, including orientation leaders, community advisors, peer support organizations and campus volunteers. They also offer to teach a class on a health topic of a professor’s choosing if they are unable to teach a class, according to the HAWP website. 

They also provide training for faculty and staff that focuses on motivational interviewing. “This training provides an introduction to motivational interviewing skills to build rapport and support behavior change with students,” states the website. “A counseling technique originally developed for substance abuse, it can be applied to any type of behavior change.” The training is taught by Berkenwald and Carrie Eichmann, a staff therapist at the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC). 

Research and Assessment

Berkenwald also explained to The Hoot that there are various national and internal assessments that HAWP conducts. The main tool that HAWP utilizes is the National College Health Assessment (NCHA). According to their website, this assessments helps different universities around the country analyze students’ health habits, behaviors and perceptions.

She really likes this tool because NCHA only provides Brandeis-specific data, and not national data on college students. Berkenwald added that the most recent assessment was conducted in fall 2018, with the one prior in fall 2016. 

Another major project that Berkenwald spearheaded was a community needs assessment. “It brought together people from all over campus and students, and we looked at the eight dimensions of wellness,” she told The Hoot. The purpose of this assessment was to see where the university was on each of the dimensions and how we could improve in the future. 

The university also participates in a biennial review that ensures that the university is in accordance with Drug-Free Schools and Campuses Regulations, part 86 of the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR), according to HAWP’s website. 

“The Biennial Review is a report to be completed on alternate years, providing documentation of compliance with federal regulations, as well as recent data on student alcohol and other drug use, and updates on campus education, prevention, intervention and treatment initiatives,” the website states. The next review will be conducted in fall 2019. 

Body Positive Brandeis

In the current day and age, body image has become a huge issue that many individuals struggle with. The rise in social media use leaves individuals, specifically adolescents, constantly comparing their bodies to others and feeling ashamed of the way they look. Individuals struggle with self acceptance and realizing they are worthy of other people’s love. This is extremely unhealthy and steps need to be taken in order to aid these individuals and boost their self esteem. Specifically, individuals need to have support outlets in which they can seek the help they need. 

Here at Brandeis, HAWP and the BCC have partnered with The Body Positive, a non-profit organization, to create a new program on campus that promotes the acceptance of one’s body. The Body Positive is “a lively, healing community that offers freedom from suffocating societal messages that keep people in a perpetual struggle with their bodies,” according to its website. 

Berkenwald explained that HAWP received funding through the campus life fund to contract The Body Positive to come to campus. 

The aim of Body Positive Brandeis is to conduct training for students and staff to lead groups that aid students in their quest to increase their self-esteem and stop negative thoughts regarding their body image. These volunteer coordinators will work with students, focusing on The Body Positive’s five core competencies: reclaiming health, cultivating self-love, practicing intuitive self-care, declaring your own authentic beauty and building community, according to the facilitator application form.

“It is the first, and only, body positivity curricula that has a social justice lens,” said Berkenwald. “It creates opportunities for folks to think about their various identities and how that intersects with their body image.” She went on to explain that the program was “designed to build community and encourage activism so that folks have the tools to fight size discrimation, sizeism and other types of stigmas related to appearance and bodies.” 

According to Berkenwald, typical body image curriculum trainings tend to be designed for women and not addressing issues of diversity or identity. “They would only focus on the ‘thin ideal’ when we know that that’s not ideal for every person from every background,” she explained. 

Body Positive Brandeis plans to host five groups in spring 2020, with facilitators connected to specific identity groups leading. These groups include the general student body, a gender identity based group, an athletics group, students of color group and a graduate student group, according to the facilitator application.

Rachael Pucillo, the Group Coordinator and an Eating Disorder Specialist, and Berkenwald hope that there will be more groups on campus that emphasize body positivity that discuss the differences in identities of individuals and how these differences affect one’s body image in the future. 

They also hope that students will learn strategies to help themselves accept their bodies and create relationships with other students that allow them to feel loved and supported. Students can also take the message of body positivity to other communities after they graduate, as accepting oneself in their own body is something that many people struggle with, and lots of individuals do not have the resources to ask for help. 

Surround yourself with people who will love you for who you are and will support you when you are feeling down, Pucillo and Berkenwald added. Make sure that the people you surround yourself with do not say things like “Ugh, I am so fat.” “You’re not fat! I’m the fat one…” It is alright to cut people out of your life if you feel that they are having a negative impact on you. If you feel like you need more help, you can reach out to HAWP or BTW peer educators. We are all human beings in need of love and the best thing we can do is to love each other and love ourselves. 
The Body Positive Planning Committee is made up of members from HAWP, BCC, the Department of Athletics, Recreation and Physical Education, Graduate Student Affairs, the Dean of Students Office and the Intercultural Center (ICC). Anyone with questions should email hawp@brandeis.edu.

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