Healthy Campus Community Champion

Faculty of Health Sciences Awarded as a Healthy Campus Community Champion

June 17, 2021
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By Melissa Lafrance

The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) is being recognized for its outstanding contributions to SFU student health and well-being and is a 2019 recipient of the Champions for a Healthy Campus Community award.

The FHS’ initiatives were spurred by students themselves and taken up by the Undergraduate Studies Committee. This nomination highlighted a collective effort of faculty, staff, and students. Key contributors in this endeavor were executive members of the Health Sciences Undergraduate Student Union (HSUSU), the members of the Undergraduate Studies Committee, the Dean of Health Sciences and Education Programs staff. 

A student thriving survey gathered input on six facets of student life related to the student experience outside of the classroom. “We followed up some key themes emerging from the survey responses with three design labs and when I say we, I mean that these labs were developed and run by the undergraduate students for the undergraduate students,” said Dr. Mark Lechner, University Lecturer in FHS, and a lead on these initiatives. The feedback yielded priority areas for improving student well-being, where subsequent implementation for recommendations emerged.

The FHS has piloted a new university transition course titled Working for Health in Fall 2019. Designed to provide academic, career and social support, the course’s main objectives are personal connection, academic exploration and community building for incoming FHS students. It features alumni panels, where former students connect with new students and share their insights and experiences, often touching on well-being, resiliency, staying positive, coping strategies, and more. A student enrolled in the class shared “this class has hugely improved my confidence and knowledge about different aspects of university that cannot be learned independently anywhere else.”

Plans to renovate and redesign over 1200 square meters of space into a new Student Commons are in the implementation stages and will incorporate design elements that support well-being.

“The main rationale for each objective was to provide more opportunities to develop meaningful and lasting relationships among members of the FHS community. This community includes current students, staff and faculty, as well as former students, external partners and employers. The connections extend across academic, social and professional spheres emphasizing a holistic approach to belonging and thriving,” said Lechner.

These initiatives exemplify collective and coordinated action, listening to the student voice and the power of grassroots ideas and key enablers, which are generalizable to other SFU faculties and departments.

“Certain elements were promoted by a former staff member in our Education Programs area, Linda Hegland, and others arose from student executive members in Health Sciences Undergraduate Student Union (HSUSU) and general student voices. There were key leaders from HSUSU, like Marco Zenone, Ed. Programs; people like Arlette Stewart and Bratislav Mladenovic; staff from across SFU such as Alisa Stanton; our Educational Consultant, Barb Berry; student engagement coordinators like Rebecca Langmead; and FHS faculty all helping to move this work forward.” 

The Dean of the FHS, Dr. Tania Bubela, has also been an ardent supporter, particular in listening to the students and leading the planning and development of a new Undergraduate Student Commons.

“Even in these days of shutdown, construction on the student commons is on track, and we can’t wait to re-open and bring life and energy back into the faculty.  I have no doubt that a space designed by students for students will enhance the student experience in FHS." – Dr. Tania Bubela.

Engaged FHS students have been part of the faculty’s standing committees for many years, including designated liaisons with the Dean, and have been voicing their feedback.

Such a change at a faculty level has the potential to enhance student well-being by fostering a long-lasting culture of respect and a sense of community. “I believe these have been very positive changes for students and are going to catalyze more developments. The course and student commons are venues for former students or alumni to remain part of our community, and so far I have heard from them that they really appreciate the chance to come back.  People like to share their stories, people like a chance to be heard. I believe this is true for everyone, but the work here was to amplify the power of students' voices,” said Lechner.