Healthy Campus Community Champion

Paola Ardiles Awarded as a Healthy Campus Community Champion

August 12, 2021

By Melissa Lafrance (she/her) & Hussein Elhagehassan (he/him)

Paola Ardiles is being recognized for her outstanding contributions to SFU student health and well-being and is a 2020 recipient of the Champions for a Healthy Campus Community award. In her nomination, her students highlighted her values of equity, inclusion, community-engaged learning, and genuine care for student well-being, as contributing factors to her positive impact as an instructor, mentor, and collaborator at SFU.

As a lecturer and teaching fellow within SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), Paola Ardiles is an enthusiastic educator and mentor for students and colleagues. Since joining SFU in 2015, Paola has been an avid supporter of the Healthy Campus Community initiative through supporting real-life learning, health promotion research, and community building.

As a founding co-designer/instructor of the Health Change Lab program (in collaboration with RADIUS SFU in 2016), Paola has championed community-engaged experiential learning. Since then, she has continued to build various community-engaged services and a capstone course, while building an extensive network of partners at SFU and particularly with community partners in the City of Surrey, non-for-profit sector in Surrey, and Fraser Health Authority.

Paola has collaborated with SFU’s Health Promotion team every academic year to provide opportunities for her undergraduate and graduate students to contribute to a Healthy Campus Community through innovative projects. Some of those opportunities have involved student-led dialogue sessions on well-being in learning environments. The students developed prototypes to support embedding equity into the design of practices and policies at SFU. Many of these innovations have supported dialogue and further development of policy and plans at the faculty and university level, in relation to gender-based violence prevention on campus, food security, active transportation, and welcoming spaces on campus. These innovations support SFU’s Student Experience Initiative on social inclusion. Currently, Paola is collaborating with Student Services and the Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL). They created a community service course, aiming to enable students to develop solutions to address student experiences of disability on campus.

In addition to championing well-being in the classroom, Ardiles has continually contributed to dialogue and research to promote health, with local and global partners. She is co-leading the national COVID-19 Health Literacy Survey study, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Toronto and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health Literacy Research at Bielefeld University. The aim of the study is to understand how post-secondary students across Canada are accessing, evaluating and utilizing health information during the pandemic, and how this impacts their physical and mental health.

Paola advocates for a collective role and responsibility, in advancing well-being efforts across departments and institutional silos. “If we want to have environments that make us well instead of sick, then dialogues and action plans to tackle racism, exclusion and discrimination need to become integral to all our work of building a healthy campus” said Ardiles.

Ardiles models how building relationships is key to creating a healthy community at SFU. She asks us to consider some important questions such as:

  • How can we become better at listening and creating space for the voices of those in our community that are disadvantaged and are disproportionately facing mental health and well-being challenges?
  • What would it look like if we had a community where all students, staff and faculty felt supported to achieve their best, while caring for themselves and their community?
  • How can we use our strengths and assets at SFU to co-create the social and physical environments that supports us to flourish, so we can then support our families and communities?

Paola Ardiles was nominated for this award by her Health Sciences undergraduate students who wrote “Paola’s refreshing philosophy to teaching and learning instills in her students with the confidence and passion for the health and wellness of their community…and I continue to learn each day about myself and my community through the opportunities and mentorship that she has provided.”