Rowan Thrive: Campus community comes together to promote well-being

Rowan Thrive: Campus community comes together to promote well-being


The numbers are staggering.

A National College Health Assessment/American College Health Association survey recently showed that more than 87 percent of college students in nearly 135 colleges nationwide reported feeling overwhelmed by all that they had to do.

Of the students surveyed, nearly 85 percent reported feeling exhausted and more than 65 percent said they were very lonely.

Campus leaders at Rowan University have developed an initiative to help students address the feelings of loneliness, fatigue, and anxiety that affect many college-aged students.

It’s called Rowan Thrive.

Promoting well-being through Rowan Thrive

Rowan Thrive video

Simply stated, Rowan Thrive “is a framework of how students can be well. And, when they’re not well, how they can seek help,” explains Kevin George, director of Campus Recreation and co-chair of the University’s Rowan Thrive Committee.

Focusing on six dimensions of well-being-- physical, social, emotional, community, purpose and financial—Rowan Thrive “is not a particular program or event,” notes Rory McElwee, vice president for student affairs. “It’s a whole initiative--a very intentional strategy to encourage the University community to try to establish and maintain a culture of well-being.

“Through Rowan Thrive, we want to raise students’ awareness to think about their own well-being in a multi-faceted way. There are many, many campus resources available. We want to connect them so that students are driving their own wellness. There’s so much within Rowan Thrive that can help our students.”

Two years ago, eight representatives from various Rowan departments--including Campus Recreation, the Wellness Center, Student Center and Campus Activities and Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution--came together to develop a plan to provide and promote resources and services that help students think more about well-being.

Rowan Thrive was established to help students develop the skills and access the supports to not only find their way at the University, but, also, to thrive.

Well-being beyond mental health

Though it’s a critical component, well-being isn’t just about mental health, McElwee notes.

“Mental health is inter-related with other issues,” she says. “There’s a lot of data that students can have unhealthy diets, that they don’t get enough sleep, that they are unsure how they’re going to fund the rest of their college education.”

Rowan Thrive addresses those issues—and more—under a single umbrella, promoting resources for students whether they’re looking to receive counseling, get some exercise, get more involved on campus through clubs, activities and programs, or receive guidance dealing with financial challenges.

People just don’t know

“There are tons of resources students don’t know about,” says George.

Through robust programming, Rowan Thrive promotes practicing gratitude, empathy, resilience, grit and coping with failure—all skills that students need in college…and beyond, George says.

“Our hope is that, when students graduate, they have their own toolkits to thrive throughout their lives,” he notes.

Upperclassmen need help, too

There’s a misconception that upperclassmen need fewer supports than first-year students, according to McElwee.

“There’s an assumption that once they get through their freshman year, they’re fine. And that’s just not true. Upperclassmen can face real challenges, too,” McElwee says.

That’s also true for students who are very involved on campus, George notes. Students perceived as successful campus leaders also can struggle, McElwee adds.

“Sometimes, we see students and think, ‘This student is thriving. We don’t have to worry about them.’ Actually, we do,” McElwee says.

“We began talking about Rowan Thrive when we saw our student employees struggling,” George says. “We thought they were successful and doing well because they had a support system in place and we were proactive in promoting well-being. But, even with that, people don’t always want to talk about their issues and struggles.”

“Students really do think they’re the only ones having a hard time,” McElwee adds.

A community that thrives

In many ways, Scott Woodside, director of the Wellness Center, says, Rowan Thrive is a mindset that should be embraced by all members of the campus community.

“We want Rowan Thrive to be the culture of Rowan,” says Woodside.

To that end, a host of new initiatives will assist students. Among them:

  • Rowan Thrive will be embedded into numerous courses, such as Rowan 101, to ensure that students who may not attend the co-curricular events will have an opportunity to learn about the initiative in a supported way. Additionally, beginning this summer, all students attending Orientation sessions will complete an online questionnaire that will identify those in need of services and resources.
  • Student Affairs is integrating Rowan Thrive into its programs and services. Ultimately, the well-being concepts will be integrated throughout the institution.
  • McElwee and University Senate President Bill Freind are leading a University Committee for Well-Being that will make recommendations about issues related to campus wellness. Students, faculty and staff serve on the committee.
  • The Dean of Students Office is hosting “Toward a Thriving University” workshops for faculty, staff and students. Upcoming workshops include: “How to help a friend and take care of yourself” (Friday, March 6, 2 p.m., Eynon Ballroom, Chamberlain Student Center) and “Mindset” (Friday, April 10, 2 p.m., Boyd Recital Hall, Wilson Hall).

Ongoing initiatives include:

  • The Rowan Cares team, which includes a group of dedicated staff members working together to identify—and provide resources to—students who are experiencing difficulties academically, socially, personally or financially. The team includes representatives from multiple areas, including advising, the Wellness Center, residential learning, and the Academic Success Center, among others.
  • QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer), a suicide prevention training course, was completed by more than 500 Rowan faculty and staff members in the last six weeks with more training sessions continuing throughout the semester. Open to all Rowan community members, the training helps save lives by empowering attendees to recognize suicidal behaviors, persuade someone to get help, and refer them to resources.
  • Support groups through Healthy Campus Initiatives, including Chill and Chat and SASS (Stress and Anxiety Student Support).
  • “Let’s Talk” drop-in hours with counselors at venues throughout the Glassboro campus. “Let’s Talk” was established at Rowan in 2016.

Much of Rowan Thrive involves helping students understand what helps them improve their well-being—a skill they’ll use throughout their lifetimes, George notes.

“Rowan Thrive isn’t a Band Aid,” George says. “What works for one person might not work for another. It takes work to thrive. Fortunately, we have many people at Rowan who care.”