by Cassady Thompson

Since the initiation of the health and community wellness major at the University of West Georgia in December 2015, active enrollment has grown from 35-40 students to 243 as of this fall and is the fastest growing major on campus. With all of the improvements and advancements, students are becoming aware of opportunities to pursue a degree in health and community wellness. People are noticing the need in the professional world for this field and how this major is filling the gap.

Fruit, towel, weights, orange juice and measuring tapeBridgette Stewart, senior lecturer in the College of Education’s (COE) Department of Sport Management, Wellness and Physical Education, has played a major role in this growth. On behalf of the National Wellness Institute (NWI), she worked with others to develop a core competencies model that establishes the appropriate practices of a wellness professional. NWI used COE’s program as a model. UWG is currently the only college to apply these competencies.

“We have never had standards for wellness professionals, only really for personal fitness and nutrition,” Stewart said. “Wellness is more encompassing. It is working with someone—not necessarily just on his or her physical health, but their mental wellness, emotional wellness, how to handle stress, proper sleeping habits and even finances.”

The UWG Coliseum houses the main facility for this program, the Human Performance Lab. The department is in the beginning stages of turning it into a Comprehensive Wellness Center where students will get more hands-on experience. Faculty, staff and students have a place to receive various health scans, such as glucose and lipid panels, personal health coaching, and personal training advice. The facility will become a place where members of the Carrollton community, who may or may not have health care, can access basic health screenings and start living a healthier lifestyle.

“We want our program to be driven by the community,” Stewart explained. “The Comprehensive Wellness Center will be just that and be mutually beneficial to everyone.”

COE is also in the process of adding minors in nutrition, health and community wellness, and coaching. These new additions in programming will provide diverse opportunities for students.

“Since the field is so broad, it hits interests for a lot of people, especially my fellow athletes,” said A’Kia Harris, a senior on UWG’s women’s basketball team. She is interested in helping youth by implementing after school programs to educate students on nutrition, physical health and more.

Two fellow Wolves, seniors Brianna Barnes and Victoria Rushin, are specifically interested in nutrition and dietetics.

“I love that food is a common language,” Barnes said. “Everyone eats. People want to learn how to live well. Out of everything we learn in school, we aren’t taught how to eat well and take care of ourselves. People see that sickness and obesity are on the rise and are recognizing the dire need for wellness professionals. They are beginning to question themselves, ‘What can I do? What can I learn? How can I help?’”

Rushin said there were many reasons to Go West for a degree in health and community wellness, and she cited the support and knowledge of the faculty as the primary reason.

“The faculty here help us learn how to advance into the workforce,” she explained. “They are always there when we need help and treat us as individual students. We are provided with so many opportunities, especially with service learning classes. If someone is passionate about helping people find health before sickness finds them, then Go West!”

Posted on September 5, 2017