Stanford expands wellness classes

Sept. 26, 2012, 1:25 a.m.

Stanford’s course offerings regarding the promotion of student wellness, dubbed as the “Wellness Suite” within the Department of Athletics, will be expanded this academic year.

According to Dr. Fred Luskin, a senior consultant for the Stanford Health Promotion Network and the director of the Forgiveness Project, Stanford plans to offer a three-quarter class sequence on basic wellness.

“We’ve been working in the PhysEd department for the last couple of years not just for [physical] athletic classes but athletic classes focused on wellness [and] health,” said Luskin.

The sequence will include ATHLETIC 201: Foundation of Wellness-1, focused primarily on diet, nutrition, exercise, and sleep, and ATHLETIC 202: Foundations of Wellness-2, focused on stress management.

According to Luskin, the Athletics Department is considering issuing a certificate indicating a student has been given “lifelong training in wellness” for students who take the three-course sequence and two additional courses.

“This is the very beginning, it’s still in the beta stages,” he said.

Stanford began offering wellness-focused classes two years ago, according to Monica Hanson, who teaches ATHLETIC 18: Strengthening the Heart through Compassion. Although Hanson’s class limits enrollment to 30 students, Carole Pertofsky, director of Health Promotion Services at Vaden, stated that health and wellness classes can range in size from 40 to 100 students. Luskin stated that Stanford is among a handful of universities teaching classes solely devoted to student wellness.

“There has been a very strong focus on research involving wellness and our new program, I THRIVE@Stanford, as well as BeWell@Stanford…[both] are partners in offering students practice-based curriculum,” said Pertofsky, who will teach PEDS 106/206: The Pursuit of Happiness and Health with Luskin in the winter.

The “Wellness suite” classes attract a variety of students, and demand for them is growing steadily every year.

“We’re attracting a mix of undergraduates, graduates, university community members…we have all different majors represented,” Hanson said. “[Strengthening the Heart through Compassion] began with 20 students the first quarter and has been full ever since.”

According to Pertofsky, the student wellness classes have also received positive feedback from students thus far.

“Our evaluations are excellent and students often remark that they have gained life-long skills in leading happier, more vibrant lives,” Pertofsky said.

Janet Genser ’13 described the quarter she took ATHLETIC 196: Practice of Happiness as her “happiest quarter at Stanford.” Assignments ranged from random acts of kindness to maintaining a gratitude journal, to watching films, to understanding how classmates defined happiness.

Although the wellness classes are popular, some students remain skeptical of their efficacy.

“Happiness is too complex of a thing to be boiled down to a few steps, and there are many ways that students can be happy,” said Margaret Hayden ’13, who shopped ATHLETIC 196 and decided to drop the class. “It’s more of an individual thing that can’t necessarily be taught in a classroom setting.”

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