November 12, 2015

SVSU honored for top health and wellness program

A Saginaw Valley State University program that boosts health and wellness for its faculty and staff has earned high praise.

During the organization’s annual conference, the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine awarded SVSU’s HealthyU program with the 2015 Active U Competition award. The honor is given to the top health and wellness program among higher education institutions in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Elizabeth Ballien, an SVSU student intern who helps organize HealthyU, was present during the awards ceremony Saturday, Nov. 7, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“When they announced, ‘SVSU.’ I was shocked and so proud,” she said.

HealthyU promotes health and wellness for employees through education, wellness and physical activity programs. Since its inception in 2006, nearly 50 percent of those eligible for the initiative's benefits have participated in it.

The program is administered through SVSU’s Human Resources office – where Ballien works as a student intern – but officials there were quick to praise the across-the-campus support for HealthyU.

“It takes a team effort to pull this off,” said Cynthia Bala, associate director of Human Resources.

“Without all the hard work of the student interns, numerous student volunteers and the collaboration with Cardinal Fitness and the Department of Kinesiology, there would be no wellness program. It’s great to work for an employer that values the health and well-being of their employees.”

The program also offers a learning experience for students. Ballien is the latest student intern to help oversee the HealthyU program.

“There’s a lot of organizing, time management, troubleshooting and problem solving that goes into it,” said Ballien, who has served as the program’s student intern since fall 2014.

The role helps her network both with SVSU employees as well as representatives from the community connected to HealthyU.

“It’s great to know people’s names and faces and to just have that kind of connection with the university,” said Ballien, who plans to apply for jobs similar to her role with HealthyU when she graduates in May 2016.

“HealthyU has really prepared me for what I want to do,” she said. “It’s been a great experience.”

At the same conference, SVSU student Melissa Jones, an exercise science major from Shelby Township in Macomb County, received the Outstanding Undergraduate Oral Presentation award. Her presentation was titled “Influence of Parental Characteristics on Time Spent Being Active with their Children.”

In 2015, SVSU received the Community Engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a distinction achieved by only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities. By their senior year, 84 percent of students have engaged with community employers and agencies in internships, field placements or some other component of their academic preparation. National research has shown that students who are engaged in the community and on campus are more likely to be successful academically, and to have the critical thinking, problem-solving skills, self-efficacy, and adaptability desired by employers.