Liberty on pace to meet all benchmarks in national Healthier Campus Initiative
Since joining the Partnership for a Healthier America’s (PHA) Healthier Campus Initiative in May 2016, Liberty University has already made headway in implementing the program’s health and wellness guidelines that all participating colleges must meet within three years.
Liberty is one of 52 campus partners from 30 states that have agreed to provide environments that support healthy habits for students, faculty, and staff. To give credit for existing campus wellness efforts, as well as to challenge colleges and universities to do more, the PHA established guidelines regarding food and nutrition, physical activity, and programming. The guidelines were crafted by a group of the nation’s leading experts in these areas.
“Being part of the Healthier Campus Initiative is a great opportunity for Liberty to continue to grow in creating a culture of wellness for the entire campus community,” said Jamie Swyers, Liberty’s director of Recreation Centers. “For our first year (in the initiative), Campus Recreation focused on reporting on the programs and environments that we are already making available to students. We are also ramping up and adding components to our existing programs to meet the PHA’s standards.”
Under the initiative, colleges must meet 23 of 41 guidelines. She said Liberty is on schedule to meet* all 23 guidelines by 2019.
Even before joining the partnership, Liberty’s Campus Recreation (made up of four departments — Recreation Centers, Intramural Sports, Student Activities, and Outdoor Recreation) was already meeting a number of PHA’s fitness guidelines, including providing, without a user fee, 16-hour-per-day access for all students to at least one fitness or recreation center. Liberty’s massive LaHaye Recreation & Fitness Center, which was renovated and expanded in 2014, is open year-round and offers weight equipment, a cardio loft, an indoor track, a rock wall, group exercise studios, and more.
Liberty has consistently had one of the nation’s best Intramural Sports programs, giving students an outlet for competition and fitness with 20 diverse sports — ranging from soccer and basketball to beach volleyball, broomball, and Ultimate. Liberty also offers noncompetitive group fitness opportunities, including studio cycling, Zumba, kettlebells, and TRX (suspension training), as well as certified personal trainers (available to students, faculty, and staff). These programs help Liberty achieve the guideline minimum of 40 diverse fitness opportunities made up of both competitive sports and noncompetitive group classes each year.
Liberty’s Outdoor Recreation department accomplished one of the recommended guidelines by offering 13 spring trips this past semester and more than 20 for the last academic year. The department also meets a benchmark by providing free rentals of outdoor recreation equipment at its Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center, including canoes, kayaks, standup paddleboards, and fishing gear for use on Hydaway Lake. Students can also use mountain bikes to explore the Liberty Mountain Trail System and camping gear at Hydaway’s tent sites. (Read about some fun, unique recreation opportunities at Liberty in the Summer 2017 issue of the Liberty Journal.)
Liberty is already meeting a food and nutrition guideline by using signage in its dining venues and retail food outlets to let students know about healthier food and beverage options. Having a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) available to give personal nutrition assessments and counseling to all students meets another PHA guideline. Liberty has also cut back food waste by getting rid of trays in all of its dining venues (exceeding the PHA guideline that expects universities to be “tray-less” in at least 75 percent of dining venues). For years, Liberty Dining Services has complied with the guideline of offering a minimum of five types of fruit, five types of vegetables, and two 100-percent whole grain products at both lunch and dinner. (Read more about how Liberty Dining Services stands out for its innovative, healthy, and allergy-conscious offerings for students.)
In order to address the guideline to implement an integrated, comprehensive wellness program, the university created the Student Health and Wellness Initiatives, which provides quality medical health services and educational programming that promotes healthy living in the university community.
Rachel Sanders, Liberty’s campus dietitian, and Keith Anderson, executive director of the Student Health and Wellness Initiatives, joined Swyers at the PHA’s Building a Healthier Future Summit May 11-13 in Washington, D.C. There, they heard from keynote speakers, such as former First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and Cindy Crawford, as well as top business leaders in a variety of industries who are making voluntary commitments to improve the health of their employees, customers, clients, and — in the case of colleges and universities — their students.
“Representing Liberty University’s wellness efforts on a national level is something we are extremely proud of, particularly with such prominent keynote speakers present,” Swyers said.
She added that she is appreciative of the wide range of departments that are helping Liberty to reach all of the PHA benchmarks.
“I’m always excited to see departments pull together and collaborate to build a healthy community on campus,” Swyers said.
*PHA is in the process of reviewing Liberty’s reports and has not given final determination on compliance with the guidelines.