Institution: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Program Area: Wellness
Program Name: Wellness on Wheels
Wellness and campus outreach have collided at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). In an effort to engage students and campus partners in conversations about wellness and drive participation in Campus Recreation programs, Illinois Campus Recreation has created a spectacle of wellness: Wellness on Wheels. In this program, a 15-seat pedal car travels around campus and to the University’s main quad to bring topics of wellness to students in a new way. Dr. Alana Harris, Assistant Director – Student Wellness at Illinois Campus Recreation, created the program in the fall of 2017.
“Millennials need something more engaging,” Alana said, as she explained how she came up with the idea. Rather than tabling in a stationary location—as we often do at first-year student orientation or fairs on campus throughout the year—Alana wanted to bring the topic of wellness to students in a memorable way. Three times each fall and spring semester, the department invites campus partners to venture out on campus for a couple hours on a pedal car. Professional and student representatives from departments such as Campus Safety, the Counseling Center, Dean of Students Office, the Campus Bike Center, and University Police join Campus Recreation to cruise around campus and facilitate conversations about specific wellness topics. Topics include nutrition, campus safety, Exercise is Medicine, and stress management. Off the main quad, students have the opportunity to take a ride on the pedal car while Alana and her crew branch out on the quad to share information about the program and relevant topic.
The program has served multiple objectives: as a relationship builder, recruiting student participants for other programs, and spreading the word on important topics of wellness. Alana has been intentional about each aspect of the program. Topics are broad to include campus partners and chosen because their message travels well. The individuals invited to help facilitate conversations are a mix of professionals and students to engage listeners in different ways, as well as provide experience to student facilitators. Additionally, it aligns with the pattern of wellness programs at UIUC which challenge typical thinking about an activity. Rather than a pedal car being limited to bachelor/bachelorette parties or social outings in general, it is used to promote health and physical activity.
The logistics of bringing the pedal car to campus were a bit tricky at the start, and this is where Alana relied on the experts. Ella Bailey, Sponsorship & Outreach Specialist at Illinois Campus Recreation, established a sponsorship package for SlowRide Pedal Tours in Champaign, IL, so the cost of renting the pedal car is completely paid for. Alana relied on the pedal car company to offer guidance on taking the car around campus and between the two cities of Champaign and Urbana. She had to adapt. Advice from Alana that we can all learn from is, “Don’t over-plan it or get stuck thinking it has to look a certain way. Be flexible.” For example, the original picture involved the pedal car traveling onto the quad. When the University did not approve due to safety concerns, Alana adapted the program to have the car stay on the street and to station professionals on the quad to talk to students. Persistence and flexibility made Wellness on Wheels a reality.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a public institution located in central Illinois, with a diverse student population of over 47,000. Illinois Campus Recreation has 22 full-time professional staff and six graduate assistants. To learn more about their student wellness programs, click here. If you have questions about Wellness on Wheels, feel free to reach out to Alana at firstname.lastname@example.org.