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Columbia Spectator Staff

The Student Wellness Project is readying a plan of action, with yoga parties, weekly runs, and peer-to-peer mentoring among the group's potential plans.

The group, which will hold its first meeting of the semester on Sunday, is a product of dialogues that started last semester following the death of Tina Bu, CC '13. The project's goal is to make Columbia a more supportive, healthier environment for all students, according to its founder, Wilfred Chan, CC '13 and a former Spectrum daily editor.

"Columbia is a tough place, and to put it simply, we want to do whatever we can to help students feel like their best selves while they go here," Chan said.

Chan and a few other students, including Karishma Habbu, CC '13, started meeting with administrators last semester, among them Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger and Columbia College Interim Dean James Valentini. Shollenberger and Valentini have both expressed a willingness to work with the Wellness Project, with Shollenberger saying that he is "thrilled there has been a community dialogue about this issue."

"Having these types of open discussions are an important step forward in fostering better awareness of overall student well-being," he said in an email.

Habbu said enthusiasm for the project increased after Sarah Ngu, CC '12, and Chan wrote the article "How We're Doing" in The Eye, the weekly magazine of the Spectator, last month. After the publication of the article­—which discussed mental health and dealing with loss—many students approached Chan to share their own stories and get involved. Overall, 40 to 50 students have expressed interest in working on the project.

"I'm happy that more discussions are taking place about healthy living," Chan said. "To me it shows that wellness is a very important issue to many Columbia students on a very personal level."

At this Sunday's 1 p.m. meeting at the Student Government Office, the group's leaders will discuss a three-part plan of action.

The first piece of the plan involves what Habbu called "attainable projects for this semester." These projects may include a "wellness hub" to centralize information about campus health resources and a peer-to-peer mentoring program.

The second aspect of the plan is the organizing of weekly events such as "wellness jogs" and yoga sessions, and the third part will focus on student discussions, Habbu said.

Habbu and Chan have also been working with Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services to pinpoint "ways that students' health on campus was lacking and how we could improve it," Habbu said.

"There are lots of resources already here—definitely not everything at Columbia sucks—but lots of students don't know about the resources," she said.

As the group starts working to bring its ideas to fruition, Chan emphasized that he is willing to go with the flow—the last thing he wants, he said, is for students to stress over a project that is supposed to alleviate stress.

"My big goal is that whatever we end up getting done, that we have a good time doing it," Chan said. "We're all human, and I know that the Student Wellness Project is obviously not going to be a perfect organization, so I'll be happy with whatever comes out of this, whether big or small."

Valentini said he has been "very impressed" with the group's efforts.

"They have a lot of good ideas about improving students' quality of life at Columbia," he said in an email. "I'm eager to find ways to implement these ideas."

abby.abrams@columbiaspectator.com

Student Wellness Project mental health
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