Walking the Talk, engaging students

On Feb. 7, the Faculty of Health and Community Studies challenged its students, faculty and staff to Walk the Talk.

A total of 288 people took the challenge, walking a 2.5 km route through University halls and twice around the running track.

Walking the Talk
MRU's Faculty of Health and Community Studies hosts its first ever Walk the Talk event.

The Dean of the Faculty, Chad London, led the first group to start the walk, which left from the Recreation concourse at 11:30 a.m.

"This event typifies the kinds of thing we talk about in Health and Community Studies every day - health, well-being and the importance of physical activity and living well," London says.

"We decided to get out into the Mount Royal community to share our commitment to well-being with others."

Engaging students, crossing disciplinary lines

London says another goal was to bring the Faculty's students, staff and faculty members together.

"We have six departments in the faculty and 20 different programs, and we try to create opportunities for students, staff and faculty across those departments to engage," London says.

"We often hear from our students, 'I'm in Social Work and I really wonder what's happening in that Nursing program,' or 'I know when I get out into the work force, I'm going to have to work with a child and youth care worker if I'm a justice professional.'

"This event gives students a chance to make those kinds of connections."

Spin the wellness wheel

And, because well-being is about more than physical activity alone, Walk the Talk also invited participants to complete a wellness wheel along the route.

The Director of Mount Royal's Integrative Health Institute, Elaine Danelesko - who took the lead on organizing the entire Walk the Talk event - based the wheel on one created by the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing.

"Our students are future leaders of health and human service agencies, so by inviting them to complete a wellness wheel, we are exposing them to the eight dimensions of wellness," Danelesko says.

Life's a balancing act

"By the time they're finished the entire walk, they can see how balanced their wheel is. Have they got a balanced wheel, helping them move forward in terms of being a strong leader, or have they got a bit of an unbalanced situation?

"The strongest part of leadership is being aware of yourself," Danelesko says. "If we're going to be leaders in health and human service areas, we need to start in terms of ourselves."

Students buy in to Walk the Talk
From Left: Luke Irwin, Natalee Hudec and Stephanie Tuplin.

The Wellness Wheel component was informative for Stephanie Tuplin, a first-year student in the Bachelor of Education - Elementary.

"Not everyone gets to experience discovering where they are on that [wheel]," Tuplin says.

"There are some classes where you can - I was in the Flexibility and Relaxation class and we got to discover relaxation techniques, but not everyone knows where they are. With exams and all of the stress, no one knows how they can handle all of that or better ways to handle all that."

Tuplin was walking with two classmates from her Elementary School Physical Education course, Luke Irwin and Natalee Hudec.

Hudec, a third-year student in the Bachelor of Applied Child Studies program, says the experience helped her to think more about issues such as nutrition and to be more aware of the need for self-care.

"I guess just trying to recognize the things that you need to work on or maybe focus on the things that you already have," she says.

Irwin confesses that the main factor for him to participate was that it's part of the course material, but he says he probably would have participated even if it wasn't.

"I think it's important to become more aware of yourself and where you stand so you can set goals and just build on who you are as a person" he says.

"Part of who I am is living healthy and being active and I think that's important for everybody, just for general happiness."

That happiness was evident during the walk, which drew 177 participants from Health and Community Studies alone, including professor Genevieve Currie, who walked the route with fellow professor Jenny Hooper and the Chair of the Bachelor of Nursing, Lynn Judd.

"I wanted to show my support for wellness and for taking some time during our busy day to get a walk in," Currie says. "I'm really pleased that the Mount Royal community is doing this."

It truly was a community event, attracting participants from the Bissett School of Business, the Faculties of Continuous Education and Extension, Arts, Communication Studies, and Teaching and Learning, and other areas including Alumni Affairs, Recreation, Finance and Wellness Services, among others.

The sight of participants wearing their special Walk the Talk scarves also inspired people to join in spontaneously, like Open Studies students Tefari Thompson and Domaso Taylor.

"I saw what was up and I thought it would be a good thing to do between classes," Thompson says. "I started last September and I haven't really found ways to get involved in classes or school activities. Something like this is good for getting a scarf and getting to walk and meet people."

Taylor agrees and points out another benefit of the walk.

"I really don't know the building very well, so I'm stumbling into new hallways," he says. "It's opening my eyes to a new world!"

This enthusiastic response to this program may well make Chad London's vision for Walk the Talk a reality.

"I wanted to try this in our Faculty of Health and Community Studies in the first year and what I'm hoping is that, next year, other faculties will join in and we'll do some sort of joint university-wide wellness or well-being event," London says.

"I have visions of this little friendly competition between faculties over how many students and staff and faculty they can get out to participate."

And so the challenge goes on.

- Nancy Cope, Feb. 9, 2012