Ursinus Becomes First Liberal Arts College to Sign Okanagan Charter
Ursinus College is making an international pledge for better health and well-being in every facet of campus life, becoming the first liberal arts college in the nation to sign the Okanagan Charter, a pact first introduced in 2015 at the International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges.
President Robyn Hannigan signed the charter as her first official act following her inauguration as Ursinus College president on Friday, October 14. She announced the intention at the inauguration kickoff event on October 12.
“Wellness cannot be an afterthought,” Hannigan said. “As a society, we have navigated adversities in mental and physical well-being that were present prior to and amplified by the pandemic. As a college community, we need to support the whole student, as well as each of our employees, and promote healthy lifestyles viewed through a broader wellness lens.”
The charter provides institutions with common language and principles for well-being in person, place, and planet. By signing it, Ursinus joins the U.S. Health Promoting Campuses Network, which allows members to collaborate on improving the health of the people who live, learn, work, and play on their campuses and by strengthening the ecological, social, and economic sustainability of their communities.
While the network is a robust group, only a small number of member schools have committed to the charter, promising the energy and resources necessary to fulfill its vision. Ursinus is one of only 17 colleges or universities in the U.S. to sign, and it has already restructured its operations in anticipation of the charter pledge.
Last year, Ursinus created a comprehensive new health and wellness division, adding more staff, and establishing a flex-space trailer to add more room for both medical and counseling support when and where it is needed. The new division unites athletics, clinical services (medical care, counseling, and sports medicine), and health promotion (prevention and advocacy across campus facilities) for the first time, allowing an overview of campus health trends and enabling comprehensive troubleshooting of issues, particularly around mental health.
“As part of the college’s strategic plan, aptly titled Every Student’s Success, Ursinus is primed to create a culture around healthy lifestyle, behavior, choices, and community support,” Vice President for Health and Wellness Laura Moliken said. “The Okanagan Charter provides a great framework for how we can approach health and wellness across all domains—including administration, operations, and student life—both inside and outside of the classroom. I am thrilled to be able to help lead this very important venture.”
The college will also support new staff positions, training, and programming in all areas of wellness.
Health promotion is understood as a process of enabling people to increase control over their health and its determinants, thereby improving their health. It requires a positive, proactive approach that is not only the responsibility of health sector professionals, said Hannigan.
“By signing this charter, we have an opportunity to lead this effort nationally, among our liberal arts peers, and for all institutions of higher learning,” she said.
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President Robyn Hannigan and Vice President for Health and Wellness Laura Moliken were quoted in a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer about wellbeing on college campuses. The story included coverage of Ursinus’s signing of the Okanagan Charter. Read it here.