Wellness by Mason Encourages Community to Get Moving

Posted: April 10, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

During the past five years, Mason has made great strides in creating a more sustainable campus by working with all departments within the university to develop policies relating to all aspects of sustainability.

In an effort to extend these sustainability efforts to the faculty, staff and students at Mason, the Office of Human Resources and Payroll (HR) developed a program called Wellness by Mason.

The program is spearheaded by Patrice Winter, elder care and life planning services coordinator in HR and term assistant professor in the Department of Global and Community Health.

“I wanted to expand the elder care services that are available in HR to include life planning and the idea that if you live well, you age well,” says Winter. “Most campuses have a greening or sustainability program, but no one is making the effort to ‘green’ their people.”

Developed almost a year ago and championed by Sally Merten, wife of Mason President Alan Merten, Wellness by Mason focuses on three pillars: wellness, exercise and preventive screenings. According to Winter, the program is about getting people moving, setting goals and encouraging activity in a noncompetitive way.

The program is open to the entire Mason community, and each department involved makes its own decisions about how to highlight activities and choices that have a health and wellness component to them. Some of the departments and units participating are University Life, Global and Community Health, Mason Dining and Intercollegiate Athletics.

As a way to get people involved in the program, many departments have started a walking program. The walking program was originally developed for HR by Rick Holt, trainer in HR.

The idea of the walking program is for everyone to perform some kind of physical activity to reach a monthly goal they have set for themselves. It is up to each department to choose a program coordinator to oversee the program and develop creative and imaginative ways to keep people moving.

The Wellness by Mason program has adopted the sunflower as its symbol, which is recognized in many cultures as a sign of power, life and vitality. The sunflower symbol can be found across campus on vending machines and in dining facilities to indicate which foods are healthy choices.

HR, a department that has embraced the program, has created its own Wellness by Mason web site. The web site includes information and resources about each of the three pillars and instructs visitors to look out for the sunflower on the training calendar for events related to health and wellness.

As the program continues to evolve, Winter hopes to get students involved by encouraging them to participate in walking programs and preventive screenings and to recognize the meaning of the sunflower.

“Since the program began last August it has gone from a sprout to a flower,” says Winter. “Eventually, I would like this program to be a model for other universities.”

For more information about Wellness by Mason, visit the web site.

Write to at