Presidential Fellows summit tackles wellness issues at WC

By Heather Fabritze

Student Life Editor

The Washington College Presidential Fellows program hosted their annual leadership summit in the week leading up to the start of the spring semester.

From Thursday, Jan. 19 to Saturday, Jan. 21, WC’s Presidential Fellows gathered to discuss areas of need on campus and initiatives to assist in those areas. This year’s focus was wellness among the student body. 

According to senior Emma Macturk, the theme is selected by administration. Increasing retention was the largest motivator for their choice. 

Those involved in the planning discovered via WC’s retention report that the majority of transfers occur due to personal wellness, and through the Fellow’s work, these numbers will hopefully decrease.

Participants in the program were freshmen and sophomore Presidential Fellows. Summit leaders included Assistant Dean for Student Engagement and Success Tricia Biles, Assistant Dean of Advising and Academic Advocacy Hilary Bateman, and junior and senior Presidential Fellows.

Macturk said that one of the benefits of the summit was mixing socially with Fellows of other years.

“It’s a great way to meet people,” Macturk said. “You can meet other people and you also get to meet upperclassmen and underclassmen who are in the same program and maybe who have very similar values and things like that to you.”

Thursday’s events started with a summit introduction by Provost and Dean of the College Dr. Michael Harvey, Bateman, and Biles. At 2 p.m., the Fellows did a presentation on self, where they created ten minute presentations on one aspect of wellness they felt was prominent in their lives. According to Macturk, it allowed them to “dig deeper” into their own wellness.

From 6 to 8 p.m., the group attended the Flow Circus with Peer Mentors, Residential Assistants, and new students. Attendees used flop balls to bond with other members of the campus community and reflect on their wellness techniques.

Friday involved break out sessions to dive deeper into each section of wellness – social, physical, spiritual, and creative wellness. Each of these programs involved activities catered to the different elements of each. 

The final day featured the summit’s presentations showcase in Latrinta Lecture Hall, which President of the College Dr. Michael Sosulski attended. There were three major initiative presentations given by the Fellows.

One group proposed expanding the reach of counseling and mental health resources like Peer SMART and WAC Squared on campus. They shared the idea of a WAC Cubed program, which would involve voluntary training for professors and faculty in response to mental health crises.

Other Fellows pitched a weekly email calendar named The Honk, which would include all of WC’s events for the week. Club leaders would submit to the calendar and a link to Campus Groups would be included in the calendar for accessibility. 

The Honk would also provide paid students internships for marketing or communications students.

The final group proposed that cooking classes be offered at WC. This would include taking care of culinary equipment, basic kitchen skills, and other necessary lessons for independence as a college student.

Sophomore Morgan Carlson said that they enjoyed observing the presentation prep in their second year involved in the summit, this time as a program leader.

“It was just really great to watch the students kind of collaborate and start reaching out to different people, and connecting with people, and just doing their work,” Carlson said. “Just kind of experiencing how hard they’re working in the ideas they’re coming up with. Because this whole summit really is a great opportunity for them to have ideas to improve campus in a meaningful way.”

According to junior Megan Somers, the initiatives that the Fellows develop often do come to fruition and have a substantial impact on campus.

Somers said that not only do they get a product that will “last,” it is an opportunity to bounce ideas off of one another.

“That’s what I like about this a lot, it’s all people who are dedicated to bettering themselves and making the school better,” Somers said. “All these sessions are optional, but everyone’s going to every single one because they want to get the most out of this program.”

For those interested, the summit is held every year the week before the start of spring semester. Presidential Fellows in any year are able to get involved regardless of prior participation.

Photo courtesy of Tricia Biles

Photo Caption: Presidential Fellows collaborated with other groups in the Flow Circus.

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