• Posted on: 12 February 2019
  • By: lwiseblau

Brigitte T. Lossing is director of Recreational Sports at University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). We recently spoke to her to learn more about the school’s health and wellness initiatives.

UC Berkeley is a public research university, which serves as the flagship institution of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California system. Berkeley has approximately 42,000 students in approximately 350 undergraduate and graduate degree programs covering numerous disciplines. The university does not have an academic medical center.

UC Berkeley’s health and wellness programs are through its Recreational Sports department. There, staff is dedicated to enhancing knowledge, wellness, fitness, personal skills and quality of life for students, faculty, staff and the community. Internal partners include University Health Services, Environment Health Safety, Student Affairs and the Dean of Students. External partners include UC Systemwide and a number of businesses and organizations.

UC Berkeley’s Recreational Sports and University Health System established a wellness partnership some 30 years ago with the formation of the Health*Matters Wellness Program for Faculty and Staff. This original consortium of campus departments carries on with the Be Well At Work Program.

“Be Well at Work Wellness Program has been based on a collaborative partnership model since the program started in 1990,” said Lossing. “Working with our campus partners, the Wellness Program Planning Committee functions to align common goals on overall wellness strategy, collaborates on initiatives, and advises on programs and services.”

The school’s most expansive health and wellness initiative comes from its Wellness Fund. Created in 2015, the fund provides revenue from student fees that are used exclusively to support wellness services and programming for students, as well as renovations, furnishings, and alterations to existing spaces required to support these new wellness programs.

Prior to the development of the fund, services for health and wellness at UC Berkeley were not keeping pace with student needs, as enrollment had expanded more than 20 percent in less than 20 years. Thus, the school began expanding and improving facilities to meet current trends. These efforts include transforming underutilized spaces such as indoor racquetball and squash courts into a functional fitness studio, a stretching mindful studio, and a spin cycle studio; converting an old laundry room into a wellness teaching studio; and using a barren hallway to create student ‘rest zones’ with massage chairs.

“Making group exercise free to students was probably the single most successful one time change,” said Lossing. “Most universities have the pay as you go. This switch drastically improved our student engagement.” Before the policy change, Lossing estimates that group exercise visits averaged about 1100 per week; visits now are typically 7000 per week.

Beyond addressing service and facility expansion, the fund also works to address mental health issues on campus and to provide new support for minority student groups, including students of color, LGBTQIA students, veterans, student parents, international students, students with disabilities, and other student populations face unique wellness challenges.

Popular wellness programs at the university include Wellness Happens Here, a week-long event featuring giveaways and sponsored wellness programs and classes. Other programs include WorkStrong, which provides specialized health and wellness programs for those who have been injured on the job; WorkFIT, where faculty and staff can take advantage of more than 50 exercise classes per week; Universal Locker Room, a 4,500 square-foot universal locker room to serve members with disabilities, members of all gender identities, and any who wish for privacy; and Fitness for All, a sports inclusion program.

“Recreational Sports is grounded in supporting the academic success of our students and those that serve the student experience,” said Lossing. “As a campus leader in proactively advancing the wellbeing of the Berkeley community, our vision is to be the benchmark for collegiate recreation and wellbeing. Our commitment to a diverse and inclusive culture contributes to our purpose of inspiring healthy futures together—one step, one experience, one journey at a time.”