Whitman Students Among First to Complete University Wellness Leadership Institute—and Get Some Extra Credit, Too.

What could be better than focusing on your health—and getting extra credit for it? That’s what Whitman students Christina Coco ’23  and Sophia Carnicelli ’23 thought when Associate Professor of Management and Provost Faculty Fellow Kira Reed offered extra credit to the students in her Introduction to Strategic Management (MGT 247) class if they completed the University’s Barnes Center at the Arch Wellness Leadership Institute. Not only did Coco and Carnicelli successfully complete the extra credit assignment, but they were also the first two Whitman students to complete the program since its inception.

Open to all students at the University, the program focuses on various aspects of physical and mental health and wellness. To date, the Wellness Leadership Institute has offered more than 300 workshops, including in-person sessions, virtual synchronous events and asynchronous recorded videos, focusing on eight dimensions of wellness—physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, social, career, environmental and spiritual—with a core of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. Completion usually takes about 9 hours and can be finished anytime over a student’s academic career. (To earn Reed’s extra credit, however, students had to complete the program while enrolled in her spring 2021 semester class.) Students earn a graduation medallion and a certificate, as well as new strategies for managing their individual health and wellness journeys. 

The program was established in 2019, but Reed hadn’t heard of it until recently. “Teaching this course virtually during a pandemic, I got the sense through anonymous polling that my 68 students were looking for more balance in their lives. I thought the Wellness Leadership Program might give them the opportunity to take a holistic look at their health, so I offered the optional extra credit as a way for them to achieve this,” Reed says.

A double major in accounting and finance, Coco ’23 has been taking all of her classes remotely from her home in Westchester, New York, since March 2020. Being away from her friends on campus and dealing with the stress of the pandemic, Coco thought the Wellness Leadership Program would be helpful. She especially liked the relationship-based sessions and the opportunity to interact with students from across the University. 

“I love to see how people think and work through problems,” Coco explains. “’Being an Ally to a Targeted Group’ was one session that I attended, for example, and it helped me understand what some of my friends were going through and how it impacted their lives. We talked about how to make sure others are comfortable. I learned a lot about myself, and the experience gave all of us the right tools we need to have those uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations.”

After Coco completed the Wellness Leadership Program, she shared her experience with the rest of Reed’s management class. Her classmate, Carnicelli ’23, a double major in accounting and finance with a minor in writing, thought it might be a great opportunity for her, too, so she began the program towards the end of the semester—finishing all the requirements in just a few weeks.

“The first workshop I went to was a virtual Soul Talk,” she says, of the small group conversations with topics that changed weekly. “This one happened to have all women in attendance, and it was really genuine. There was a spiritual dimension to it, and it was just amazing. It was great to talk to others about your feelings in a safe environment.”

Carnicelli not only benefitted from the program and the extra credit in MGT 247. She also believes the experience helped her obtain a summer internship with fitness company Peloton.

“During my interview with Peleton, I mentioned that I was participating in the Wellness Program. They thought it was very interesting, and I think it showed them something unique about me,” says Carnicelli, who will be working remotely on the company’s finance team this summer.

Reed is proud that Coco and Carnicelli were among the first 13 students—the only two from Whitman—at the University to complete the Wellness Leadership Program as of the spring of 2021.

“I was thrilled to see some of my students take advantage of the program, not just for the extra credit but for skills that will help them navigate their own health and wellness long after they leave my classroom,” says Reed, noting that some of her other students also participated in the program even though they did not complete it.

More information on the Barnes Center at the Arch Wellness Leadership Institute can be found here.