Campus community discusses mental health at symposium event


Brielle Tuttle

Sue Tew-Warming, President of Heartland Wellbeing Institute, practices mindful movement with participants of the “Mindfulness at Work” breakout room in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union on Feb. 3.

College students can often neglect mental health. They may not know how to improve their mental health or may simply find classes and activities as their priority instead of their health.

The inaugural Health and Wellness Symposium educated and promoted the well-being of students through various talks, activities and speeches Friday night.

The event took place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union, with around 50 tables decorated with various bouquets and coloring pages.

Toyia Younger, the senior vice president for student affairs, took the stage and shared the goals of the symposium to kick off the event.

Iowa State University has a strategic plan with “to be” statements, which has a goal of prioritizing the well-being of students and faculty.

“One of the statements is to be a university that cultivates a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where students, faculty and staff flourish,” said Younger.

After the opening speeches, attendees could participate in various activities in two separate breakout sessions. These sessions took place in various rooms in the Memorial Union and featured conversations about work, health, addiction, self-care and other mental health resources.

Each session corresponded to one of four learning tracks for attendees to choose from: student well-being, employee well-being, supporting others and personal well-being.

People from several areas of the community participated in the event for a wide array of reasons.

“I just thought it sounded fun, learn some more about wellness, make myself better, [my] work better.”

Students also attended to learn more about their health and well-being.

“Those resources are equally as beneficial for myself … it’s also just good information,” said Carolyn White, a graduate student in agricultural and biosystems engineering.

After the breakout sessions, participants joined together again to listen to a speech given by keynote speaker Raphael Florestal-Kevelier from the University of Illinois Chicago student wellness department.

“We kind of have to shift our thinking about health,” Florestal-Kevelier said. “It’s cultivated by our communities.”

The symposium sparked conversations about mental health, but it also brought light to campus resources that students and faculty have access to.

“The biggest goal was bringing awareness to the resources [at Iowa State],” said Ashley Pick, associate director of student health at Thielen Health Center. “We are working towards a health-promoting university.”

This is the first time the symposium has been hosted, but the Student Wellness staff have already planned next year’s event for Feb. 2, 2024. They hope to make it an annual occurrence.

Around 350 participants registered for this year’s symposium, but coordinators hope to increase this number in the coming years.

Additional mental health resources can be found on the Student Wellness website.