How far will Katherine Hewitt go to show how committed she is to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Be Well program?
Far enough to dress as a carrot. More on that later.
Hewitt, assistant director of health education and wellness promotion in the Center for Wellbeing, is chairperson for Be Well—a coalition working to support the UTC community’s personal, academic and social wellbeing. The initiative uses a “healthy campus” framework of concepts categorized as Move Well, Plan Well, Play Well, Respect Well, Nourish Well and Feel Well.
As Hewitt said, if you see the Be Well logo, “You can be sure it will be a free or low-cost event aimed at improving student, faculty and staff wellbeing.
“Be Well helps amplify the voices of health and wellness at UTC by lifting the folks who’ve been doing really important and sometimes difficult work. We’re pulling the best minds together to create different and innovative health and wellness programs, not only for our students but also for our faculty and staff.”
The program was conceptualized several years ago, she said, but COVID-19 put a wrench into the plans.
When Hewitt—whose previous experience includes working for State University of New York College at Cortland, University of Pittsburgh, Trinity University in San Antonio and Lifespan of Greater Rochester in New York—arrived at UTC in the fall of 2021, she was tasked with bringing the program to life.
Hewitt said the initiative covers topics including sleep issues, food insecurity and financial stressors.
“We want to be loud and proud that UTC cares about the wellbeing of every person who steps on this campus, whether they live here or whether they don’t, whether they work here, whether they study here,” she said. “I think of it as a cohesive branding opportunity to say, ‘Hey, if I see Be Well on a flyer, I know that this is going to help me physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.’
“Hopefully, this will not only increase wellbeing engagement in programming, but awareness and education about how to take care of yourself.”
Hewitt said Be Well provides an opportunity to highlight excellent wellbeing programs already in place.
“Anything connected to Campus Recreation, Outdoor Recreation, group, fitness schedules, personal training,” she said, “will all be connected to Be Well in some way, shape or form.”
Be Well’s introduction to campus newcomers took place during Welcome Week with “Take Carrot of Yourself.” Along with healthy snacks and literature about the program, the Chamberlain Field event allowed Hewitt to don a human-sized carrot costume to mingle and discuss healthy eating with students.
“The team had several planning meetings getting ready for Take Carrot of Yourself,” Hewitt recalled, “and they pitched the idea of someone wearing some sort of health costume; a health mascot is what we were going for. They threw around a couple of ideas—for instance, banana was pitched—and ultimately ended up on the carrot, which sealed the deal for our theme.”
Student Success Programs Assistant Director Jason Harville, an event committee member, had offered to dress as the carrot “because he’s so school spirit,” Hewitt said. “When he showed up on that hot day wearing a dress shirt and dress pants, I said, ‘I will wear the carrot costume.’
“I will do whatever it takes to get the word out. It was well-received and wicked funny and produced many great photos. It was totally worth it.”
“Be Well Wednesdays” is a new series of pop-up events that provide tips and promote upcoming wellbeing-related events and activities, such as an upcoming student-centric Physical Wellbeing Health Fair on Oct. 19 in the University Center.
In addition, Be Well weekly tips are now a staple of the UTC Campus Weekly newsletter.
“We want you to be successful academically,” Hewitt said, “and we want you to be healthy while you’re here. We want you to enjoy college, and it’s hard to enjoy your college experience if you’re not healthy.
“Those things really work very closely with one another. So, that’s my pitch for Be Well.”