(This story is sponsored by Capilano University.)
“Student well-being is the cornerstone of everything we do at the University,” says Paul Dangerfield, president of Capilano University. “We want to be that place where people come to be healthier—mentally, physically, financially, within their careers, and their family relationships.”
In May of 2018, Capilano University signed onto the Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges. The charter provides the University with a framework for well-being, ensuring that the health of students and faculty is at the forefront of all decision-making.
The leadership at Capilano University acknowledges that students are often burdened with more than homework. They understand that mental health issues can keep students from achieving academic success in a post-secondary setting.
Various initiatives have been implemented to promote and support the seven dimensions of well-being: emotional, financial, social and cultural, academic and career, spiritual, physical, and environmental.
By keeping class sizes small, instructors are able to build relationships with their students. Not only do the instructors know students’ names, they also notice if a student is missing classes. This keeps students accountable, engaged with the coursework, and invites opportunities to ask for one-on-one assistance if they are struggling.
Mental health services and counselling are available to students on campus for those who find themselves in desperate situations or needing to talk to someone.
“What we are really working on is more about the preventative efforts—how can we help students and employees so they don’t get into those situations?” says Dangerfield. “That starts right from the time students or employees arrive for orientation.”
First-year students can attend free seminars that offer tips on a wide range of topics, including studying and planning. New students are also introduced to the resources available through the Capilano Students' Union (CSU).
The CSU is an autonomous organization at the university that advocates for the overall well-being of students in a variety of ways.
“We offer spaces on campus like lounges and specific rooms for queer students and women,” says Joey Sidhu, student and vice president of finance for the CSU. “They are safe spaces for people that might not feel comfortable or included in other public areas.”
Additionally, the CSU arranges health and dental benefits and communicates with the university leadership on behalf of the students. “We engage with the administration to talk about the challenges that students are facing on campus,” says Sidhu, “and suggest different ways they can support students, improve culture, and engagement.”
Previous recommendations brought to faculty and senior administrators’ attention included the need for gender-neutral washrooms, education on preferred pronouns, and specific counselling types for LGBTQ+ students.
All of these measures have been implemented.
“We take advice from our students and in many cases, our students have been ahead of organizations,” says Dangerfield. “They know before we do.”
Capilano University recently launched a Well-being Ambassador program, which consists of eight individuals who engage with students through various events and projects. This year, the ambassadors attended new student orientations to provide newcomers with information on the importance of well-being.
They also participated in the Bell Let’s Talk campaign and Experience Well-Being Week—a collaboration between multiple partners on campus.
The University doesn’t plan to slow down when it comes to student well-being. “Our plan for the next 10 years, we call ‘Envisioning 2030’,” says Dangerfield, “we want students to graduate healthier, both mentally and physically, and we want them to have a career secured before they leave so that they are financially stable.”
Capilano University has four locations: the main campus and the new CapU Lonsdale location in North Vancouver, the kálax-ay Sunshine Coast campus in Sechelt, and the Ts̓zil Learning Centre in Mount Currie.
This spring, Capilano University is hosting an info night for prospective students. At the event, current students and faculty will provide insight on the 97 programs offered, financial aid, campus life, and more.
To learn about Capilano University, visit www.capilanou.ca/.