Faculty and Staff Roadmap Continues Institute’s Commitment to Well-Being

Building from Georgia Tech's strategic plan, the roadmap will enhance faculty and staff well-being and improve all aspects of wellness for the entire campus community.

In support of the Institute's strategic plan, the Division of Student Engagement and Well-Being unveiled its transformational roadmap for student well-being in August 2022. This year, following the creation of the Office of Cultivate Well-Being Action and Transformation and the hiring of Heather Zesiger as its director, the Cultivate Well-Being Action and Transformation Roadmap With a Focus on Faculty and Staff has been launched.

Guided by the principle that wellness goes far beyond the physical health of Tech community members, the office, in concert with Georgia Tech Human Resources and the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty, created the companion roadmap following a lengthy review of the current programs and resources available to faculty and staff as well as gathering input from departments and individuals across campus. Continuing the push to create an inclusive environment where all students, faculty, and staff can flourish, the office believes one group's overall well-being cannot be addressed without the others. 

"There's definitely the underpinning of putting on our own oxygen mask first," Zesiger said. “Maintaining our well-being so that we can be the best at the work we do on campus and model for students is vital. Whether you’re frontline staff, an advisor, a professor, or greeting someone in an office, students see us in all our different roles, so we're all in a position to model healthy, caring, inclusive behaviors. There are also structural things we can do that elevate everybody's well-being and maintain a healthy campus environment. Furthermore, we are disrupting outdated narratives to suggest instead that compassion and rigor can coexist and that advancing faculty and staff well-being simultaneously with student well-being is not a zero-sum proposition."

Highlighted by the relaunch of the Center for Mental Health Care and Resources and a new identity for the Wellness Empowerment Center, the student roadmap led to eight of 26 action strategies being put into motion in the past year. The faculty and staff roadmap will feature a similar blueprint to more effectively assist those in need, reduce stigma around seeking help, and expand the campus community's understanding of how the eight dimensions of wellness — emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual — intersect.

Zesiger brings over 25 years of professional experience to her role at Georgia Tech. She is tasked with overseeing the execution of the plan, which she calls "one of the boldest" she's ever seen in higher education. Crediting Institute leadership for the inclusion of well-being in the strategic plan and Luoluo Hong, vice president for Student Engagement and Well-Being, for the development of the student roadmap, Zesiger sees the moment as one of profound change for the Tech community.

"The best practices in my field recognize that these ideas of community, belonging, health, and learning are all interconnected. So, as we enhance one, it's going to influence the other. As we take down barriers to each element, we're going to see better outcomes,” she said. “In the student field, we see their academic outcomes improve, as well as how they embrace their future. We see similar situations with faculty and staff when you substitute learning with performance, so performance, health, and community also have that interconnection.”

Zesiger stressed that wellness has taken on new meaning as the world emerges from the pandemic, which took a toll on physical and mental health, and this roadmap is another tool to help study and address its long-term effects.

Unlike students, faculty and staff members aren’t given grades at the end of each semester, and they’re not taking tests every few weeks to assess their progress. A portion of the roadmap will focus on reshaping what success looks like and promoting a culture in which employees feel valued. It also includes recommendations for the further promotion and expansion of strategies consistent with better mental health outcomes for faculty and staff.

The implementation of both roadmaps won't take place overnight, but metrics will track the progress of the action strategies along the way, with a goal of institutionalizing the most successful elements by 2030. However, Zesiger notes that fostering a healthy campus will not end with the strategic plan.

“Well-being doesn’t end in 2030,” she said. “This value is woven into the fabric of Tech, hopefully forever.”

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