Today’s college students have certainly grown more comfortable with Zoom classes and remote activities over the last year, and are virtually interacting with faculty, staff and each other more than ever before.
So to better connect with Marymount students during this “new normal,” the University’s Department of Student Health and Well-Being is meeting Saints where they are – online.
This January, Wellness Ambassadors and staff members launched the BeWellMU podcast – a new platform at Marymount for health and well-being topics to be discussed weekly with featured guests, and episodes released every Wednesday.
“Podcasts have the unique ability to make listeners feel ‘in the room’ with other people, in a way that television, Netflix, music and other mediums do not,” explained Dr. Laura Finkelstein, Assistant Vice President of Student Health and Well-Being. “Recurring hosts, in particular, can feel familiar and comforting for listeners – so it occurred to us that an MU podcast could positively impact students. Everyone’s been excited about it, and it’s allowed us to focus on different facets of well-being that are very much on our students’ minds right now.”
So far, 11 episodes covering a wide variety of health and well-being issues have been released to the public:
Featured guests in episodes have included students and staff from all across the University, in areas like Student Counseling Services (SCS), the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Office of Ministry and Spiritual Life and the Office of Campus Safety and Emergency Management, just to name a few.
“All of the episodes, interviewees and questions are planned and prepared ahead of time, and then we record the episodes via Zoom,” said Janlynn Ngo, a junior Nursing major and Wellness Ambassador. “We want to make the experience as seamless and comfortable as possible for the interviewees. As a co-host, I personally like to do my own research and reflect on each topic so that I can contribute helpful information and anecdotes. That way, the conversation is more casual.”
Ngo added that an upcoming episode which will premiere on April 14, “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay,” is perhaps the most impactful episode she’s been involved with to this point. Spotlighting the personal story of a Marymount student athlete, she believes it helps demonstrate how various campus resources are available and able to assist students who are going through difficult times.
“The strength and vulnerability that our guest showed while sharing her inspiring story really shined a light on some mental health struggles that college students and student athletes face,” Ngo said. “One of the first steps to empowering ourselves is to ask for help as soon as we can. We can reach out to a trusted family member, friend, teammate, coach, professor, faculty member, Student Counseling Services and other local and national resources. It’s normal to not be okay, and when we accept that, it gets a bit easier.”
As we near the end of the Spring 2021 semester, the organizers of the BeWellMU podcast are looking back and seeing the value that it has brought to the campus community as Marymount continues to navigate through one of the most unprecedented times in higher education with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the parameters of the pandemic, we are all interacting face-to-face less than we used to. Many students have also felt more disconnected, physically and emotionally, from other people,” Dr. Finkelstein said. “So we hoped this podcast would speak to students and help them feel more connected and less socially isolated, as well as learn more about health and well-being.”
“Most of the feedback we have received so far has been through word of mouth, and it’s been very positive and encouraging,” added Yilret Yiljep, Manager in the Department of Student Health and Well-Being. “Looking forward, we’re going to continue to brainstorm new ways to connect with our Saints both in person and virtually to ensure they have the resources and support they need.”