By Belen Edwards
Before becoming the Assistant Director of Well-Being Initiatives for UChicago Student Wellness, Elizabeth Webb took her passion for wellbeing all around the world, from Minnesota to Ghana to Mexico.
During college, Webb spent three summers in Minnesota working at Camp Heartland, a camp for children infected with HIV. “I became really passionate about HIV prevention and realized that my desire to help people would take the form of preventing illness and disease,” she said.
From there, Webb and one of her colleagues from Camp Heartland traveled to Ghana with a curriculum they’d written to teach middle and high school students about HIV prevention. When the non-profit they’d planned on working with said they no longer offered the HIV prevention program, Webb and her colleague worked by themselves. They asked principals of Ghanaian public schools if they could teach their students. All of them said yes.
While in Ghana, Webb also taught children living in orphanages about other wellness topics, including STI prevention, and she helped mobilize women to get tested for HIV.
After receiving her master’s in public health from Emory University, Webb went on to work with the National Public Health Institute in Mexico City.
Now, Webb is an essential part of the UChicago Student Wellness team, helping to create and implement wellness programming. Program evaluation is also a key part of her role. “We want to make sure that our programs are effective and that students are not only enjoying them but are also becoming more well because of them,” she said.
Aside from the larger-scale development of programming, Webb also teaches workshops and classes, including Restorative Yoga, a yoga class for people of all skill levels meant to lower stress levels.
Webb created her Restorative Yoga class based on data collected from the student body. UChicago Student Wellness collects data from sources such as student evaluations, the National College Health Assessment, the Healthy Minds Study, and the more recent Campus Health Needs Assessment to determine what students find helpful for maintaining their health and wellbeing.
“What I found from the Campus Health Needs Assessment was that students really appreciated our mindfulness and meditation classes, and a couple of students mentioned the yoga offered in Rockefeller by Spiritual Life,” said Webb. “I thought it would be good to complement that with a yoga class that includes a lot of meditation and relaxation techniques.”
Webb also works on Better Together, a program that was created after data from UChicago’s 2014 Healthy Minds Study showed that over half of College and graduate students felt lonely.
To combat this loneliness, Better Together brings graduate students together once a week for four weeks for a meal. “We talk about lots of different things, from getting to know yourself to vulnerability,” said Webb. “It’s all about creating community and strengthening our connections across campus.”
One of Webb’s proudest moments as a member of UChicago Student Wellness comes from her time working on Better Together, when three students from the cohort went to Promontory Point together and sent Webb a photo. “These were all students who hadn’t known each other before the program, and I felt so proud and happy that they made those connections and relationships and chose to include me in that.”
Just like the work she did in Minnesota, Ghana, and Mexico City, Webb’s work at UChicago Student Wellness is built around these connections people make as they strive to be well. “The students I’ve met here are so inspiring,” Webb said. “I’m always pleasantly surprised by how thoughtful they are, and how they engage with our programming. It’s both professionally and personally very important to me.”