Health and wellness are essential elements for a successful college campus, a fact again underscored at UMass Lowell with the formal adoption of the Okanagan Charter
Chancellor Julie Chen signed the charter during a ceremony Friday, Sept. 2, making UMass Lowell the first campus in New England to do so. The charter symbolizes UMass Lowell’s pledge to ensure health promotion is considered in all aspects of campus life and culture. It also signals an intent to lead in efforts to initiate health-promoting action on campus and in the city of Lowell.
“Health and wellness are already a big priority for us,” said Chen. “By signing the Okanagan Charter, we commit ourselves to viewing everything we do through a lens of promoting the health of our students, faculty and staff — from individual practices to the policies we put in place across the university.”
Chen noted the university’s ongoing efforts to encourage healthy choices and policies, including creation of an Office of Student Life & Well-being
last year. It is one of many examples of UMass Lowell’s emphasis on well-being, equity and social justice, as reflected by a variety of holistic resources and supports for students.
In addition, UMass Lowell is one of 106 institutional members of the U.S. Health Promoting Campuses Network
, whose role is to mobilize institutions of higher education toward health-promoting actions, including by signing the Okanagan Charter.
Formally titled the “Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting University and Colleges,” the document was created in 2015 to give colleges and universities a framework to more thoroughly and systemically promote health and wellness.
Nine U.S. campuses adopted the charter prior to UMass Lowell, including the University of Alabama Birmingham, which was first in December 2020. A number of others are expected to sign in the near future. The charter is also supported by higher education networks internationally.
Rebecca Kennedy, chair of the USHPCN steering group and assistant vice president for Student Health and Well-being at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, offered congratulations to UMass Lowell.
“It is an act of true leadership to commit to embed health into all aspects of campus culture, working to change the status quo, taking a systems and settings approach to promote the wellbeing of our planet, our communities and our people,” said Kennedy.
Ruben Sança, director of the Office of Student Life and Well-being at UMass Lowell, said adopting the charter is momentous but only a first step. The university soon will marshal a working group to examine policies, practices and systems through a health-promoting lens.
“I am excited about the job ahead. With such a strong endorsement by the university, and a solid track record here of promoting health and well-being, I am encouraged by the success I know we’ll have in making UMass Lowell a healthier, stronger community. This is great news for our students and their families, for our faculty and our staff,” said Sança.
Chen said adopting the charter further illustrates UMass Lowell’s dedication to support the City of Lowell.
“This is yet another example of how UMass Lowell is both a leader and a partner,” she said. “We are honored to be the first university, public or private, in New England to adopt the Okanagan Charter. At the same time, we are excited to join our colleagues on campuses across the country who’ve already done so, and we’re looking forward to opportunities to collaborate with partners in our community to promote wellness and health here in the Merrimack Valley.”
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu