“Holistic” is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Director of Wellness Education Laura Lavoie’s approach to student wellness. Partly because it’s a word she stresses a lot, but also because her work already embodies it.
Lavoie, who previously served as St. Lawrence’s Associate Director for Student Activities and Leadership, began this newly created role in August 2021 and has been busy ever since. Since the school year started, she has initiated new ideas and collaborated with various campus departments to provide St. Lawrence students with activities, tips, and resources to help them stay healthy physically and mentally at every stage of their college journey.
Lavoie recently shared her insights on the transition to her new role, the need for an Office of Wellness Education on campus, and what she has planned for the rest of the academic year.
Q: Why was the Office of Wellness Education and your position created in addition to services already available through the Health and Counseling Center? What are the goals of your office?
A: My office was created to focus on holistic student wellness, which includes physical, mental, and emotional/spiritual health. My long-term goal is to create a culture at St. Lawrence in which holistic wellness is something we do really well.
I promote all the collective health and wellness opportunities we currently have on campus, ranging from fitness classes and hikes to mental health services, to spirituality with Rev. Shaun [Whitehead] and her multifaith advisors, to student-hosted events and programs that focus on health, wellness, and alternative-to-alcohol options.
I’m also looking to identify what we can do better and bridge those gaps. College students, at St. Lawrence and elsewhere, experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than previous generations. In addition to the clinical mental health services provided by the Counseling Center, I want to educate students about the connections between our minds and our bodies so that they can make intentional, healthy choices.
Additionally, I want to teach students stress reduction techniques. Stress-inducing situations don’t go away after college, so I see it as an important life skill to know how to intentionally take care of yourself and employ strategies to effectively manage stress.
Q: Can you share with us some of your plans for the remainder of the academic year?
A: We’ve done a few things so far—and I say ‘we’ because I’ve been collaborating with so many offices and departments on campus, as well as some really wonderful students. Initiatives have included The World Needs You Here Week in September and an afternoon of events to commemorate World Mental Health Day in October. Coming up, my office will be hosting an entire week focused on stress reduction in November.
I’ve also partnered with other departments to try to make opportunities for physical health more accessible. For example, this semester students have been able to get a beginner’s tutorial on fitness center equipment, the climbing wall, or the canoes at the canoe shack, so that students who haven’t previously engaged in these activities can feel more comfortable using these spaces on campus.
I’ve created a “wellness zone” with two new massage chairs set up on the third floor of the Student Center. I’m actively working to develop more physical wellness spaces on campus and have partnered with the libraries to get full spectrum lights for light therapy, to help combat seasonal depression. We’ll have those up and running by early November, when the days start to get dark.
"I want to educate students about the connections between our minds and our bodies so that they can make intentional, healthy choices."
—Director of Wellness Education Laura Lavoie
Q: The weekly emails from the Wellness Education Office are really informative and helpful—what else are you doing to reach students?
I have an office Instagram account, @sludentwellness. I try to promote any events broadly related to holistic wellness in our Stories. There are also highlights on the profile that provide information about Fitness Center hours, local hikes and walks, important mental health and crisis contact information, and spirituality. I’m happy to share flyers and photos from any student-led events focused on wellness and/or alternatives to drinking culture. Students and departments can feel free to DM the account or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like me to share something.
Finish this sentence: "For me, Wellness Education at St. Lawrence means...."
…that all students have the necessary tools and support to take care of their physical, mental, and spiritual/emotional health.
Q: Is there anything you’d like current and future students to know about your efforts?
A: One thing that’s incredibly important to me is making sure I’m thinking about every student at St. Lawrence when developing wellness events and programs. This includes having events, speakers, and spaces specifically intended for students from marginalized identities.
I’m holding focus groups to better assess the needs of BIPOC, international, and LGBTQIA+ students on our campus, and have also been working with Dean Kimberly Flint-Hamilton and the international student services staff. I welcome any student to reach out to me any time with feedback. I truly want to listen and act. Students can email me at email@example.com to share concerns in writing or to set up a time to meet.