BOONE, N.C. — Senior public health major Caroline Pruitt works to spread the good news about wellness and how fellow students can take better care of themselves.
She is one of 34 wellness peer educators within Appalachian State University’s Department of Wellness and Prevention Services (WPS) in the Division of Student Affairs. They offer informational presentations to fellow students about topics such as mental health and nutrition.
Academic success and the eight factors of wellness go hand in hand, said Pruitt, who is from Raleigh.
“If you’re not eating well or getting enough sleep, you’re certainly not performing at your best,” she said.
Pruitt said some college campuses have a culture of competition around who can take care of their bodies in the worst way, such as through lack of sleep and consumption of energy drinks or caffeine. “Wellness works in a way to deconstruct that culture and open up spaces for people to be honest about how they are really feeling,” she said.
Pruitt encourages her classmates to build into their daily lives more positive talk about staying healthy. “Incorporating wellness into something people can talk about in a positive way — ‘I did self-care today; I danced for 10 minutes and feel so much better’ — is a way that can help you focus on your class work,” she said.
She offers these suggestions for how students can support their wellness, especially during the uncertainties of COVID-19:
- Talk to your professors if you’re having trouble in your classes.
- Explore campus resources such as Wellness and Prevention Services, University Writing Center, Student Learning Center and Off-campus Student Services.
- Cultivate interests outside of academics, such as small hobbies.
- Get up and move.
“Focus on things that make you feel good. A lot of times, wellness really can be that simple,” she added.
For Pruitt, wellness activities might be trying a new recipe with her roommate, dancing to a song or FaceTiming with a friend for 10 minutes, and/or exploring new pastimes — this semester she has taken up roller skating and cross-stitching as ways to stay grounded.
“I had anxiety when school started back up because it was an uncertain situation. I also had to remember that it’s OK to talk to my friends about it. Remember, your friends are your support network and care about you, and that it’s important to not go through those things alone,” she said.
Why Pruitt chose Appalachian
Pruitt said she chose Appalachian because she was looking for a school that was inclusive of LGBT students and academically challenging, yet also focused on developing the whole person through cocurricular activities and a sense of community.
“That was super appealing to me — it’s just an amazing environment,” Pruitt said about App State. From professors to staff, she said she has found “they’re invested in me as a person and what I want to do beyond App.”
Pruitt said she decided to major in public health because of the field’s varied career options and focus on social justice and equity.
She is graduating with honors in the Department of Health and Exercise Science, which houses the public health program. The research for her honors thesis, chaired by Dr. Adam Hege, focuses on the health of college students identifying as LGBT+. She also is interning with WPS this fall.
Pruitt plans to graduate in December and begin her career working with a local public health department before attending graduate school to study social epidemiology.
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About the Division of Student Affairs
The Division of Student Affairs at Appalachian State University is committed to the development of lifelong learners and leaders by engaging and challenging students within a culture of care and inclusion. The division consists of 14 units that offer activities and services to help students develop more fully by becoming global learners, fostering healthy relationships, appreciating diversity and different perspectives, understanding community responsibility, enhancing self-awareness, developing autonomy and living ethically. These units include the Career Development Center, Wellness and Prevention Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, Health Services, Parent and Family Services, University Housing, Student Engagement and Leadership, Student Conduct, University Recreation, Intercultural Student Affairs, Student Legal Clinic and Off Campus Student Services, Electronic Student Services, Child Development Center, and Staff Development and Strategic Initiatives. Learn more at https://studentaffairs.appstate.edu.
About the Beaver College of Health Sciences
Appalachian's Beaver College of Health Sciences opened in 2010 as the result of a strategic university commitment to significantly enhance the health and quality of life for individuals, families and communities in North Carolina and beyond. In 2015, the college was named for an Appalachian alumnus and pioneer in the health care industry — Donald C. Beaver ’62 ’64 of Conover. The college offers nine undergraduate degree programs and seven graduate degree programs, which are organized into six departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders; Health and Exercise Science; Nursing; Nutrition and Health Care Management; Recreation Management and Physical Education; and Social Work. Learn more at https://healthsciences.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.