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Chemistry enhances its focus on health and well-being

Faculty, students and staff at the inaugural ChemWell GRC Power Hour (Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Dahlen)
Faculty, students and staff at the inaugural ChemWell GRC Power Hour™ (Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Dahlen)
Nov 22 2019

New initiative with a holistic approach to promoting health and well-being

By Thuy Dam

A holistic sense of well-being is living in a state that is, in some sense, good.  Well-being is what people think and feel about their lives, such as the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions and resilience, the realization of their potential or their overall satisfaction with life.  Since well-being is sensitive to life events (e.g., moving, marriage, unemployment) our perspective, ability to adapt and quality of relationships predict how well we navigate the ebbs and flows of life. 

Journey to ChemWell

Last year, the Chemistry Department welcomed Nancy Gray, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Gordon Research Conferences, to facilitate GRC Power Hours™ and deliver a special seminar on the keys to success, both of which were very well received.  Elizabeth Dahlen (Director of Finance and Operations and GRC Power Hour Committee Member) learned about how impactful the GRC Power Hours™ were for generating raw, candid and meaningful conversations with colleagues during the weeklong GRC conferences.  

“The GRC Power Hour™ provides a safe place for the open discussion of the challenges women in science face as well as the issues of diversity and inclusion.  The program has been extremely successful in promoting the exchange of shared experiences with the focus on identifying tangible solutions that will beneficially change the culture at the frontiers of science,” said Gray. 

Attendees also shared their desire that the conversations started at the GRC conferences continue when they returned to their home institutions.  It was this insight that led to ChemWell, the continuation of the GRC Power Hour™ conversations and making more ‘local’ the extensive support resources Stanford has to offer to our community. 

ChemWell is a new initiative with a holistic approach to promoting health and well-being.  This is a collaborative undertaking between the Chemistry Department and WINGS (Wellness Information Network for Graduate Students) program focused on mental health and wellness peer education. 

“In alignment with the actions that we have taken to foster our Shared Culture of Respect, ChemWell provides an inclusive and supportive environment in which our community can gain knowledge, discuss challenges and access resources that support the whole person,” said Dahlen. 

WINGS is a grassroots volunteer effort led by The School of Humanities and Sciences, in partnership with the Graduate Life Office and with the support of campus colleagues several years ago.  “This pilot was undertaken with the firm belief that academic excellence can only occur when students are healthy and well,” said Susan Weersing, Associate Dean, Graduate and Undergraduate Studies.

Both from the Solomon lab, the Chemistry Department’s two WINGers, Dory DeWeese, a second year, and Ioannis Kipouros, a fourth year, are instrumental in ChemWell.  “Mental wellness is something that is very important to me. Graduate school can be tough, and I think that providing resources and trying to make a cultural change in the chemistry community that emphasizes and places importance on prioritizing mental wellness can help make our community a better place!” said DeWeese.  "A central part of both WINGS and ChemWell is to compile and disseminate this information to the broader chemistry community,” adds Kipouros. 

To build on the Chemistry Department’s commitment to fostering a Shared Culture of Respect, ChemWell was piloted in summer 2019 with the goal to support the professional and personal growth of our community, including staff, faculty, researchers and students.  We had offered three workshops, including the GRC Power Hour™ as well as Guided Meditation and The Science and Art of Happiness and Well-being (in collaboration with the Vaden Health Center).  The survey feedback overwhelmingly supported continuing the program into the academic year. 

For the 2019-2020 academic year, ChemWell has delivered a GRC Power Hour™, Mindful Eating (nutrition), Mind Over Money (financial wellness) and will be pleased to host Dr. Maria Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd College, on November 25, 2019 for a special seminar entitled “Navigating Mental Health Challenges in an Academic Setting.”  This is a partnership with WISE Ventures where Klawe will present on “Culture, Diversity, and Equity in STEM: What We know and Need to Do in 2020” at the WISE Research Roundtable. 

Upcoming ChemWell Sessions

We are eager to bring to our Chemistry community customized and interactive workshops on mentoring (January 16, 2020), mindfulness (February 3, 2020), GRC Power Hours™ (March 3, June 2, 2020), diversity and inclusion (April 6, 2020), yoga (May 11, 2020), microburst workouts (June 29, 2020), and happiness (August 3, 2020). 

Together, let us explore the intersections of mental, physical, financial, emotional and environmental well-being.  We hope that you will join the ChemWell journey as the ultimate goal is that you take care of yourself and each other.