As part of a comprehensive plan to improve student and employee health and wellbeing, Western Washington University has adopted the Okanagan Charter and joined the United States Health Promoting Campuses Network, an initial cohort of eight U.S. universities committed to becoming health-promoting institutions.
In honor of this milestone, I am pleased to announce that we are dedicating a new healing garden as a landmark tribute to mark this journey. I hope you will join me this Wednesday, November 3 at 2 p.m. for the dedication in front of Academic Instructional Center West.
By adopting the charter, we are making an institutional commitment to move toward more systems-level strategies that influence the health and wellbeing of every member of the Western community.
With a broad focus on person, place, and planet, the Okanagan Charter is a comprehensive framework that calls on post-secondary schools to embed health into all aspects of campus culture and to lead health-promotion action and collaboration locally and globally. While we have considerable work ahead of us, we are making progress, as shown by the following examples.
PLACE: In September, Western dedicated our newest residence hall, named for Alma Clark Glass, the first African American student to attend Western in 1906. Glass Hall is more than just a student residence; it is a community that celebrates Ms. Glass’ legacy with vibrant artwork created by student Katana Sol, and offers Black Affinity Housing to explore and affirm Black student experiences at WWU. This new space complements other intentional living and learning communities, including Pride Housing and the Honors Program Community.
PERSON: The former Counseling Center and Prevention and Wellness Services have merged to form the Counseling and Wellness Center to streamline access for students who need mental health and social supports. The Counseling and Wellness Center is also undergoing a remodel to refresh the spaces and create a more welcoming environment, introducing cultural art and bringing outdoor landscape elements into the buildings. It will also be adding four new counselors, including Black-identified, Indigenous and LGBTQ mental health practitioners. The Student Health Center also recently launched gender-affirming hormone therapy for students.
PLANET: We are also excited about the new Kaiser Borsari Hall, currently in the design phase. This electrical engineering, computer science, and energy science building will be the only net-zero energy/zero carbon facility in the region, among only a handful in the nation, and will advance Western’s vision to become the region’s first carbon-neutral university campus. Western’s Bellingham campus also now receives 100% of its energy from wind power generated at the Skookumchuck Wind Facility as part of Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct Program.
Western is in a unique position to inform health and wellbeing knowledge, education, and research by engaging students, leading by example and advocating to decision-makers. To that end, we look forward to collaborating with Bellingham and Whatcom County leaders on issues like expanding childcare and housing and food security to build stronger and more inclusive communities at WWU and beyond.
If you are interested in joining the Okanagan work group, please email Brandon Joseph, WWU’s director of Resilience. This work group will be charged with developing a cross-campus, integrated plan with actionable goals and metrics to help us advance the work of wellbeing through the Okanagan Charter.
My sincere thanks to Dr. Sislena Grocer Ledbetter, associate vice president for Counseling, Health and Wellbeing, who has led the effort to bring Western into the vanguard of Okanagan Charter universities, and to all of our faculty, students and staff who are working to transform the health and sustainability of our current and future societies. I hope each of us in the Western community will find ways to contribute to this vital work.