The Inclusive Illini

The Inclusive Illini

University of Illinois hosts week
of healthy living and learning

By Klaudia Dukala, Brett Lerner, Jeff Ohmer and Jacqui Ogrodnik

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Recreation teamed up to present the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s first Illini Wellness Week. Thirteen events were featured throughout the week of April 6 to 10 that not only focused on the different dimensions of wellness, but emphasized campus diversity as well.

The week was sponsored by various organizations that promote wellness from around campus, including the Counseling Center, McKinley Health Center, Women’s Resources Center, University of Illinois Extension and University Housing-Dining Services.

The goal of the week was to “reintroduce and introduce” the students to the different programs and services offered by those sponsors, said Kathy Ruda, the program coordinator of Illini Wellness Week and senior in the College of Media.

“I feel like a lot of students don’t really know all of the programs that exist and are available,” she said. “Illini Wellness Week is my campus initiative, and I really wanted to bring these units together to kind of see by working together that they can really help bring more light onto their services that already exist.”

Students were given free wellness goodies throughout Illini Wellness Week. On Wednesday, students received "Illini on the move" water bottles.

Students were given free goodies throughout Illini Wellness Week. “Illini on the move” water bottles were handed out Wednesday, April 8.

Students like Veronica Lesny, a senior at the university, benefited from the chance to take their experiences with the week’s events and apply them to the real world after graduation.

“This week definitely made me realize how much this campus has to offer and all the different opportunities that are available,” Lesny said. “As I slowly depart Illinois, what I took back with me this week is to just be open to a lot of the different opportunities and seek the different ways you can still learn.”

Not only did Illini Wellness Week promote health, it also brought about a sense of diversity and inclusiveness on campus.

A student concentrates during a "Body Flow" yoga class, held as part of Illini Wellness Week, on Wednesday, April 8.

A student concentrates during a “Body Flow” yoga class, held as part of Illini Wellness Week, on Wednesday, April 8.

“Really, it’s about stepping out of comfort zones, and in turn, that is what makes it so diverse and really breaks down all of the cultural barriers because everyone is welcome,” Ruda said. “I think when students come to Illini Wellness Week events, they’re breaking out of their comfort zones.”

Lisa Kinderman, a clinical psychologist who represented the Counseling Center during the week, said it’s important to recognize that everybody’s strengths are different and that many of the strengths compliment one another.

“… Different perspectives on wellness can create a different environment where people feel free to get their needs met,” Kinderman said. “I think we can all contribute to the community in more diverse ways, and highlighting these different ways I think hopefully gives people a way to connect around differences as well as come together around similarities.”

Ruda’s definition of wellness focuses on balance, which was reflected in the different events that were planned for the week.

“I feel like a lot of students, when they hear wellness, they think eating healthy and working out, and that’s about it,” Ruda said. “When really there are multiple dimensions to wellness, which include mental wellness, spiritual wellness and environmental wellness. There are so many elements to it, and I think finding the correct balance is really what will improve your well-being and overall health.”

Watch the photo essay below to visualize Illini Wellness Week before reading about it:

Illini Wellness Week began with a focus on mental health Monday, April 6, starting at 8:30 a.m. with its first event “Breakfast, Set, Go!” held in front of the Alma Mater at the corner of Wright and Green streets.

There, the University Housing-Dining Services’ Good2Go food truck gave students free breakfast samples in an attempt to educate them on the importance of eating healthy first thing in the morning, which, according to John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “is the most important meal of the day.” The university gives several tips on how to eat health in the morning and why doing so is important.


Kathy Ruda gets a massage during Illini Wellness Week on Monday, April 6.

Later on Monday, the Activities and Recreation Center hosted two additional events, which focused on relieving stress with free five-minute chair massages by BodyWork Associates as well as information on increasing well-being at a stress management workshop ran by the Counseling Center.

Tuesday’s events switched focus from the mind down to the body starting with a health and wellness expo, where students gathered to learn about the various wellness organizations offered on and around campus. 

Afterward, “Body Combat,” a martial-arts inspired workout, was held at the ARC as well as “Fuel Your Fitness,” which provided tips on the kinds of foods that should be eaten before and after working out., a government-run health initiative, lists several reasons why physical activity is important.

A student participates in “Body Flow,” an Illini Wellness Week event held Wednesday, April 8.

“Yoga on the Quad,” which kicked off Wednesday’s events, originally was going to take place at the university’s south quad, but bad weather conditions forced event organizers to switch its location to the ARC, where free body composition checkups also were available.

Lesny, who participated in the majority of the week’s events, felt that the activity provided a fun way to learn about health and wellness.

“Even just doing yoga, like, you learn about not just the different positions, but you think about your heart, your mind, your soul. That whole thinking process is a different way of learning,” she said. “Not just through textbooks or through other people, but you see it actually happen and experience it for yourself.”

Over at the East Campus Recreation Center, which was hosting its 10th birthday party complete with games, prizes and free cake, a “De-Stress Dodgeball” tournament took place in order to encourage a fun, yet vigorous workout for the participating teams.

Back at the ARC on Thursday, financial wellness was put into the limelight as students desperately clung to the center’s climbing wall, attempting to make it to the top, where various gift cards to stores like Meijer were hiding. The wall was adorned with financial tips, helping climbers learn how to budget and save their money along the upward journey. One financial tip Forbes has for college students: Avoid using credit cards. The business biweekly offers 13 pieces of advice for students looking to become more financially savvy.

Listen to the audio clip below to hear more on students’ experiences with the climbing wall:

After “climbing to the bank,” some students headed over to one of the ARC’s instructional kitchens to learn how to healthily balance their diets with more veggies by preparing a vegetable-based avocado salsa dish. Interested in making your own? The Food Network has a five-star recipe

Illini Wellness Week concluded Friday with “Acts of Kindness,” where body positivity was emphasized on the university’s main quad and KIND bars were handed out to students.

Illini Wellness Week workers hand out KIND bars to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students Friday, April 10.

“It’s not just about eating right and working out here and there. It’s also doing these things in small ways to improve your health,” Ruda said. “It’s not about completely revamping your diet, or meditating or doing yoga every single day. It’s about improving those habits in small incremental ways.”

Need a recap? Check out the timeline of events.

Want to hear or watch another element again? Click on whichever you’re interested in: video package, audio package, photo essay.

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