Jan. 30, 2023

Wellness classroom visits offer UCalgary students effective strategies to improve their well-being and academic development

Wellness education is designed to fit into student schedules
UCalgary Wellness classroom visit
UCalgary Wellness classroom visit.

It is well known that university students are some of the most stressed individuals on earth. Not only are they faced with academic challenges, such as exams, assignments and group projects, but in a short period of time, they are also expected to figure out who they are, and, more dauntingly, who they want to be.

Naturally, this often brings about a tidal wave of internal challenges, of which stress, anxiety, and sleep troubles are only a few. More so, it can be extremely difficult for them to remember to take care of their mental health. 

Still, there are those caring instructors who value the well-being of their students, who act as golden threads guiding their students through the labyrinth of post-secondary life. Dr. Melissa Boyce, associate dean, undergraduate programs and student affairs, Faculty of Arts, is the founder of the Wellness Classroom Visits initiative.

In 2021, along with the Campus Mental Health Strategy teaching and learning subcommittee, Boyce interviewed undergraduate students as part of a strengths and needs assessment. Students emphasized the importance of the following key activities to support student mental well-being in their classes:  

  1. Prioritize mental health consistently and collectively across their courses
  2. Guide students to relevant mental health and academic supports
  3. Promote mental health literacy, including incorporating education on mental health into classes
  4. Facilitate connection building between students 

To address these four key themes, Boyce developed the idea of Wellness Classroom Visits, which are five-minute presentations delivered by trained undergraduate volunteers that aim to provide students with effective strategies to improve their mental health and promote their academic development. The initiative was piloted in fall 2021 as a collaboration between the Campus Mental Health Strategy, Student Wellness Services and campus partners such as the Student Success Centre.   

"This initiative not only aligns well with the Campus Mental Health Strategy but is also reflective of what students are wanting,” Dr. Andrew Szeto, PhD, director of the Campus Mental Health Strategy, explains.

“Through various channels and many student consultations, the Campus Mental Health Strategy and Student Wellness Services have received student feedback indicating that mental health should be integrated into the classroom. Furthermore, students have expressed that instructors and professors can better support student well-being by being aware of resources and creating a classroom environment that is open to discussions of mental health and well-being. This initiative satisfies these recommendations from students and presents an opportunity to normalize discussions around mental health and reduce stigma.” 

Wellness topics for Winter 2023 include 

  • Preventing burnout 

  • Creating a self-care plan 

  • Coping with imposter syndrome 

  • Practising self-compassion 

  • High-impact study strategies: Self-testing 

  • Managing distractions while studying 

  • Managing procrastination 

Presentations typically begin with an interactive question such as “Show of hands — have any of you ever felt physically and emotionally exhausted?” and a personal experience shared by the volunteer, followed by leading the students through a brief exercise or presenting them with a strategy.

The presentation closes with informing the students of available campus resources. Along with a list of resources, instructors are given a feedback survey they can share with their students. Here is an example of student feedback recently received:  

I feel this is an excellent opportunity to show students that there are multiple resources available in the wellness community, and how to reach out to access those resources.

Since the project pilot in fall 2021, approximately 230 classes have been visited, reaching over 8,500 students in various faculties. It is the hope of Student Wellness Services that Wellness Classroom Visits will encourage students to be more mindful of maintaining their well-being while also bringing their attention to available campus resources.

They are also designed to fit into students’ schedules, so they do not have to set aside time for themselves to learn wellness tips and strategies. With wellness initiatives like this, the University of Calgary hopes to become a healthier and more positive environment for students, where they can flourish physically, mentally, and academically. 

If instructors would like to book a Wellness Classroom Visit for the Winter 2023 semester, they can visit the Wellness Classroom Visit site and fill out the instructor request form.  


With the support of SU Quality Money, the project will continue to expand and grow over the next two years.