In an effort to help students adjust to self-isolating and remote learning, St. Cloud State University’s student Peer Wellness coaches are reaching out virtually with Huskies Hangout sessions.
Peer Wellness Coaching is a free service for students that gives them an opportunity to discuss their personal goals in a collaborative and encouraging environment with another student, said Jen Johnson, interim director for Alcohol & Other Drug Prevention.
Student peer coaches are going digital this March hosting Zoom chats for students to give them a space where they can talk with peers about struggles with the evolving situation and adjustments due to COVID-19. The hangouts are offered 1-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
“We knew it was likely that students were feeling disconnected, bored or anxious at home and might be missing general interaction that they get when they’re on campus for classes,” said Erica Karger-Gatzow, assistant director of health promotion and marketing.
Peer Wellness Coaching is a collaboration between Healthy Huskies and Rehabilitation Counseling and other academic departments. Peer Wellness coaches are graduate students who are trained in motivational interviewing. They seek to empower the students they serve and help them to:
- Set and achieve goals
- Strengthen their sense of belonging at St. Cloud State
- Initiate and maintain wellness-related behaviors
- Take steps toward becoming the person they want to be
This is the second year the service has been offered on campus.
Peer Wellness Coach Sydney Fournier-Dingmann is enjoying the chance to offer her fellow students a way to reduce stress, reconnect to the campus community and talk their concerns.
“I think students will desire that campus community even more now that we are under distancing policies,” she said. “Huskies Hangouts is a way to regain that feeling.”
Huskies Hangouts is a relaxed, non-judgmental, safe space to engage with Peer Wellness coaches and other students and stay connected during social distancing, she said.
“We support our students and want to help them during this stressful time, so we hope that students will reach out,” she said. “It could just be to check in or even begin to think about how to maintain their wellness. The most important message is — we are here for you!”
Fournier-Dingmann and fellow coach Matt Leisen began working on Zoom Peer Wellness Coaching delivery during fall semester in order to make the service available for online students, commuter students, student parents and others who couldn’t make it to campus for a session, Leisen said.
Now those efforts are being used to serve all students. It’s for those who are lonely, those who are longing to see faces from campus and those looking for a silver lining during social distancing’s impact, he said.
“It’s for everyone and anyone who is part of the St. Cloud State University community,” he said. “It’s for you who are looking to re-access your wellness goals during a challenging time. It’s for you to simply drop in and say hello.”
In addition to joining a Huskies Hangout session via computer, Huskies can also join by phone or schedule an individual coaching sessions by emailing HuskyPUPS@stcloudstate.edu.