MBU Joins Partnership for a Healthier America in Campus-Wide Health Initiative

June 13, 2019

MBU's Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences hosted a wellness day for students in May.

It’s difficult to find a part of the university experience more impacted by a student’s newfound freedom than the area of healthy living. In fact, recent studies show many students develop poor nutrition and fitness habits during their college years that may lead to a lifetime of potential health issues.

To help reverse this trend, Mary Baldwin is announcing a three-year commitment to the Healthier Campus Initiative (HCI), a pioneering program designed by the nonprofit organization Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). The university was recognized on the national stage as being part of the initiative during PHA’s Accelerating a Healthier Future Summit in Chicago in April.

“We couldn’t be more proud to have Mary Baldwin University as a PHA partner,” said Blythe Thomas, Partnership for a Healthier America’s chief marketing officer. “Mary Baldwin’s leadership and commitment is an important step forward towards realizing PHA’s goal that all young people grow up free from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions associated with excess weight.”

MBU's Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences hosted a wellness day for students in May.

In adopting the HCI, Mary Baldwin joins a distinguished class of more than 70 colleges and universities in creating a culture change toward healthier living, which is linked to improved academic performance. Partners pledge a commitment to enhance campus environments by following rigorous standards developed by leading experts under three primary categories: food and nutrition, physical activity, and wellness programming.

As part of the multi-year pledge, colleges and universities must meet 23 of the initiative’s 41 guidelines within three years. Each HCI partner’s commitments will be verified by an independent third party and released publicly in Partnership for a Healthier America’s annual progress reports.

Due to the hard work and foresight of MBU staff, Mary Baldwin is already well on its way to fulfilling its guidelines. Campus improvements such as a comprehensive wellness program; a minimum of one wellness meal at each breakfast, lunch, and dinner; labeled nutrition information; and local food purchasing were already in place before the partnership. In fact, Mary Baldwin expects to mark off a full quarter of its HCI commitments within the next three months.

“I believe this partnership with HCI is a great opportunity for Mary Baldwin to take credit for what we already do well,” said Tracy Hiner, director of dining services. “The hard work and collaboration of many have created a focus on wellness and living a healthy lifestyle. It’s also a chance to build upon our foundation and make our programs better moving forward. Living and going to school in the Shenandoah Valley is a unique opportunity that we should all take advantage of.”

Healthy Campus Initiatives at MBU include offering opportunities for outdoor recreation and continuing Dining Services' focus on promoting wellness and living a healthy lifestyle.

Indeed, Mary Baldwin’s idyllic surroundings serve as the perfect backdrop for the initiative. As part of MBU’s pledge to offer at least 20 outdoor recreation clinics or trips during each academic year, students will have the option to take part in such opportunities as hiking along the Blue Ridge or learning to fly-fish in valley streams. These experiences not only serve as an introduction to the natural beauty surrounding Mary Baldwin, but they will also provide an abundance of activities for students to journey off campus when classes are not in session.

Closer to home, Mary Baldwin will also offer a bicycle sharing program, free water in all dining venues and facilities, and a minimum of 40 intramural or informal recreation opportunities per academic year. A field day is also scheduled for next spring, giving students a needed break from studies to enjoy outdoor activities that foster physical health and campus relationships. These improvements and many more offered through the HCI will be introduced during Healthy Campus Week, which will be held September 23–29.

A major part of empowering tomorrow’s leaders to lives of purpose and professional success is helping them form healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Mary Baldwin University is proud to lead the industry in evidence-based wellness practices through this comprehensive effort, and hopes its leadership will spur others to join the health revolution.

Stretching before the Brenda Bryant Memorial 5K at MBU's Reunion.