Forward with NACCE

Nurturing Community Wellness at Haywood Community College

January 24, 2024 National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
Forward with NACCE
Nurturing Community Wellness at Haywood Community College
Show Notes Transcript

Join as we explore the transformative "Living Well" program at Haywood Community College. Sara Phillips, Director of HR; Susannah High, Director of Wellness; and Michelle Harris, Director of Marketing and Engagement, share their inspiring journey of prioritizing wellness within their college community. From fostering connections to promoting physical and mental well-being, discover how this program is making a positive impact. Learn about the inclusive approach, budget-friendly strategies, and the culture of support that has turned "Living Well" into a beacon of belonging and self-care. Whether you're in education, marketing, or any profession, there are valuable insights to embrace in this uplifting conversation. Tune in for a dose of inspiration and actionable ideas to promote wellness in your community.

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Susannah - 00:00:10:

We needed to care for ourselves too. And we also need that reminder a lot.

Sara - 00:00:14:

I know that that connection with others is so critical and is so important for the work that's being done, but also the engagement and the feeling of satisfaction that we get when at work.

Michelle - 00:00:27:

You know, it's okay to take care of yourself because we are in those giving modes most of the day.

Sara - 00:00:33:

I think one thing we've learned too through the years is like people want to help.

Announcer - 00:00:38:

Welcome to Forward with NACCE: Inspiring Entrepreneurial Action, a podcast that shares the stories of everyday entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial leaders, and the communities that support us. We hope that this diverse collection of stories brings you inspiration, inspires you to take action, and ignites entrepreneurship in your community as we make our way forward together.

Becky - 00:01:02:

Welcome to this episode of Forward with NACCE. As we continue to roll into 2024, we're always looking for stories and examples of inspiration that can help us not only make positive changes within our lives, but ones that will stick. And one of the things that we love on this podcast is really the focus on what community colleges can do. My name is Rebecca Corbin. I'm the host of Forward with NACCE, and I'm also the President and CEO of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship. And I have three guests in our studio today, and I'm really excited to introduce them to our audience. I'll begin by sharing that I met these ladies at a Community Colleges of Appalachia Conference in the summer, which was quite transformative to me and to NACCE on a couple of different levels, but I walked away with just a lot of enthusiasm for the work that they're doing. So, we're going to start, and I'm going to have each of them introduce themselves, and they'll tell us a little bit about their background and maybe what led them to the work they're doing today at Haywood Community College. So, Sara Phillips, you're the Director of HR. So let's start with you. Why don't you share a little bit about yourself?

Sara - 00:02:20:

Sure. Thank you so much. And thank you for this honor to be here. And we're excited to talk about this program. So my name is Sara Phillips, and I'm the Director of Human Resources here at Haywood Community College. I've been here close to four years. It's going on four years now. I have been in human resources for the entirety of my professional career. Started in HR as an employment recruiter, for what was then a community bank headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina. But started right here in Clyde, North Carolina. Which is my hometown here, born and raised in Haywood County. So that was really exciting to have an opportunity to work in that organization that had such close ties here at Haywood County. So worked for that community bank for about 12 years. Then transitioned to a manufacturing environment where I was human resources there for New Belgium Brewing Company in Asheville, North Carolina. And then in 2020, I had the opportunity to join the team here at Haywood Community College. And really, you know, I just describe it as it felt like coming home because it's Haywood County, it's Clyde. And throughout the years, I just had so many ties to this institution, to this college. So I'm so excited to be here and feel so grateful every day to get to do the work that this college does in our community.

Becky - 00:03:51:

Well, they're very lucky to have you, all your talents, but your sense of gratitude for what community colleges do in people's lives is amazing. So Susanna High, let's go to you. So you are a Director there too at the college. And so why don't you tell us a little bit about your background and the work that you do?

Susannah - 00:04:11:

Sure. I'm also really happy for this opportunity. We were very excited to get to talk to you. So this will be, this will be great to share a little bit. I'm also from here, born and raised in Haywood County. I am by profession a licensed clinical social worker, and I've been in that field practicing around 15 years postgraduate. So definitely a helping professional, wellness professional. Different words fall into play with that. But wellness is definitely close to my heart and being there for folks and kind of meeting them where they are with their needs. I've been here at the college. I just started my eighth year, actually, December 1. I began my eighth year, so time flies when you think back on it, you know, how long you've been in a place, but. I share similarities to what Sara voiced in just this feeling like home. And it just feels like a good fit because it's my community. And when I come to work, I feel like I'm part of and giving back to my community, which is really meaningful to me. That's fantastic. And we'll go to you now, Michelle Harris. So you're involved in engagement. So maybe tell us a little bit about you and what your title is and something about your work that connects with your two colleagues.

Michelle - 00:05:27:

Sure. So, I'm Michelle Harris, Director of Marketing and Engagement. Like Sarah, I've been in marketing, though, for a long, long time, got my undergrad in that, and also spent a lot of time in the community banking world as well as retail. But I just love marketing in general. I love the creative side. And then I love the analytical side that goes along with it. Started here about four and a half years ago, going on five soon. And I just love the idea of education, because we're really providing a great service to the community for our future leaders. And I just think that concept is just so near and dear to my heart. It is kind of similar as far as marketing a bank, because they're both very service related. So kind of bringing that experience into this realm was exciting for me. Unfortunately, I'm not from the area, like my colleagues here, but we just do love the area, brought us a little bit closer to a little bit of family that we have down in the South. And on the engagement side of things, part of my role here is really to engage with our students and see how we can help support their needs inside and outside the classroom as well as the community. We're looking at the sponsorships we do and how we serve the members of our community beyond just the educational side, but really fitting their needs, whether it's short-term or longer term degree seeking, really what that looks like. And I'm just excited to be part of a lot of different meetings and committees that work on those types of things so we can help spread the message. And the Living Well Program, The Wellness Program is really what brought the three of us together even closer. And like them, I'm very glad that we have this opportunity to share it with you guys today.

Becky - 00:07:04:

Yeah, it's wonderful to see sort of the cross-disciplinary focus. The other observation is that you all have played very meaningful roles externally. And that's what I've known from the many bankers in my life that I've worked with. Many people that I've come in contact with really have that sense of community, whether it's the community college or it's an organization like the United Way or banks or all of those things. You're aspiring to really uplift others. And I think, Michelle, you did a great sort of segue into the wellness program. But I'd like to go to Susanna for a second. As our sort of social worker in the group, how do you define wellness, in terms of the work that you do or maybe give us sort of a working definition of what that means?

Susannah - 00:07:52:

Yeah, that is a fantastic question because it's very broad. I feel like language is important, right, in all we do. Using words meaningfully. So I guess for me, I think a lot about really core values in social work and my educational background, and that's meeting someone where they are, that's very deep. Those few words, I think really play a lot into what we do here at the college because our population here is very diverse. The students who walk through our doors are all different ages, all different ethnicities, we have diversity in that, and that continues to grow, which is wonderful. But then also just different socioeconomic status, just a lot of diversity with not only where they've come from, but where they are now, and then what their goals are, like Michelle said. Some folks come to us and they need something very short term to kind of meet an immediate goal. And then some folks want to come here and earn a two-year degree and then maybe go on for further education. So back to wellness, we want to think about that holistically, and we try to look at our students that way when we work with them. You know, whether that's their educational goals and we're trying to look at that holistically. Let's make a class schedule that makes sense for you and your life because we know that your classes aren't all that you have going on. You may have a family, you may have a job as well. But then also their physical health, their mental health, their emotional health. We want to try to look at them as a whole person. And so wellness encompasses that as a holistic approach. And then when we're meeting with someone or we're trying to help them work toward a goal or figure out how to navigate toward that goal, we're trying to think about it in a really holistic way. And so that really leads into our program too with Living Well and how we're trying to support each other as employees here, because we need to take care of ourselves too. And we also need that reminder a lot because we have a lot of ways that we try to meet our students where they are, and we know all the importance, and we tell them that all the time, but we have to hear it too, and we need to be reminded that we have to take care of ourselves, and so we're trying to really support that effort together and that we're all in it together as a collective. And that always helps with attaining goals.

Becky - 00:10:09:

Yeah, that's great. And that really connects, Sarah to your work in human resources because you're obviously recruiting to get the best possible team together at the college. But then when people get there and life happens and you have relationships and sometimes people get along great and sometimes they don't. And all of that probably comes into your door. So why don't you talk about a little bit the wellness of the team and the faculty and the staff and the employees? I've always thought, you know, if we do a good job taking care of ourselves, we're much better to those that we serve. But sometimes as people, we don't always do that and we put ourselves last. So why don't you speak a little bit in your role and some of the observations you can share with us related to that?

Sara - 00:10:57:

Sure. Yeah. And it's it's hard, right? Like this education is very much a helping, supportive profession. And we're all pouring into other people, whether that's students or our coworkers or our faculty, our staff. And we do have to make sure that we are fulfilling our proverbial cup, too. And that's really where a lot of this came into play. We started this program not right during the pandemic, but kind of right after it. And one of the core tenets of it was about taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and also connection with one another, reintroducing the importance of connection with one another. Because for safety reasons, as a society, that needed to sort of be put on pause, right? But that lack of connection, we all were really feeling. And so we wanted to introduce some components to that to get back in there for folks. And the importance of working with one another across functions and across departments is so powerful. And we've always enjoyed that here at Haywood Community College. But I think that's one of the tenants that we really introduced with this program. And one of the really great things is we bring in different challenges and different opportunities to get people from different departments together that might not typically, you know, socialize day in and day out, just because of the nature of work or the location of your work. And so that's been a really wonderful thing. And I think one of the things that if you were to ask any of our team members, what have you enjoyed most about living well? They'd say that first. And as an HR professional. I know that that connection with others is so critical and is so important for the work that's being done, but also the engagement and the feeling of satisfaction that we get when at work. I think those are some of the things that I would initially kind of say with regards to that component of HR and why we've been so thankful for this program and what it's brought to the college that way.

Becky - 00:13:13:

Yeah, that's so well said. And I was impressed by what I was learning about the engagements. I know that's right in your wheelhouse. Michelle is marketing, trying to drive behavior, and in this case, positive behavior. So tell us a little bit about Living Well and how the program is structured. And how it's offered up to your community in your college.

Michelle - 00:13:38:

Sure. So it's open to everybody, all the employees here at the college. And that's one of the benefits of it. And one of the things that we really strive for when we got this going out of the gate, because we want everybody to participate. But we also are very sensitive to the fact that there's time constraints. There's maybe physical restraints that people have. So for everything that we do with the program, we really look at that inclusivity piece, whether it's based on scheduling or, like I said, different varying goals. And I think the committee really has done a great job of bringing that to light, because I know I personally had some ideas that I'm sharing and someone else will chime in and say, well, what about this particular type of employee or person or goal-seeker? And it's like, oh, that's right. So really having that ability to have multiple people with different perspectives is great. And we really honed it in over the past couple of years, really looking at movement and nourishment and self-care, mental well-being, things like that. So, we can really touch a lot of what Susannah touched on earlier as far as wellness and what that means for everybody, because it can be a little bit different. And so with that being said, the program isn't you have to do all the things all the time. It's really take a look of what works for you. And then we've also grown it into including an area that we call bonus points, because we realize that there are some people out there that are already eating the right things, going to the gym four times a week, whatever that might be or doing the meditation. And so let's give them credit for that. Let's make that part of their program, because if they already have a great habit in place, we don't really want to knock that or break that from them, but have them look at what they could also grow on top of that if they're so inclined. So the program really is semester by semester. And we change it up every semester, add something new every semester to keep people on their toes, so to speak, but really try to be as inclusive with it as possible. And to what Sara said earlier, the feedback we received from employees has been just great. And not only has it been a great thing for our core values, but our culture in general. You can say things to people now like, oh, I got to go get my water. We need to do a walking meeting. Susannah and I have done those a couple of times, and it's okay. And that's the culture. So if you see someone out during your eight to four and they're on the trail walking, it's not a big deal. You're like, oh, they're either checking a box or just the fact that it's okay to take that break because of our whole mantra. So far, this call has been, you know, it's okay to take care of yourself because we are in those giving modes most of the day.

Becky - 00:16:18:

I love that. I love what you said about culture, you know, because as we all know, all of us, culture is the hardest thing to change. And it really, if we're doing our job, we're constantly working at it. And we sometimes don't succeed, you know, checking all the boxes, as you say. But if we are there for one another and uplifting other people, that it goes a long way. One of the things I also love about your program that ties to NACCE's mission of entrepreneurship is kind of the bird in hand assets piece and really the leveraging opportunity and maybe the investment of it. And so I don't know which of the three of you would like to speak to this, but I was really impressed by how much you have accomplished with a very modest budget. And I think it's important to point this out because whether you're a community college person listening or a nonprofit employee or even a bank employee, this could be something along this concept that you could sell to your institution to do. So I don't know who would like to speak to that. Sarah, perhaps or Michelle, if you want to talk to that.

Sara - 00:17:26:

I'm happy to get it started. And then I'm sure I'll forget. So y'all plan up sometimes. But when, when we started with this idea, we, we spoke with a good, good pal to the college who works over at our local hospital. She's a registered dietitian over there. And she was an incredibly helpful person as we were getting this program up and running. And she shared with us really the importance of having some prizes, right? We as people like prizes. And of course, then the conversation begins of where are we going to find the money for that? And as a college, we're fortunate to have a wonderful foundation that supports various, various efforts for our students, for our faculty and staff and their professional development endeavors. And then also, they recognize the importance of things just like this. And so we went to them and asked for a bit of money and it was granted kind of on a, we can do it this year basis. And so we got that and we really did stretch that quite well. We were very thrifty with our prizes. We wanted to keep things as local as possible and in our community as much as we could too. That was important to our entire committee. And so a lot of times we would just go to some small businesses and ask the question and say, like, we want to do this. Well, we're doing this program and we want to give your product as a prize. Can you help us out? Can you create something smaller or something branded for us, that kind of thing? I think one thing we've learned too through the years is like people want to help with this too, with these types of initiatives. And so we've been very fortunate there and just ask some questions and have been grateful for that support. And that's continued through for things like this past year, we were able to get some additional passes to the fitness center and some additional things there because they, again, want to help with this initiative and continue this momentum. And so I think we've had some good fortune there.

Michelle - 00:19:38:

And I like to say, too, that we've even had some employees step up who might have a side hobby or something like that. And they've offered, you know, hey, I can do 10 of these items for you guys just because I believe in the program and want to help support it as much as possible. And that kind of involvement has been great. Just seeing that, you know, they have an interest in it and want to help as much as they can. And one thing that we decided as co-chairs early on, and I'm glad we're sticking with this, is everybody gets something. And so we have stayed true to that since day one. And every year we do a sticker. You know, we have a few traditions in place, but, you know, like Sarah said, everyone likes something. So one year we ordered pens and then did some pads of paper in-house. And just something to recognize, hey, you did this. You went outside of your comfort zone maybe or outside of your daily tasks and really made a difference and hopefully it impacted their life. So in addition to really hopefully turning a corner in their life with a new habit or something they haven't tried before, but also that little good job, pat on the back, because sometimes we don't get that enough. And so the committee really strongly believes in doing that for everyone that participates.

Becky - 00:20:47:

Oh, I think that's so great. One of the other podcasts that we're sharing in January as part of our New Year's celebration kickoff is a conversation with a psychologist who works in the area of consumer behavior. And he talks about, we were talking earlier this morning about habits and the power of little habits. And I'm reminded of when we take our kids to the dentist and they can look in the treasure box and get a little sticker or something like that. Then it makes what's a scary, sometimes painful experience, something where you get a little bit of a treasure or a joy. A couple of other things I wanted to just make sure to emphasize for our audience and really give a shout out to all of you is your emphasis on belonging, that everybody can belong. We have colleagues in all of our professions that might have some disabilities, whether they're seen or unseen. So physical wellness may look different to them. And it's honoring that, that everybody has a role. And I think also, Sarah what you mentioned about asking, and it just reminded me a little bit of early in my career, I worked for the United Way System and a couple of local communities, and they would do research over time. And it kept coming back with the same answer. They would poll people and say, why didn't you give to the local United Way campaign? And people would say, because nobody asked me. If somebody would have asked me, I would have contributed. And then it sounds like with the success of your program, that people are so excited about it that they actually volunteer, maybe even when you don't ask them. So I think that's just a wonderful testament to the work that you're doing. And we certainly look forward to sharing this out with our podcast audience around the world, but also within our NACCE network. A lot of our communities struggle. We're very aware the average tenure of a community college president is only three years. So that's something that needs to change. And certainly you all get support from your president at the top which is a wonderful example. So this is another, you know, best practice that we can offer to maybe new presidents that are coming in. How do you want to connect with your various constituencies to make people feel like they do belong. So there's so much good to this. I just really want to celebrate the three of you. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for the ways that your enriching other people's lives. Then we can't wait to continue to see this program grow and perhaps spill over into other community college campuses and other workplaces.

Sara - 00:23:24:

Absolutely. Thank you so much. Thanks for letting us share and letting us share our story and what we've learned. And we're happy to help in any way. And just again, want to thank you for the opportunity and the platform.

Announcer - 00:23:38:

Thank you for joining us today. We hope that you will continue to explore the many ways to define entrepreneurship with NACCE as we celebrate opportunity, failing forward and success, learning from one another along the way. Subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform and follow @NACCE on social media and learn more about us at Stay tuned for a new episode each week. We look forward to making our way forward together with you.