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MIT Wellness Wizard Certificate promotes health and well-being

New program supports the Institute’s vision of educating the whole student.
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Two students on yoga mats kneel and stretch forward as far as they can, faces down and hands flat on the floor in front of them.
Two MIT students perform the child's pose in a yoga class.
Photo courtesy of Physical Education and Wellness.
Cartoon drawing of Tim the Beaver wearing a red wizard cape.
Tim The Beaver wears his wizard cape.
Image: Cristian Martinez-Herrera

Over the course of several years of research, surveys, and focus groups, MIT students and Physical Education and Wellness instructors and coaches in the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) worked on developing a fun and innovative way to promote student health and well-being at the Institute.

Now, MIT undergraduates can earn a Wellness Wizard Certificate when they complete three courses offered through Physical Education and Wellness. The certificate recognizes students who focus on their well-being, using new skills to improve their health, relationships, and their MIT experience.

“The Wellness Wizard Certificate is a great initiative that supports the chancellor’s and Division of Student Life’s larger vision of educating the whole student. The variety of courses that align with MIT’s well-being pillars — mind, body, relationships, and purpose — offers students critical learning opportunities to be better humans, and as a result, better learners,” says Jimmy Doan, associate dean who leads the Office of Student Wellbeing.

Certificate courses cover resiliency, meditation, stress management, nutrition, healthy relationships, financial health, and CPR/first aid. Two new courses, one on substance use and well-being (partnering with MIT Alcohol and Other Drug Services) and one focused on emotional intelligence, connectedness, and belonging (partnering with the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life) are also offered.

MIT sophomore Ashley Williams and first-years Jeremy Minniear and Cristine Chen are poised to soon become wellness wizards.

Minniear, from Temecula, California, plans to major in mechanical engineering with a minor in material science or sustainability. He found the resiliency, yoga, and meditation courses to be very helpful when winding down after a busy day of classes. “I played seven sports in high school and my shoulders and knees used to hurt. I feel a lot more relaxed now and am working with muscles that don't get much attention. I also sleep a lot better and that puts me in a positive mindset.” Once he achieves wellness wizard status, Minniear aims to achieve another uniquely MIT goal: earning the legendary Pirate Certificate.

Williams, who grew up in Jamaica and Florida, found the topics offered for the certificate interesting and signed up for the yoga and financial literacy classes. “As one of seven kids, I found the financial literacy class very informative. I want to know how to manage my money well, so I don’t put an additional burden on my parents and siblings. I enjoyed the class so much, I’ve recommended it to several friends,” says Williams.

Williams is majoring in electrical engineering and computer science and neuroscience, is president and choreographer of the MIT Muses a capella group, works in the Gabrieli Lab, and recently became president of the Society of Women Engineers. She found the yoga classes taught by Sarah Johnson relaxing and admits she came close to falling asleep on a few occasions. “Sarah is a great yoga instructor; she has a soothing voice and makes sure your poses are in the correct form. It’s a very relaxing atmosphere and very enjoyable,” she says.

Chen was scrolling through the physical education webpages for courses to earn MIT’s Pirate Certificate only to find the class she wanted was full. “I’m glad that the pirate courses were full because I came across the wellness wizard’s stress management course and enrolled. I enjoyed the class so much, I signed up for the yoga and meditation class offered during IAP. Yoga was very relaxing and has helped me when I have trouble sleeping,” she says.

Chen plans to major in computer science, economics, and data science. The Knoxville, Tennessee native has already joined the Undergraduate Association as a member of the Innovation Committee and is working on a project for the Banana Lounge that involves composting myriad banana peels. Chen is involved with her sorority and writes for the science section of The Tech.

“The wellness wizard incentive program, which was developed with student input, acknowledges students who value wellness and have fulfilled three of the four courses they need to complete the Physical Education and Wellness General Institute Requirement. We hope students share lessons learned with their friends and promote the courses as a great way to earn Physical Education and Wellness points,” says Carrie Sampson Moore, director of physical education and wellness and assistant professor.

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