New UTPA health education coordinator to focus on student wellness
Posted: 08/02/2004
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As one of the first steps in establishing an initiative to promote student health and wellness, the Office of Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services at The University of Texas-Pan American has authorized the hiring of a Health Education Coordinator III who will work out of Student Health Services.

Following the referendum approval for the establishment of a new $22 million Wellness-Recreation Center in April and with the projected growth of the University, the need for someone to coordinate current programs and facilities as well as research and develop new services became even more evident, said Rick Gray, director of Student Health Services.

"What we expect this person to do is to come aboard and do an assessment of what programs are already on campus, what the student needs are and what programs do we need to provide to the students. We want to know how we can coordinate all these activities so that the students have access and knowledge of what is available," he said.

He said this position will allow the University to be proactive in planning what needs to be done rather than reacting to issues or needs.

"We want to have a focused program for the students and provide the activities and programs to teach them life skills for a healthy lifestyle down the road," Gray said. Dennis McMillan, associate vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, said the plan is to fill this position immediately and begin program development in September.

"We are very excited about developing a program that has the potential to improve the long-term quality of life for our students," he said.

According to the official job description, the function of the education coordinator includes "organizing, developing, researching and/or implementing health programs aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles, improving consumer awareness regarding health care or reducing acute and chronic illness." This will entail "assessing the University's needs and then addressing them through the management, oversight, development, implementation, evaluation and/or research of health education and/or fitness programs."

Gray said there are several areas he would like to see the health coordinator pursue. One is implementation of a program like Baylor's HEWLA (Health, Education and Wellness Lifestyle Assessment) here at UTPA.

"HEWLA is a formalized program where a student can get an individualized fitness and lifestyle assessment and then the counselors and educators put together a program for that person utilizing campus facilities, activities and programs," Gray said.

Gray said many of the components - Health and Kinesiology facilities, University Program Board activities, intramural sports, dance fitness and the residential life program - already exist at the University to support a program like HEWLA, but they are scattered and need coordination.

Other items on Gray's suggested agenda for the coordinator are the revival of the Student Health Advisory Committee that has been dormant for a number of years; the initiation of a newsletter with health tips and activities; and the development of direct educational activities such as a routine lecture and presentation series on health topics just for students.

The health education coordinator will also be placed on a steering committee that is putting together the design and programming for the new Recreation-Wellness Center. The committee, chaired by Dr. Jerry Price, UTPA dean of students and composed of students, staff and faculty, is currently reviewing architects for the center.

Construction on the Wellness Center, which still requires legislative approval, should begin in summer/fall 2005 with an estimated completion date in 2007. The student-first facility to be managed by the Office of the Dean of Students will include 100,000-square-feet for fitness equipment, athletic facilities and also house Student Health Services. UTPA will charge students an additional fee of $75 per fall and spring semesters and $35 per summer semester.

For additional information on the position, contact Gray at 956/316-7100 or access the job posting from the UTPA Office of Human Resources at