Being an adolescent on a college campus is not easy; between being students, workers, and functioning young adults, we often neglect our wonderful, physical bodies that carry us through our hectic lives. The Department of Health Promotion and Wellness here at DePaul University is constantly working to make the lives of students safer and healthier, and Her Campus talked to the Director of the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, Shannon Suffoletto, about her job and how she and her coworkers manage to do so.
Hi, Shannon! We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us in the midst of your busy life as a woman and the Director of the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness here at DePaul. We would like to get to know a little more about you!
Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I received a BA in Psychology and Dance from Denison University in Granville, OH and an MA in Dance/Movement Therapy from Columbia College, Chicago.
What is your favorite past-time?
My favorite past-time is taking a dance class or rehearsing for a show with my friends. I also enjoy traveling with my husband.
I love the quote by St. Vincent, “Love is inventive to infinity.”
Describe your job as the Director of Health Promotion and Wellness here at DePaul.
I lead the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, which consists of three additional professional staff members (A Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention Specialist, an Alcohol and Drug Prevention Specialist and a Health Promotion Coordinator. We also have one Graduate Intern and six peer health educators called HEAT (Health Education Team)). The mission of the Office is to empower the DePaul community to embrace a healthy lifestyle, creating a culture of health and well-being that fosters personal and academic success. My job is to ensure that we are collaborating with university and community partners, and that we are providing holistic education, support, and resources for students to create and sustain long-term, healthy behaviors. Our office provides information and covers topics that range from nutrition, to physical fitness to mental health, to sexual health and relationship violence. While all health topics are important, special emphasis is placed on alcohol and substance abuse prevention and sexual and relationship violence prevention.
What sort of resources do you offer students to lead healthy lives?
We provide everything from pamphlets on various topics to educational workshops and presentations to one on one support for students. We connect students to resources both on and off campus, depending on what they need.
What is “Take Care, DePaul” and what are your views on it?
“Take Care DePaul” is a campaign that encourages all members of the DePaul community to “Take Care of Yourself, Take Care of Each Other, Take Care DePaul!” This campaign and message is aligned with the Vincentian mission of DePaul to honor and respect the human dignity of others. Ultimately, we want DePaul to be a community that works to create a safe and healthy campus by considering the choices we make in regards to our own well-being and the well-being of others. The “Take Care DePaul” campaign and message is one of the things I am most proud of working on here at DePaul.
In what way do you view women’s health and resource availability as a unique issue here at DePaul as well as in America?
Women everywhere have unique health and wellness issues, by the very nature of being a woman! I think we are very fortunate here at DePaul to be in the middle of Chicago where so many resources are available to women. Also, women can come to the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness if they are seeking support and resources and would like to start the connection on campus first.
You are a licensed clinical counselor as well as a dance and movement therapist. How do you incorporate these skills in your work here on campus?
Because of my dance/movement therapy training, I incorporate creative approaches to teaching health and wellness information. I focus on the connection between the mind and the body and how they affect each other. I work a lot with students on connecting to themselves and I often utilize the concepts of mindfulness in the work often.
Your work began primarily in the area of suicide prevention. Tell us how you transitioned to other areas of health and wellness as how this area of focus affects the way you approach your job.
My work in suicide prevention is where I learned the Public Health Approach. Learning more about public health and how it works helped me to transition into of the areas of health and wellness. However, I was trained as a dance/movement therapist and became a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, so mental health is always something that I will be passionate about. And of course, I will always be passionate specifically about suicide prevention because that is where I got my start in prevention and wellness work, and is a very important public health issue!
How much importance do you think adequate sex education has in the lives of college students?
Education about consent, sexual health and healthy relationships is key to students’ education. This is most effectively done through holistic conversations with students that address students’ values and beliefs.
It was just Sexual Assault Awareness Month. How do you raise awareness in the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness? How pertinent do you view the issue of sexual assault on college campuses in America? How can we as students change this?
It is very important to discuss sexual and relationship violence on college campuses. However, this is a topic that is important not just on college campuses, but everywhere. Teaching students about consent and healthy relationships is a good way to reduce sexual violence as well as to continue to create the culture of care and respect on campus (“Take Care DePaul”). It is important for students to know where to report an incident of sexual violence and that they are supported if they do report. It is important for friends to care for the student and help them get support if they want it.
If you ever have any questions regarding health and wellness, the resources are right here on campus with brilliant people who want to help you.