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In good health: UWG nationally recognized as Campus of the Year for commitment to wellness

Dr. Brendan Kelly, president of the University of West Georgia, recently spoke at a press conference announcing UWG’s recognition of Campus of the Year by Butler University’s Institute for Well-being.

The word is out. Wellness isn’t just a buzzword at the University of West Georgia – it’s woven into the very fabric of the institution’s DNA. In recognition of this commitment, UWG was recently named Campus of the Year by Butler University’s Institute for Well-being, a pioneering center dedicated to enhancing holistic support for health.

“The kaleidoscope of integrative wellness initiatives we advance at the University of West Georgia – From addressing the basic needs of our students to providing timely mental health support for members of our community – is second to none in our nation,” said Dr. Brendan Kelly, UWG president. “Excellence is marked by achievement, and this is a truly remarkable accomplishment for our institution and the constellation of students and professionals whose daily work centers around how we can all feel better about our lives in a variety of dimensions. I am grateful for the foundations laid and connections made that led us to earn this national distinction.”

Through efforts spearheaded by Bridgette Stewart, UWG’s chief wellness officer (CWO), the university has pioneered a comprehensive wellness program that addresses diverse needs and promotes a culture of holistic well-being on campus and in the greater community.

Stewart said the award showcases not only the work she does as one of only five higher education CWOs in the nation but also the dedication of countless offices and departments across the university to fostering a sense of belonging, connectedness and wellness – and the work is just getting started.

“Wellness is not something that stays stagnant; there’s always more to continue to build upon for our students, employees and community,” she explained. “The well-being of students is the foundation of their success. When students are not emotionally, mentally or physically well, it has a huge impact on their ability to maintain academic success. The work that’s being done throughout campus by so many in the wellness space is really what maintains them for the duration of their academic careers.”

Embedded in the university’s strategic plan, holistic wellness is an institution-wide commitment. Initiatives in place to carry out this pledge include:

But the efforts don’t end with the physical body. There are mental health resources as well, such as UWG’s collaboration with Sharpen Minds via the Center for Integrative Wellness, and even assistance through the Center for Economic Education and Financial Literacy, where students are empowered to manage their personal finances responsibly.

“Having the ability to cross over and have those dimensions work among different departments and not have them siloed out is truly how wellness is supposed to function,” Stewart emphasized. “It’s not something where the physical sits here and the mental sits here – all of these areas should be coming together. When someone talks about physical wellness, they should always talk about the other elements and how they’re impactful.”

Stewart closed with a word of gratitude and hope for the future.

“There are so many people on campus responsible for this recognition, including senior leadership,” she concluded. “I just happen to be the person who gets to sit in the middle and bring all the individuals to the table. As we elevate in other areas, such as Division I athletics, we’ll continue to elevate our work in the wellness space as well.”

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Originally from East Tennessee, Julie Lineback joined the University of West Georgia in August 2006. Her career started in 2000, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Communications from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While serving as a communications specialist at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, she received an Award of Quality from the Public Relations Society of America, the world’s largest public relations organization, for her work on a catalog. She also worked as a website editor, copywriter and search engine specialist for BellSouth, where she was a certified Google AdWords Professional. Most recently, she received the UWG School of Communication, Film, and Media's Distinguished Service Award for 2023.