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Business North - Around The Region - Duluth & Superior Newspaper
UWS to launch health and wellness degree
The University of Wisconsin-Superior plans a spring 2012 launch for a new Health and Wellness Management degree through its online Distance Learning program. Through the program, students will learn how to recognize, implement and facilitate health and wellness programs that promote well-being for employees.
For Peter Nordgren, Ph.D., interim associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and outreach, the major is in sync with a national trend of healthy initiatives and awareness.
“(The program will) move away from treating the issues, treating the symptoms, treating the problems that occurred toward maintaining the lifestyle to prevent those kinds of issues happening therefore giving us better lives and hopefully saving money in the process.”
According to Nordgren, alternative ways of viewing the health management field opens the door to new and creative careers.
“In creating this major we’re recognizing that society is changing, has gone through a change in the way it looks at this,” he said.
The major is designed to allow students with associate degrees or students who’ve already completed credit to finish their bachelor’s degree. It requires 21 courses, or 63 credits, to finish the degree.
However, traditional students are not the only ones who may find this major attractive. William Simpson, an associate professor in the Health and Human Performance department, believes there are draws for companies to send existing employees for additional training.
“Now we’re at the point where there are people in various departments, or maybe in a position where they have some college credit, and the company is interested in or already has a program established and they need someone to manage it,” he said.
Simpson, who will be teaching some of the required courses, believes that companies have bought into health and wellness management programs due to their effectiveness at lowering insurance costs, decreasing sick time, and improving morale of employees. Sending these students back to school would be an investment in creating a healthy lifestyle environment for employees.
Following graduation, students “can come prepared to their company to take the reins of the program and hire the people that need to run the wellness programs and various pieces of it,” he said.
The courses for the major will familiarize students with management as well as health trends. However it won’t delve into actual care techniques.
“The person that is going to take this degree on and get the job is not necessarily the person that will be doing the bits and pieces,” said Simpson. “They’re going to need to know the global picture of what the concepts are in the program, what people do, and who they need to be.”
Students will take courses such as health and medical terminology, statistics, stress management, and leadership - all designed to train students to collect data, analyze, and recognize the company’s problem areas.
Simpson gives the example: If a student goes to work and determines from an analysis the company would improve if a registered dietitian were hired for the cafeteria, “They would know whom they need to hire, and they could oversee that. Because they were given the tools to recognize where the problems are.”
The major is open to all, but Simpson believes a majority of students will come from human resource and nursing backgrounds.
“Both of those backgrounds would have some expertise in parts of the major, now it’s blending of that so they understand cross-discipline and cross-training,” he said.
The new program partners UW-Superior with University of Wisconsin system schools at Stevens Point, River Falls, and La Crosse. Each campus has expertise in major-specific areas, such as community and health promotion, physical education, exercise science, nutrition, and stress management.
“It’s a win-win because of strength in numbers,” said Simpson, “We all have our strengths, histories, and traditions. Putting them together is a logical thing to do. One campus alone could not do this, and it had to be a collaborative effort. “
The collaboration among the four schools is a relatively new concept to the upper-Midwest. The first collaborative major, Sustainable Management, won the 2010 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence and was the model for the Health and Wellness Management program.
“We don’t have a way of doing things across campus boundaries, but leadership in the division of Continuing Education Outreach and Learning at University of Wisconsin Extension saw the opportunity to bring academic programs together across campuses to meet substantial needs where the individual campuses could contribute,” said Nordgren.
Students can choose any of the four schools to be their “parent” institution, but professors from all participating institutions will teach courses. The collaboration will allow students to only pay a flat rate of $375 per credit, with no segregated fees or distance learning fees.
Simpson believes that prospective students will see the allure that online flexibility will give students.
“When life comes in the way at home, if they have another child, or work is going to be busier that particular semester, they don’t have to fit the model, as long as they are progressing in the sequence of courses,” he said.
Interest in the major has already been high. According to Nordgren, interest, opportunity, and timing prompted the UW-System to get this major on the ground.
By virtue of the University of Wisconsin system saying health and wellness is an emerging trend, he said, the field deserves its own major.
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