HealthierU, a new employee wellness program, is launching this fall with the creation of a website and hiring of Annalisa Mazza to serve as assistant director for employee wellness.
The position was created to provide wellness programs centered around the 10 dimensions of well-being for University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty and staff members.
Mazza, who began the role in June, brings a background in campus recreation and wellness to implement a variety of programs to benefit university employees.
Dubbed ‘HealthierU,’ the program will begin this fall with a Wellness and Community Resource Fair, well-being education and programming, a wellness webpage and blog. Mazza will also provide support to employees by connecting them to resources that will highlight the different dimensions of their well-being, whether that’s nutrition services, sustainability awareness, mindfulness workshops or the Employee Assistance Program.
“I really want to be a resource, kind of like a university employee Google,” Mazza said. “Advocating for and making employees aware of the resources they have on campus and the programs we offer is really important to me.”
Mazza is passionate about employee wellness because of the impact employees can have on campus culture as well as the large impact wellness programs could have on employees.
“I think it’s important that the people who are here day in and day out get some sunshine in regard to wellness,” she said. “Students are here on average for four or five years, while we have employees who have been here for 30 or 40 years. These programs will give them the opportunity to learn and try new things over a longer period of time which you don’t get to do with students.”
Two months into the role, Mazza wants employees to know that wellness programs don’t have to just focus on things like step competitions. They can include Zoom yoga sessions across campus, getting lunch with a familiar face, having a productive workday or anything that supports the 10 dimensions of well-being that have been adopted by university.
“I want to teach individuals on this campus how to view wellness in a way that works for them, versus I have to do X number of extra things just to be looked at as healthy,” she said. “Yes, going to the doctor and eating healthily and exercising are all really important elements of wellness, but you don’t have to be a D-1 star athlete to be considered healthy. You can make wellness a part of your daily life and find enjoyment in it. Wellness should be enjoyable, something you look forward to.”
The new role and its accompanying programs were identified as a need after hearing requests from university employees. The vice chancellor for student affairs and the vice chancellor for business and finance proposed this new position. It is housed within Campus Recreation.
“From Campus Recreation’s perspective, our goal is to enrich the educational experience by promoting lifelong healthy living which to us means having a positive impact on the university community,” said Amy Lanham, director of Campus Recreation. “So I appreciate having this position housed with us because it gives us a great connection with campus and a great way to promote our services. A lot of times companies will house this position in their human resources division, but I really look at Campus Recreation as being a service to the university community and a resource, so I think it fits nicely here.”
A major goal for the role and programs is to impact all departments across campus, which started with the search process. The process included individuals from the Chancellor’s Commission for the Status of Women, the Chancellor’s Commission for People of Color, the Chancellor’s Commission on Sexual Identities and Gender, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Campus Recreation, the College of Education and Human Sciences, faculty senate, employee benefits and more.
During the process, candidates were asked to present their ideas for employee wellness programs. Mazza’s presentation was a standout.
“It was Mazza’s approach to developing that programming for the community and her background that helped us select her for the position,” Lanham said. “I think she had a lot of familiarity with the resources on campus, and she made it clear that she would work to make this a very sustainable program starting out.”
Mazza is no stranger to the university. She first stepped foot on campus during the summer of 2019, when she worked as a youth programs intern for Campus Recreation to fulfill the requirements of her master’s program at Springfield College in Massachusetts. After completing her master’s degree in sport and recreation management, Mazza packed her bags and made the three-day road trip back to Nebraska, where she worked as a group fitness coordinator for two years before being appointed to her new role.
“In 2019, it was my first time being this far west, and I had a really great experience in Nebraska,” Mazza said. “So, when the opportunity popped back up in the spring of 2020 to be a group fitness coordinator here full-time, I jumped at it.”
Once on campus, Mazza became curious about employee wellness across the university’s campus.
“I was always interested in and curious about employee wellness on campus,” she said. “I hadn’t heard about it on a wide scale, just intra-department or within colleges. I enjoyed working with employees as a grad student and always thought that if I had the opportunity to be involved in some sort of employee wellness program, I’d take it.”
This won’t be Mazza’s first time implementing a wellness program.
After working with fitness and campus recreation in undergrad, she ran a wellness program with employees during her graduate program at Springfield College.
“That’s why I was pretty passionate about bringing a wellness program here is because I saw how much the employees there loved it and I think it will transition well here,” she said.
Of the employees who originally signed up for the challenge at Springfield, approximately 75% completed the wellness challenge, Mazza said. She also received positive feedback from employees she interacted with.
Mazza will translate that program into two five-week wellness programs, one which will begin in October and the second that will take place next spring. Most of all, Mazza looks forward to continuing to connect with the campus community and helping employees.
In addition to the wellness programs, Mazza is excited to announce the Wellness and Community Resource Fair that will be 8 to 11 a.m. Oct. 13 at the Coliseum. This fair is open to all university employees and will help connect employees with on-campus and local community resources.
“After the experiences that our university community has gone through these past few years, we’re really excited that this has become an initiative and priority on campus,” Mazza said.