It began as a way to keep students engaged and to check in with them during the pandemic. The Utah State University Honors Program launched its Honors Cares series in fall 2021, aiming to build community and promote mental and physical wellbeing for students. Both national data and feedback from Honors students suggested a need for such positive programming.
“Honors is a community of students, faculty, alumni and staff who care about one another,” said Kristine Miller, Honors executive director. “The Honors Cares series structures and supports these connections with programming focused on mental health, wellbeing, and community-building.”
The series has featured several activities for students. An early innovation was weekly Laughter Practice, designed by Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice Executive Director Matthew Wappett to show students the health benefits of laughing together. Other activities included hiking, a campus-focused group scavenger hunt, a gratitude workshop and end-of-semester Thank-A-Thon, holiday tree decorating, a Brain Break during finals week (featuring yoga, therapy dogs, crafts, puzzles, laughter practice and snacks), and various service projects.
The series has been well received by students, who have expressed appreciation for the Honors Program’s focus on their mental health and wellbeing. Many felt that the Honors Cares programming helped them to deepen their college experience by interacting more frequently and meaningfully with other students. Others saw the activities as a way to relieve tension and replenish their mental energy. Still more appreciated getting to know their school and students in their program better and seeing that their peers share many of their own struggles and challenges.
Because of the positive impact and high level of student engagement with the series, Honors Cares will become part of ongoing Honors programming in the coming semesters. Future activities will include snowshoe hikes, ice skating, community service projects, an Honors Yoga PE course, and continuing laughter practice. Faculty and staff are working with the Honors Student Advisory Board to identify other potential areas of growth for the programming series.
The University Honors Program’s motto, “Sapere Aude” — or “Dare to Know,” comes from the poet Horace and challenges students, faculty, alumni and staff to be curious and to share their ideas with others. The Honors Caresseries embraces that challenge with curiosity about the wellbeing of our community and ideas for connecting and assisting those members.
Students can stop by the Honors Cares bulletin board outside the Honors office in the Living and Learning Community (Building A) on the Logan campus for information about many forms of institutional support available to them. This information includes honors resources, as well as points of contact for emotional, financial, social, spiritual, occupational, physical, intellectual and environmental resources.
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