University of Central Arkansas

UCA announces recipients of 2022 UCA Wellness Champion Awards

Conway Institute of Music

CONWAY—The University of Central Arkansas kicked off its annual BeWell initiative by announcing the recipients of the 2022 UCA Wellness Champion Awards.

Employees Anjanette Kerr, Ashley Cooksey and Laura Gillis earned the classified staff member, non-classified staff and faculty member awards, respectively.

The three were presented the awards by UCA Employee Well-Being Program Manager Moriah Bruner and Health and Wellness Promotion Committee Chair Alicia Landry, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Family Sciences, before UCA faculty and staff during the annual BeWell Kickoff hosted virtually on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

This is the second year the university has given out this employee recognition focused on faculty and staff well-being.

The UCA Wellness Champion Award recognizes employees who have demonstrated a commitment to developing and promoting a culture of wellness at UCA. The university recognizes employee wellness in eight dimensions: physical, environmental, financial, occupational, social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual. Awards are given in each of the following categories: classified staff, non-classified staff and faculty.

“The most important asset we have at UCA is our people. Our campus is fortunate to have numerous faculty and staff members that work hard, often going above and beyond their normal job duties, to cultivate a supportive workplace health climate,” Bruner said. “Healthy and happy employees drive student success at UCA and these employee wellness champions play a vital role in both the employee and student experience.”

Through the employee well-being and health promotion program BeWell, more than 1,500 faculty and staff enjoy cost-free access to a comprehensive suite of health-promoting programming and resources to support all dimensions of work-life wellness. Using an evidence-based, interdisciplinary approach, BeWell seeks to partner with employees to reduce health risk factors and absenteeism, increase healthy behaviors and productivity and minimize health care costs for the university’s self-funded health plan.

Wellness Winners
UCA President Houston Davis (left) with 2022 UCA Wellness Champion awardees Anjanette Kerr, Ashley Cooksey and Laura Gillis and UCA Employee Well-Being Program Manager Moriah Bruner.

Kerr is an administrative specialist for the Student Support and Resource Center and formally for the Office of Accessibility Resources and Services. She received the classified staff award for dedicating a portion of every staff meeting agenda to sharing employee wellness program updates and answering questions about the program, inviting colleagues to participate in wellness challenges and activities together to provide social support and accountability, as well as routinely sharing information about campus wellness resources that are available for free to employees. She also routinely hosts open discussions about mental health and stress management, opening up the dialogue on this vital topic and helping to normalize conversations focused on employee mental well-being.

Cooksey is the director of the Technology Learning Center in the College of Education. She received the non-classified staff award for serving as the “cheerleader for better health” in the College of Education. She regularly emails colleagues reminders about BeWell to increase engagement. Most notably, her expertise in instructional technology led to the creation of numerous Employee Resource Groups on the virtual platform Google Spaces that have contributed to a stronger sense of community and belonging on campus. Cooksey founded and moderates the “Yoga and Mindfulness” Google Space for UCA employees.

Gillis is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing in the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences. She received the faculty award for her consistent efforts to help colleagues improve their overall well-being. She creates and implements wellness activities and challenges for her unit every semester. These include topics such as increasing movement, healthier eating habits and hydration. She also serves as a role model for positive lifestyle habits, including daily physical activity and prioritizing emotional wellness. This past year, Gillis observed that employees in her unit had nowhere to sit outside to enjoy a break. She took the initiative to reach out to the Physical Plant and had a picnic table installed outside the building, which is a perfect example of how a seemingly small idea can lead to significant culture change.

All three recipients also served as employee wellness program ambassadors for their respective units during the 2021-2022 BeWell program year.

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