Cultivating Culture Brings Campus Community Together

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More than 175 EWU staff and faculty members attending a forum on “cultivating campus culture” on Tuesday got a lesson in how wellness and self-care can help strengthen our overall university community.  

President Shari McMahan greeted attendees and introduced workshop facilitator, Tiffany Wentz, a mental health professional with extensive expertise in coaching wellness, resilience and organizational culture. Wentz provided a framework for dealing with the stressors affecting personal and campus morale in EWU’s post-pandemic, downsized environment. 

Wentz’s approach to improving culture at Eastern, where her own son attends classes, begins with each faculty and staff member connecting with personal values, exercising self-care and being accountable for how we treat others.

“I believe culture starts with values,” said Wentz, who added that making progress in the journey toward a healthy, collaborative campus culture first involves acknowledging where we are right now. 

The workshop, held in the Walter and Myrtle Powers Reading Room inside Hargreaves Hall, gave members of the Eastern community a rare chance to meet face-to-face and share coffee and camaraderie.

Participants at each table worked through a set of exercises examining communication styles, ideal work environments and other topics. Coworkers discussed the impact of stress and the differences between how they felt when doing well – having the energy to visit friends and go on outings – versus how they felt when overly stressed and needing to take better care of themselves. (As it turns out, there were more than a few who shared that stress overload triggers sleepless nights and a pattern of hunkering down at home.)

At the end of the day, it was obvious that we as a community share more commonalities than differences – and that we care deeply about doing a good job for our students.

Wentz, who said she has “a history of doing hard things,” shared her own story. While serving as a U.S. Marine, she once walked 50 miles on a fractured foot during a training exercise. 

That attitude of doing anything and everything to accomplish tough things while neglecting her overall wellbeing later took its toll as she experienced a major health scare. Wentz’s story provided a compassionate backdrop to the sense of overload that was shared by some attendees at the workshop.

As a degreed mental health professional, Wentz went on to serve as director of a failing medical clinic – helping the staff and care providers transition from a toxic culture of infighting and low morale to a collaborative, supportive environment that now provides excellent care for patients. She then applied those strategies to a second troubled clinic.

The larger lesson is that if individual faculty and staff members at EWU take good care of themselves, they will be able to do the “hard things” on behalf of our students and community.

Wentz recommended that each individual attending the workshop deploy a strategy of “rest, restoration and recovery” and set aside one hour a day to focus on self-care. “You need to do something you love every single day,” she said.

Click on the links below to access the PowerPoint presentation and workshop materials.

Supportive resources are available – including materials about addressing burnout – through Eastern’s Employee Assistance Program. For information about resources offered for October, click on Inside EWU.

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