News Article

MIT’s Wellness Wizard Certificate Promotes Health and Wellbeing

Two students doing the child's pose in yoga class

February 01, 2023

Have you ever dreamed of being a wizard?  Now’s your chance! 

Over the course of several years of research, surveys, and focus groups, MIT students and Physical Education and Wellness instructors and coaches in DAPER worked on developing a fun and innovative way to promote student health and wellbeing.

Now, MIT undergraduates can earn a Wellness Wizard Certificate when they complete three courses offered through Physical Education and Wellness. The certificate recognizes students who focus on their wellbeing, using new skills to improve their health, relationships, and their MIT experience. Along with a frameable certificate, Wellness Wizards also receive some special swag designed by MIT students.

“The Wellness Wizard Certificate is a great initiative that supports the Chancellor’s and Division of Student Life’s larger vision of educating the whole student. The variety of courses that align with MIT’s wellbeing pillars - mind, body, relationships, and purpose - offers students critical learning opportunities to be better humans, and as a result, better learners,” says Jimmy Doan, associate dean who leads the Office of Student Wellbeing.

Each wellness course is 50 minutes long. Half of the time is devoted to an instructor-led physical activity (either yoga or circuit training). The other half is a small group discussion around a wellness topic to develop new skills. The eleven sessions meet twice a week over the course of six weeks. The certificate courses cover resiliency, meditation, stress management, nutrition, healthy relationships, financial health, and CPR/First Aid, and two new courses recently added: one on substance use and wellbeing (partnering with MIT Alcohol & Other Drug Services) and one focused on emotional intelligence, connectedness, and belonging (partnering with the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life) are also offered.

Image of Tim the Beaver dressed in wizard cape. created by Cristian Martinez-Herrera, ’23

“Over the past three years, wellness courses had 2,382 enrollments with a 71% retention rate. The average yearly student satisfaction score across all wellness course sections tends to hover around 4.7/5 according to our quarterly student feedback survey, which is based on a 5-point Likert scale,” says Sarah Johnson, lead wellness instructor with Physical Education and Wellness, manager of the certificate, and co-lead of the Health Promotion Working Group.

Ashley Williams ’25, Jeremy Minniear ’26, and Cristine Chen ’26, are soon to poised to become wellness wizards.

Minniear, from Temecula, California, plans to major in mechanical engineering with a minor in material science or sustainability. He found the resiliency, yoga, and meditation courses to be very helpful when winding down after a busy day of classes. “I played seven sports in high school and my shoulders and knees used to hurt. Yoga gives me the opportunity to focus on fatigued parts of my body and I'm working with muscles that don't get much attention. I also sleep a lot better and that puts me in a positive mindset.” Once he achieves wellness wizard status, Minniear aims to achieve another uniquely MIT goal – earning the legendary Pirate Certificate.

Williams, who grew up in Jamaica and Florida, found the topics offered for the certificate interesting and signed up for the yoga and financial literacy classes. “As one of seven kids, I found the financial literacy class very informative. I want to know how to manage my money well, so I don’t put an additional burden on my parents and siblings. I enjoyed the class so much, I’ve recommended it to several friends,” says Williams.

Williams is majoring in EECS and neuroscience, is president and choreographer of the MIT Muses acapella group, works in the Gabrieli Lab, and recently became president of the Society of Women Engineers. She found the yoga classes taught by Sarah Johnson relaxing and admits she came close to falling asleep on a few occasions. “Sarah is a great yoga instructor; she has a soothing voice and makes sure your poses are in the correct form. It’s a very relaxing atmosphere and very enjoyable,” she says.

Chen was scrolling through the Physical Education webpages for courses to earn MIT’s Pirate Certificate only to find the class she wanted was full. “I’m glad that the Pirate courses were full because I came across the Wellness Wizard’s stress management course and enrolled. I enjoyed the class so much, I signed up for the yoga and meditation class offered during IAP. Yoga was very relaxing and has helped me when I have trouble sleeping,” she says.

Chen, a first-year student, plans to major in computer science, economics, and data science. The Knoxville, Tennessee native has already joined the Undergraduate Association as a member of the Innovation Committee and is working on a project for the Banana Lounge that involves composting a myriad of banana peels. Chen is involved with her sorority and writes for the science section of The Tech.

“The Wellness Wizard incentive program, which was developed with student input, acknowledges students who value wellness and have fulfilled three of the four courses they need to complete the Physical Education and Wellness General Institute Requirement. We hope students share lessons learned with their friends and promote the courses as a great way to earn Physical Education and Wellness points,” says Carrie Sampson Moore, director of physical education and wellness and assistant professor.

If you are interested in becoming a Wellness Wizard, please visit the website for more information.



--By Sarah Foote

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