You may recognize Miranda Massie from the numerous workshops she delivers for faculty and staff as UBC HR’s Health Promotions Coordinator, or as the co-chair of Thrive. Here, Miranda talks about how she supports wellbeing— both on campus and off—and what she sees as UBC’s greatest strengths and challenges as we work towards becoming a health promoting university.
What do you see as your role in advancing wellbeing at UBC?
Personally, my role is to support and promote both the individual health of staff and faculty, as well as the creation and maintenance of healthy workplaces on campus. There is a role-model element to my work that I take very seriously. I strive as best as possible to practice what I teach, with the knowledge and understanding that we are all doing the best we can.
As a unit, my team and I aim to support staff and faculty health through providing educational opportunities and by connecting people to the right resources (including benefits support, online tools, targeted communications, research collaborations and more). We also work very hard to support departments in embedding wellbeing programming and awareness within their workplaces. We do this through training programs, grant funding, collaborative initiatives and special events.
What excites you most about working to advance wellbeing on our campuses?
Health is something that can be quite personal and individual. I get excited when a colleague shares an ‘Aha’ moment they have experienced or tells me about something new that they have learned or achieved. I truly feel connected and successful in my work when I hear that someone has established a new fitness routine; had a diabetes screening and are now following up with a specialist; shifted their opinion about mental illness; implemented a teambuilding program; started an office social club etc.
On a larger scale, I have been on campus for long enough now to start to see the impact of the health promotion work that has been happening. There is definitely more awareness of the importance of wellbeing and its connection to things like engagement, sense of community, academic performance, and mental health. What was once perhaps considered “fluff” or a “nice to have”, is now gaining respect and recognition, particularly through a wide range of research to support evidence based programs and initiatives.
What challenges does UBC face in promoting wellbeing? What do you think UBC is doing really well?
Wellbeing promotion takes time. It is not ideal work for those seeking instant gratification and this can be a challenge. It can be difficult to feel that your work is having an impact, especially when it relates to large scale cultural shifts on a campus of this size. An additional challenge related to this is communication. It is very challenging to ensure that people are aware of the wealth of resources and programs that exist to support their wellbeing (both on and off campus). I often see our team as being a “wellbeing concierge service” that connects people to what they are looking for. Another challenge is being able to reach people where they are at. When it comes to wellbeing (both individual and institutional), people are at different stages in their growth and development and being able to adapt is a necessity.
What we do really well at UBC is educate. Wellbeing promoters on campus are really dedicated to lifelong learning and in establishing educational opportunities to raise health literacy within all of our communities. These teams are made up of caring and passionate individuals who truly believe that wellbeing is the foundation to both academic and professional success. UBC is also a place that puts a large emphasis on equity and social justice. When it comes to areas of our work like mental health we aim to reduce stigma on the path to creating safe, inclusive and respectful workplaces where people feel both seen and supported.
What are 1 or 2 things that UBC can do to really impact wellbeing for community members?
Have empathy: As individuals and communities, we can learn to have empathy for those around us. There is no reason why we can’t work, learn, research, play and exist together on this campus while also being kind, considerate and respectful of one another as humans. On a basic level, this is where wellbeing begins.
Be forward thinking: As an institution, we may need to re-think/re-design systems and structures that have existed and persisted for decades if they continue to perpetuate unhealthy behaviours. We need to be responsive to new research developments, as well as community feedback, in looking at the settings within which we work and learn.
What does a happy, healthy, sustainable campus community look like to you?
For me, a happy, healthy and sustainable campus is one where we can talk openly and respectfully about the challenges we are facing without fear of shame, stigma and discrimination. It is where our community members feel safe and supported enough to bring their whole selves to school and work and to ask for help when it is required. It is also a campus where the systems in place that guide and govern our academics and work are supportive of optimal health and wellbeing.
What do you do to support your own wellbeing?
I have started to focus a lot on my own self-care. This has been a challenge for me over the years as I can often put people and responsibilities ahead of my own health. I like to go to yoga, I like meeting up with friends for a drink on Fridays after work, I go to the gym (even when I don’t feel like it) because I know I will feel better in the end, I have a select few people that I vent to when necessary and I try to listen to my body.
If you could set a “wellbeing goal” for yourself (something you’ve been meaning to do to support your wellbeing but haven’t), what would it be?
I had a lot of success when I was practicing mindfulness regularly. I felt more in control of my emotions, I was more joyful and I felt more focused and productive at work. A wellbeing goal for me at the moment would be to try and go back to practicing mindfulness more consistently and regularly.
If you could give a high-five to anyone on campus for the work they are doing to support wellbeing, who would that be and why?
This list is so long! I work with a tremendous group of people on this campus who constantly have me in awe of their accomplishments.
If I had to pick just one at the moment, it would be Jenny Mackay in IT. Jenny worked with us to arrange Responding With Respect mental health training for all of the UBC IT managers. She also held rotating Self-Care Workshops for IT staff. I really commend her dedication to increasing overall mental health literacy and in building professional capacity within their management team. I also really liked the focus and encouragement around self-care, particularly for a group of staff who often work behind the scenes and are consistently working under pressure. High Five Jenny!
Do you have a wellbeing example or research project to share?