Promising Practices - UBelong: A Journey Towards Inclusive Wellbeing

Promising Practices - UBelong: A Journey Towards Inclusive Wellbeing

Recorded On: 06/05/2024

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Join the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Recreation and Wellness (RecWell) leadership team to learn about the development and outcomes of the UBelong Initiative. UBelong evolved  from a committee formed in response to national and local social injustices, tragedies, and conversations, to an embedded initiative creating a sense of wellbeing, community and belonging through collaborative partnerships and programs. Hear from RecWell leadership how challenging times and conditions spurred self-reflection, education, and intentional action. Dr. George Brown (AVP and Director), Lisa Stephenson (Associate Director for Programs + Wellness), Ben Kohler (Fitness / Wellness Director) and Olivia Wicker (Brand Strategy + Communications Director) will share their experiences and perspectives on creating conditions for students to bring their authentic selves into recreation and wellness spaces and forge the links between equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging (EDI-B) and the undeniable relationship to health and wellbeing.

Thanks to our event sponsor, University of Minnesota Recreation and Wellness.

As a result of attending the webinar, participants will:

1. Assimilate the development of the University of Minnesota RecWell UBelong Initiative and its direct links to EDI-B and health and wellbeing, including the policies, the systems and the environment within an organization that can support–or derail–these efforts and initiatives. 

2. Be able to apply intentional marketing and communication approaches, tactics, and messaging used to support this initiative, and the importance and impact of embedding this into the overall department brand. 

3. Discover examples of successful events and programs that result from collaborations with departments and student organizations; and learn how resources, such as funding, are identified and dedicated to these efforts.

4. Articulate how EDI, belonging, and a culture of wellbeing are integrated into department and divisional strategic priorities and plans, furthering the support of the UBelong initiatives and programming.

George Brown

Assistant Vice Provost and Director of University Recreation and Wellness

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

George Brown serves as an Assistant Vice Provost in the Office for Student Affairs and is on the Leadership team for the Division as well as Director of University Recreation and Wellness at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMTC).

He has served within Higher Education in Student Affairs and Collegiate Recreation and Wellness for 40 years. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration in 1982 from Trinity University and his Master of Arts in Health, Physical Education and Recreation in 1983 from Miami University. He completed his Ph.D. in Health Education and Health Promotion in 2010 from The University of Alabama. He has served in many leadership areas and presented on numerous occasions within NIRSA and is also a current and active member of the ACHA and NASPA.

His research interest is physical activity and holistic health and wellbeing among college students. At UMTC he oversees and directs a comprehensive University Recreation and Wellness department with 55 full and part-time staff in addition to over 650 student employees. University Recreation and Wellness at The University of Minnesota Twin Cities annually serves over 60% of the campus community and realizes nearly 1.2 million annual visits to recreational and wellness facilities.

Lisa Stephenson

Associate Director for Programs and Wellness

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Lisa Stephenson is the Associate Director for Programs and Wellness at University Recreation and Wellness at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMTC).

She has worked in the health and wellbeing industry for over 25 years, primarily in higher education and student affairs, where she’s contributed significantly to the conversation around mental health, belonging and overall wellbeing for students, and also staff and faculty. She has an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire,  and a Master’s degree from the University of Minnesota. Lisa has had active roles with NIRSA and the Association for Outdoor Education (AORE), presenting, serving on committees, leading workshops, and as conference host for both organizations. 

Lisa’s experience includes success in project and program planning, cultivating leadership capacity, building relationships, and creating the conditions for people to thrive. Lisa’s main goal is helping others discover purpose, belonging, and community through health and wellbeing. 

Ben Kohler

Fitness and Wellness Director

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Ben currently serves as the Fitness and Wellness Director at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. In his 9 years at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Ben has been responsible for overseeing the growth and development of the Group Fitness, Personal Training, and Massage Therapy programs. In addition to his role in Fitness, Ben has served as the chair of the UBelong committee, a department-wide initiative to create engagement with underserved/marginalized populations on campus that wouldn’t otherwise use RecWell due to real or perceived barriers. Ben has also served on committees and work groups focused on food and housing insecurity on campus.

Ben earned his master’s degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Behavioral Aspects of Physical Activity from the University of Minnesota in 2019. He has been certified in Group Fitness, Personal Training, and Health Coaching from and serves as a subject matter expert with the American Council on Exercise for the last 10 years. He has presented nationally and internationally on topics related to group fitness, exercise psychology, and fitness professional development. He is always seeking new challenges and goals for himself, as he looks to provide the best experience for the people that he works with and prepares the next round of fitness professionals in this awesome field. 

Olivia Wicker

Director of Brand and Creative Strategy

University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Olivia Wicker serves as the Director of Brand and Creative Strategy for University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, Recreation and Wellness (RecWell). She has been part of RecWell since 2015. As the lead of the marketing team she oversees RecWell’s communications, marketing and promotions, and creative work. In 2020 she began work on the “You Belong Here” marketing campaign, focusing on creating a sense of belonging, inclusiveness, and storytelling throughout RecWell and RecWell material. “You Belong Here” continues to be RecWell's central campaign. 

Olivia earned her B.S. in Kinesiology in 2015 from the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, and her M.A. in Graphic Design in 2020 from the College of Design at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. 


UBelong: A Journey Towards Inclusive Wellbeing Webinar Recording
Open to view video.
Open to view video.
Presentation Slides (PDF)
Open to download resource.
Open to download resource.