Western University of Health Sciences students, administration, faculty and staff, along with Pomona residents and Arts Colony tenants, turned out by the dozens on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 for the kickoff of WesternU’s Learning Enhancement & Academic Development’s (LEAD) Wellbeing Initiative. 

The kickoff was held at the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona, Calif., and took the form of an art show, featuring paintings, photos, sculpture and other artwork by WesternU students and staff, incorporated into the dA’s own “Making Connections” exhibit.

During the event, which included buffet hors d’oeuvres and a DJ, visitors could participate in a “Zen doodling” workshop, try their hand at drawing a still life, or work with clay in the dA’s second-floor work space.

WesternU artists included Jennifer Aceves, Sophia Alvarez, Joseph Driussi, Edwin Endo, Linda Frenza, Patricia Gomez, Lauren Heaton, Cindy Hines, Marina Kirkland, Christopher Michael Lim, Jeff Malet, Teresa McGowan, Elianne Perez, Michelle Plotzker, Jose Soza, and Edmundo C. Valdez.

The exhibit was about more than just the art on display, said LEAD Director Dagmar Cofer, MS, MAMS.

“It was really about the creativity that lives in all of us,” she said. “Our students are not professional artists. They are people with creative juices. We want our students to cultivate that, not neglect it.”

“This helps keep the connection between students and their artistic side, and also builds a connection between students, staff and faculty across our campus,” said Helen Musharbash, LEAD Wellbeing Initiative Coordinator.

The exhibit also connects WesternU to its surrounding community. The art will be displayed in the dA Center for the Arts until the end of August. Margaret Aichele, director of the dA Center for the Arts, said she hopes the exhibit is just the first of many collaborations between WesternU, the dA, and other members of the Pomona arts community.

The exhibit marked the opening of the LEAD Wellbeing Initiative, which has the goal of enriching WesternU’s present culture of humanistic education by cultivating the mind/body/emotional dimensions of all students so they may grow into self-aware, competent and compassionate health care professionals. The initiative was created by WesternU’s LEAD office, which provides academic counseling and coaching, tutoring, academic workshops and other support for WesternU students and employees.

The majority of students come to the LEAD office because of stress-related issues, Cofer said.

“Whatever the stress sources are, there is a sense of imbalance,” she said. “We want to bring a little more balance to campus. We want the flavor, character and personality of WesternU as one of humanistic education visible. We want to bring out the humanism to play.

“It has everything to do with how well our students do academically. Success comes only if you are a whole person,” Cofer added. “A student that feels well, does well.”

LEAD volunteers chalked hopscotch squares outside of campus buildings last week as an introductory Wellbeing activity. These play areas stayed up for a few hours at a time.

“We wanted to entice folks to notice these and play, even for one second, as they’re going into their building,” Cofer said. “We’re going to end with a ‘Hopscotch Day’ this week. We hope many will take the opportunity to play.”

The Wellbeing Initiative has received valued support from WesternU President Philip Pumerantz, PhD, and WesternU Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Beverly Guidry, EdD.

“The umbrella philosophy is mindfulness, awareness and attention in a relaxed and sustained way,” Cofer said. “All activities that follow have to do with that.”

The LEAD Wellbeing Initiative will bring smaller and larger events to WesternU’s Pomona and Lebanon, Oregon campuses that are strategically placed to remind students to smile, connect to others on campus, and be grateful for where they are.

“Students should keep an eye out for future activities,” Musharbash said. “Be mindful of your surroundings.”