A student visits with Susan Bruce and Chuck Van Vorst from the college's Office of Veteran and Military Education at the 2014 Student Wellness Retreat. Photo/Empire State College
The second annual SUNY Empire State College Student Wellness Retreat surpassed last year’s successful inaugural event. Smiles, greetings and good wishes for friends, colleagues and new acquaintances marked the April 10-12 event at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center, Albany.
Nearly 350 members of the college community, primarily students, with faculty, staff and some guests also participating, came together from throughout New York and took full advantage of the retreat.
Participating in more than 40 concurrent sessions, including health screenings and visits with health-related vendors, dancing to a live DJ, enjoying a standup comic’s routine and informally discussing topics and issues with other students and faculty were among the many options for students.
Migdalia Crego, at left, with her daughter Sandra Barkevich ’13 at the Student Wellness Retreat. Crego said the retreat was an opportunity to spend quality time with Barkevich. Both agreed the retreat was informative and relaxing. Photo/Empire State College
“Coming into the retreat I was feeling overwhelmed, but now, after dancing all night, I feel mentally refreshed,” said Sandra Barkevich ‘13, a 2014 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recipient, married mother of two, graduate student and returning participant. “I was worried whether I get enough calcium in my diet. The bone density check indicated I am very, very low risk, so I’m relieved. The ice pops were yummy and only 60 calories.”
“The health fair is an amazing, eye-opening experience, I learned so much,” said Barkevich’s mother, first-timer Migdalia Crego, who is studying community and human services. “The wellness retreat is a chance to connect with the college, to meet new people and make new friends. I’ve been embraced by my peers. Everyone is so welcoming and the vendors are knowledgeable and patient. The retreat also is a chance to do some bonding with Sandra and I feel the pride of a mom.”
Students actively participated in Irish dance class, Japanese Reiki, platies, yoga and Zumba, which were among the many presentations and sessions.
“I enjoyed yoga and Zumba. I would like to do that more often,” said Roxana Darnell, who studies business management and economics. “I suffer from insomnia. The yoga instructor recommended the lotus position before sleeping and humming. I slept much better, four hours without waking.”
Darnell added that she would also like to have yoga and isometrics available at the college’s offices.
Alan Thicke, best known and remembered as “America’s Dad” for his seven years as patriarch Jason Seaver on television’s hit “Growing Pains,” keynoted the 2014 Wellness Retreat. His talk, “Health Care and Health Careless: How Boomers Survived Their Own Behavior,” was very well received. Photo/Empire Filming
The highlight at the retreat was this year’s keynote speaker, Alan Thicke.
A seven-time Golden Globe and Emmy nominee, Thicke is best known and remembered as “America’s Dad” for his seven years as patriarch Jason Seaver on television’s hit “Growing Pains.”
He also is the author of two humor books, “How Men Have Babies: The Pregnant Father’s Survival Guide” and “How to Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate You.”
Thicke’s talk, “Health Care and Health Careless: How Boomers Survived Their Own Behavior,” also was well received.
Jamal Arabaty, who studies business, management and economics and is notable for his photography of student events, said he appreciated Thicke’s insights and experiences and that he could relate to him even though Thicke is among the most successful of celebrities. Arabaty looks forward to returning to next year’s retreat.
Ingrid Kirton and Angelina Garner attended the health fair during the 2014 Student Wellness Retreat. Garner, a student from New York City, said the health fair helped to reduce her stress. Photo/Empire State College
Sessions on the importance of diet and coping and reducing stress were expected, but other topics, such as how humor, visualization and poetry also can positively influence health were more surprising and greatly appreciated by students.
“Massage was my favorite part of the health fair, it helped to reduce stress,” said student Angelina Garner, who attended last year. “The DJ was really good and we had a dance or two. The food is good. I don’t want it to end and I’m looking forward to next year.”
Many other students commented on the high quality of the food at the retreat. “The wellness retreat has been delightful, with very good food, not overcooked,” said Darnell. “The vegetables were fresh and crisp, so the hotel helped with the wellness theme.”
Empire State College’s Andy Binder, standing at left with mic, is all smiles after giving Peter Livshin, a student from Syracuse, the raffle prize he won at the Student Wellness Retreat. Photo/Empire State College
“The wellness retreat was a chance to get out and mingle,” said first-time attendee Peter Livshin, who is studying business management and economics online and was one of several raffle winners on Saturday. “I became a chef right out of high school. After 13 years, I have achieved all my goals, so I am looking to change careers. Empire State College is convenient. I put in lots of hours as a chef, but I still can go to school.”
Livshin added that fact that the college is part of the SUNY system was a positive factor in his deciding to attend Empire State College.
Other sessions focused on how personality, emotions and personal habits can affect wellness and what students can do to best manage these factors to improve their overall health.
The events and activities of the now annual retreat are among the most important ways the college provides a rich liberal arts experience for students.
Promoting overall student wellness is a top goal of the college. Good overall health has a positive impact on academic success and research indicates that adult students stop out or drop out of higher education for a variety of reasons, but among the most significant are personal and family health issues.
The college’s Office of Student Services provides many health and wellness services, including an overall student wellness assistance program, designed to address the needs of adults as they manage their physical, mental and emotional health during their time at the college. The program features one-to-one counseling, as well as information and access to benefits. The also office supports “The Student Connection,” the college’s student-run online newsletter, and provides access to “Student Health 101,” an online periodical, and much more.
Save the date: Planning is already well underway for the 2015 retreat, which will be held Thursday through Saturday, April 16-18, at the Hilton Albany.