Stefani Weeden-Smith, MPS
Gephardt Institute for Civic/Community Engagement
I first met Stefani when I took one of her workshops through the Brown School continuing education program in the summer of 2019. We chatted during the break about some University wellness initiatives, and she joined the Champion network soon thereafter. Stefani really stepped up to foster a culture of wellness within her department during the turbulent 2020: she’s led as team captain for challenges; shared her journey with yoga & meditation with her team; and her group started a Wellness Committee in order to set and implement specific wellness goals as an Institute.
What motivates you to volunteer as a Wellness Champion?
I’m motivated to volunteer as a Wellness Champion because I want to share with our team what has worked for me, in regards to finding that work-life balance. It has always been an important goal for me to find this balance and integrate wellness into my daily work. I find that I am more intentional when I can incorporate wellness in my day-to-day; my workday seems more rewarding, productive, and fun.
Are there any unique aspects of your department that make it particularly challenging or rewarding to be a Champion?
Being a Champion within the Gephardt Institute is unique because we sit at the center of civic and community engagement. This is an intersection where people may experience increased stress due to conversations around politics, community, social justice, and volunteer service. No matter your political ideology, the last presidential election brought some heightened emotions. When you add that on top of the global pandemic that is highlighting the inequities in our world, you find that in order to cope we need to think more deeply about how wellness can be incorporated. Our staff continually tries to find ways to bring wellness into the conversation on how you are engaging with the community and becoming an engaged citizen. We’ve used meditation techniques to help us cultivate an environment that fosters more centered dialogues across differences.
How has the pandemic impacted your department and role as a Champion?
Our department has benefited deeply from the University-wide wellness challenges. I believe that working together as a team to emphasize self-care in a tangible way is so helpful; this allows our team to remain deeply embedded in working towards a more inclusive and engaged democracy, while also thinking about how to effectively have mutually beneficial community partnerships.
Tell us about some steps you’ve taken to foster a culture of well-being in your department.
We’ve developed a small ad hoc Wellness Committee to think about ways in which the Gephardt team can continue to integrate wellness initiatives into our daily work and personal lives. We also recognize that the pandemic has brought another hurdle to our wellness goals, so we try to find big and small ways to address this.
Here’s a copy of our daily communications, Gephardt Today, that includes a daily wellness tip from our team. Mondays are for mindfulness, Tuesdays are for gratitude (Grati-Tues), Wednesdays are for wellness cues, Thursdays are inspirational quotes, and Fridays are Freedom Fridays with interesting articles or tips to guide you into your weekend. It’s been so helpful to have these daily reminders interwoven in our daily work duties.
Stefani, thank you for being such an integral part of our network and working to personalize wellness for your colleagues in the Gephardt Institute!
Become a Champion! If you’d like to learn more about the Wellness Connection Champion network and how to foster a culture of health and well-being in your department, check out our website: hr.wustl.edu/wellness-connection/champions/.