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05 May 2020 | in FISU, FISU Healthy Campus

FISU's Ask a Healthy Campus Expert Series catches up with UCU Student Life Officer Mark Baldwin

 

With the expressed goal to improve the health and wellbeing of students on their university campus, the FISU Healthy Campus programme is just days away from its launch. Helping define the best practices for universities to benchmark and aspire to, FISU’s brought together 30 experts for programme collaboration and target setting. The Ask an Expert Healthy Campus series shines a spotlight on the individuals tasked with the lofty aim of improving the health and fitness opportunities for students around the world. 

 

MB SwissAlpsToday we get the inside scoop on the pressures — and best practices to cope with them — by Mark Baldwin, the Student Life Officer from University College Utrecht in Utrecht, Holland. Working directly with university students, Mark is a key player on the FISU Healthy Campus Standard label’s international expert panel. 

 

An accomplished high-altitude mountaineer and black belt instructor in Nam Pai Chuan Kung Fu, Mark also brings a love of kinetic movement to his mentoring work on the university campus in Utrecht, Holland. 

 

University Student Life Officer, this sounds like a pretty cool job. But what does it exactly mean? 

 

Good question! It has to do with most of the non-academic sides of university life. I’m a counsellor. I’m a conversation partner. I’m a critic. I’m a mentor. I’m an advisor. I go into conversation with students about anything that they are experiencing negatively or positively, as a great struggle or joy in their academic life. 

 

Taking all these roles, this sounds like quite the encompassing job. The Dean of Student Affairs has nothing on this job description!

 

Yes, I oversee a comprehensive and overarching function, which I love. 

 

As you’re working with university students on the campus, what do you see as some of the biggest challenges they are facing today?

 

Life the rest of society they are busy with the big questions, of course. They are busy with issues on the environment, inequality, radicalisation. But in a more local sense, it’s a great big balancing act. They are balancing their academic ambitions, their health, their future, their thoughts, and their social life. It’s a great big balancing act for them. 

MB NorthernItalyHaving discovered mountaineering during his college years, Mark Baldwin traverses in the high altitude air of the northern Italian Alps.

Today with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they now have this considerable monkey wrench thrown into this tightrope balancing act. From social distancing to remote learning, we are genuinely in a public health care scare. How are you helping college students deal with this?

 

ucu campus college hallWe’re really focusing on online remote counselling to connect with the students. We’re trying to get them the most up-to-date information and resources to help them carry on their learning, to help them connect, to be a little bit of fun and be creative. 

 

We still need to connect with others. We need to use this time to make something of this. 

 

How are the students handling this? 

 

We’re finding students are very well adapted to change. For many, they grew up this way. It’s in their DNA, and they can make the adaptations quite well. For others, this has been a much harder challenge. 

 

In general, students are spending so much time in front of their screens, and with online classes and everything else, they are having a hard time regulating that. Right now, I think they’re missing physical variety in their day. 

ucu commencements dec18Graduation day at University College Utrecht

What social and emotional impacts are students dealing with not currently having the traditional classroom experience during the coronavirus lockdown?

 

Tremendous resourcefulness, that’s what I notice first. The amount of collective effort there is going into making things as good as they can be. Then it becomes a very individual story; there are no generalisations that really work. They have to muscle through it each day at a time. But I am noticing that they are mostly doing it together. 

 

To find out more about Mark’s work on the University College Utrecht campus to why he’s so optimistic for the FISU Healthy Campus being so successful in bringing together the global student health community watch the complete interview below!