Princeton launches UMatter health and well-being initiative
Princeton University has launched a comprehensive initiative called UMatter aimed at empowering students, faculty and staff to promote a healthier and safer community. UMatter unites health, well-being and safety efforts across campus, allowing the University community to easily find resources and learn skills to better care for themselves and others.
The initiative focuses on preventing and addressing health and safety issues common to college campuses: high-risk drinking (limits matter); interpersonal violence (respect matters); and mental health distress (connecting matters). Through its website, social media and educational programs, UMatter encourages students and others to:
- Be an effective bystander: feel empowered to get involved in a situation or take action before problems escalate in order to prevent harm.
- Make healthy choices: care for yourself so you can thrive at Princeton and beyond.
- Care for others: do your part to look out for others on campus and offer help and support.
- Take action: move beyond awareness of information, and use the skills available through UMatter to engage in healthy behaviors or prevent harmful situations.
"An expression of interest and concern from the right person at the right time can make all the difference," said Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun. "The UMatter initiative will help to equip each of us with the information and resources we need to make a difference and to make the Princeton community healthy and safe."
University Health Services Executive Director John Kolligian called UMatter "an expansive health promotion and harm reduction initiative" and said it should be valuable to everyone on campus, particularly students.
"We hope UMatter will build on other efforts to strengthen our campus safety net — that it will heighten student awareness of key health issues, support skill development to address these issues, and reduce stigma so more students and other community members are inclined to seek help when needed," Kolligian said. "The initiative is certainly aligned with our efforts to support learning and student success through proactively addressing health challenges and risks."
To learn more about UMatter, the campus community is invited to a launch party from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, at Campus Club. Students, faculty and staff also can visit the UMatter website for a range of tools or follow UMatter on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse, director of the Sexual Harassment/Assault, Advising, Resources and Education (SHARE) Office, said UMatter is significant in its University-wide approach that links and expands existing programs.
"UMatter provides a framework so people can see how a variety of critical issues, and the strategies to address them, are interconnected," said Deitch-Stackhouse, who served as project manager for the development of UMatter.
UMatter is focused on teaching skills — not just conveying information — that can be used in real-life situations. For example, through the UMatter website, students can get tips on how to express concern about a friend's drinking; learn how to effectively and safely intervene in a troubling situation; or listen to a meditation audio guide to relieve personal stress.
"UMatter provides practical tips that take into account the obstacles students face when trying to make healthy choices for themselves or help others in need," said UMatter Fellow Shayla Reid, a Class of 2015 graduate. "Since UMatter is all housed under one website, students can go there anytime, including when they need that information most. It's authentic and provides information that is accessible to everyone, regardless of how little they know about an issue or how willing they are to intervene in certain scenarios."
Kathy Wagner, health educator at University Health Services (UHS), said UMatter approaches health, well-being and safety issues from a positive standpoint.
"Rather than taking a 'just say no' approach, the skills provided are designed to support community members in making healthy choices that improve their lives and the lives of those around them," Wagner said.
The UMatter initiative was inspired by a similar health promotion campaign at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, though is tailored to the unique campus culture at Princeton.
A range of students, faculty and staff were involved in the development of UMatter. Students worked with UHS to help create UMatter's website and also drive UMatter's social media efforts.
"One thing that we tried to do was make sure students had input throughout the process," said Calvin Chin, director of counseling and psychological services at UHS. "We want UMatter to speak to students' concerns and provide information they are most hungry for."
UMatter Fellow Adam Cellon, a member of the Class of 2017, called UMatter "by the Princeton community and for the Princeton community."
"The information and resources that UMatter provides are specific to Princeton," Cellon said. "When you go to the website, you don't get something clinical or impersonal; you get honest information in everyday language."
Kolligian said partnerships with offices across campus also were essential to the development of UMatter.
"Ongoing collaborations with various University groups, such as the residential colleges, campus centers, Athletics, Department of Public Safety, the Graduate School, Office of the Provost and many others, will be fundamental to the success of UMatter," he said.