August 10, 2011
The president of Coker College Robert L. Wyatt wants students to not only earn a degree, but also get fit while doing it.
As reported by Inside Higher Ed, beginning this year all incoming freshmen will be required to take a "fitness assessment" as part of Coker College 101. In the assessment, students will receive their body mass index (BMI) score; do a one-mile run or walk; and see how many push-ups and sit-ups they can do.
Wyatt's plan to get students in shape comes on the heels of news that South Carolina moved up on the list of "Top Ten Fattest States" this year. In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Wyatt said he wanted to help address the issue by teaching Coker students, faculty and staff how to lead healthy lives. Furthermore, Wyatt himself has lost 100 pounds since his college days and said his own experiences helped shape his goal of getting students to think about their health.
"I was amazed by folks who knew my personal story of weight loss (and the struggles required to maintain it) and was reminded once again of how important it is to help all of our Coker community understand not only the importance of wellness but the tools and techniques that will help them to achieve this state of wellness," said Wyatt. "My past serves to remind me of the challenges students face when growing up in a culture that presents them with daily temptations and distractions that may lead to unhealthy choices."
In an effort to promote healthy living, Coker now guarantees students a nutritious plate option at every meal. All plates will include nutrition facts so that students can understand the big picture of healthy eating and make better choices. According to the college's website, dining halls will offer healthier options such as smoothies, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain breads and the best salad bar. Coker's Food Service Director Mary-Margaret Porter said the healthy options have been a big hit so far.
Additionally, the school is also offering more intramural sports and wellness programs under its COBRAFIT program, reported Inside Higher Ed. In a press release, Coker College Dean of Students Jason Umfress said that under the leadership of Brandon Fain, who was recently promoted to Director of Intramurals and Wellness, campus activities have increased by 167 percent and participation has gone up by 128 percent over last year.
Inside Higher Ed noted that administrators have been careful not to make students feel threatened or judged with the new fitness requirements. Intramural options such as inner tubing and yoga were created as these options are less competitive than basketball or flag football.
"We're sensitive to the fact that we do have students who have body image problems," said Umfress.
Faculty and staff can also get healthy by participating in "COBRAFIT Plus", which offers various clubs, fitness classes and intramural sports. Fain is also planning a "Biggest Loser" competition.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Health and Wellness," coker.edu
"Making Their Frosh Fit," insidehighered.com, August 10, 2011, Allie Grasgreen
"Wellness Programs Expand to Combat Unhealthy Trends," coker.edu, June 20, 2011