It’s official. SUNY Cortland is one of a handful of higher education institutions nationwide to fulfill all the requirements for recognition as one of the healthiest campuses in the United States.
Partnership for a Healthier America, a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging healthy eating, exercising and other behaviors, notified Cortland that the university had successfully completed its three-year commitment to implement a daunting list of initiatives.
Cortland will be formally recognized for the accomplishment this spring, at the Partnership’s annual summit meeting in Chicago. Only 32 colleges nationwide have earned that honor. In the 64-campus State University of New York system, besides Cortland only Binghamton University has achieved it.
“We deeply appreciate this acknowledgement,” SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum said. “It demonstrates on paper what we already knew in our hearts, that SUNY Cortland offers an encouraging environment for active lifestyles, good nutrition and healthy choices.”
The campus will celebrate its success from noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, in the Student Life Center lobby during its annual Wellness Day health screening. Students can earn a free water bottle and a chance for a 30-minute massage just by participating in assessment activities at various health stations. The idea is to make members of the SUNY Cortland community more aware of their personal fitness and health.
Students, faculty and staff also are encouraged to post photos of themselves engaging in healthy activities on social media, using #HealthyCampus in the caption. The other healthy Partnership for a Healthier Campus schools are doing it, and it would be good to show them what Red Dragon Strong really means.
To earn the designation, SUNY Cortland signed a three-year commitment to implement and document initiatives in 23 different areas ranging from healthy nutritional options to academic offerings. A faculty and staff committee led by Cortland health educator, Lauren Scagnelli ’12, M '14, ushered the process to completion last spring.
“The committee worked hard to complete new initiatives and refresh what was already being done here at Cortland,” Scagnelli said. “We all take pride that we have completed the requirements and, more importantly, that we continue to assist students in all areas of health and wellness.”
Partnership for a Healthier America, an offshoot of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to fight child obesity, began focusing on college campuses because it is a time of profound change for young people when lifetime habits are formed.
Research shows that overweight and obesity rates increase by more than 15 percent for first-year college students. According to a study published in 2014 in the journal Preventive Medicine, 95 percent fail to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and more than 60 percent report not getting enough physical activity.
In general, SUNY Cortland — which educates future coaches, physical therapists, medical professionals, physical education teachers, biologists, fitness instructors and health educators — has bucked the trend. In addition to 23 varsity sport teams, Cortland offers 36 club sports, dozens of intramural activities, a very active outing club and a wide variety of fitness programs. Every day, nearly a third of the student population uses the Student Life Center to lift weights, run on the elevated track, play basketball or engage in activities such as yoga and meditation, group exercise classes, swimming or another fitness or recreational activity.
In addition, the university offers a wide range of nutritious dining options through its Auxiliary Services Corporation, and a variety of activities aimed at raising awareness about healthy eating. Nutrition initiatives include an increased emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and vegetarian entrees in the dining halls, as well as the creation of a healthy catering menu.