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Patrcia G. Martinez, Elena M. Wong, Jeffrey Thies

Creating Organizational Cultures of Wellness Through Cura Personalis: A Pilot Study of the SKY Campus Happiness Wellness Program

We are well aware that COVID-19 exacerbated the mental health struggles of our young people. The statistics are astounding. The Mayo Clinic reports that during 2021, up to 44% of college students reported having symptoms of depression and anxiety. In “The Workplace is Killing People and Nobody Cares,” Jeff Pfeffer examines the massive health care toll that today’s work culture exacts on employees, which we also see in higher education. In the Jesuit charism of “cura personalis,” we find the opportunity to merge commitments to sustainability and discerning leadership, helping students create cultures of wellness, a vital dimension of both organizational and social sustainability. How can we discuss building organizational cultures of wellness if we do not practice this with our students and ourselves? In 2021, the Institute for Business Ethics and Sustainability at the College of Business Administration (CBA) at Loyola Marymount University sponsored a pilot research program and student wellness initiative, the SKY Campus Happiness Wellness Program. Our goal is to embody CBA’s commitment to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 3-"Good Health and Well-being," and our commitment to the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). Principle 7 states: “our own organizational practices should serve as example of the values and attitudes we convey to our students.” The wellness program consisted of a ten-hour SKY (Sudarshna Kriya Yoga) Happiness Retreat, facilitated by the Art of Living Foundation. It included the SKY breath work technique, the practice of yoga postures and discussion about social connection and service. Research studies report that institutions including Yale and Stanford have found this intervention to be effective for its students in improving mental health, mindfulness, positive affect and social connectedness. In this pilot we examined whether student participants have significantly better mental health outcomes at two post-intervention intervals (3 days and 60 days), as compared to a control group that did not receive the well being intervention. We employed a subset of scales from the ongoing work at Yale of Professor Emma Seppälä et al. Our sample consisted of 18 SKY training participants and a control group of approximately 40 students. Given the small sample, our current analysis focused on the qualitative data. We found that among training participants, 73.3% would recommend that the university provide students with this training. Respondents noted: “It really brought me a lot of mental clarity and tranquility.” “It's a really cool workshop and I'm happy that I have tools that I can use if I'm under stress and need them.” “Really helpful, helps clear the mind at moments when things can get difficult.” “It really brought me a lot of mental clarity and tranquility.” We will conclude with a brief summary of the next stage of this program, which will include implementing weekly SKY “Breath Breaks”, for students and faculty/staff, and collecting an additional survey measures regarding mental health, positive affect and social connectedness.