Healthy Hives is a campus-wide initiative addressing students’ well being through programs that focus on improving mental and physical health. For this upcoming Spring semester, a schedule of a wide variety of classes and workshops has been released, taking place in residence halls and facilities across campus.
Elisha Quillen Smith is the Assistant Director of Fitness at the Campus Recreation Center (CRC). Her experiences with health and fitness training before coming to Tech have given her the skill set to help with the development of student fitness programs such as Healthy Hives.
“I previously was a personal trainer and group fitness instructor and managed some small studios prior to coming to Georgia Tech, and then I started here part time as a fitness specialist and throughout the last 12 years have moved up into my position as the assistant director,” Smith said.
Prior to the Healthy Hives initiative, there was not a set schedule of consistent programs for students. Instead, Housing and Residence Life and the CRC would sporadically collaborate to organize select events
throughout the school year.
“Healthy Hives is a fairly new program in itself … probably about five or six years ago [I] started having conversations with the housing assistant directors about going over the calendar and working together,” Smith said on the program’s formation.
Smith explained that after research was put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 and 2020, the CRC began the development stage of putting together a calendar of events in early 2021. Starting in 2022, Leksi Simic, the Healthy Lifestyle Engagement Specialist was brought onto the staff to further develop that calendar and to assist in leading the events.
“Her responsibility is putting on Healthy Hives programs and developing that calendar, working with the housing team on what they want on that calendar and trying to bridge some of the gaps and fill some of the holes because the housing staff, RAs, have to come up with all of these ideas to present to the residents, and we can give them some help in that development since we have that background [with event planning], and the staff have the fitness background,” Smith said.
Although the Healthy Hives program focuses on physical activity and well-being through movement, it also has positive effects on mental and social health.
“All of our programs are supposed to be kind of a destresser, give you something to do, to form a community, to find the other peers that you want to interact with and hopefully find some friends and some people to take these courses with or do those activities with. We want to help build that community for our students,” Smith said.
The collaboration aspect between the CRC and Housing and Residence Life also allows for the Healthy Hives program to be more flexible and accessible to students who may live further from the CRC or have financial concerns about some of the other programs hosted by the CRC.
“If you’re living in the housing communities already, we already have a little bit of that base, so [we are] trying to pull you together. We know the activities are good to destress and they just give you another outlet by having those in multiple spaces … [it] makes it just easier and takes down some of those barriers of getting into those programs. Also, housing is covering the expense of those programs to bring them into the spaces, so there’s another barrier that is eliminated for some of our students,” Smith said.
As Healthy Hives is still in its first years of implementation, staff at the CRC look towards students for feedback and suggestions on how to grow and improve to better suit campus needs.
“We’re always trying to increase and find what activities the students want. The next big step in the Healthy Hives is the evaluation of what we’ve been doing and what the students want to see so there’s going to be a lot more in the next year. We’ve talked a lot with the administration and the staff that work in those areas but really now it is going to [focus on] what students want,” Smith said.
Another way that the CRC is looking to expand the program is by having a consistent schedule of events so more people can participate on a weekly basis and also by collaborating with other departments at the Institute to expand the types of programs that Healthy Hives runs.
“We are trying to do more recurring things so that students know what’s going to be happening at that day and that time at those spaces, so we are working on hiring more staff so that we can do more for this reason. We want to continue collaborating with other health and well-being areas on campus to expand further what we offer to students. Leksi already has programs scheduled with the dietitians from the Wellness Empowerment Center and GTPD [Georgia Tech Police Department],” Smith said.
The launch of Healthy Hives is part of the Institute’s effort to protect and support the well-being and health of their students on campus. Although it has been over six years in development, the evolution of Healthy Hives is just in its beginning.
More information on the Healthy Hives initiative and upcoming programs can be found here at housing.gatech.edu/resident-resources/healthy-hives.