In fall of 2015, before Emma Skelton was hired as a wellness center manager, she was in her final semester of the UW Health and Wellness Management bachleor’s program, balancing two jobs, family life, and a wellness-focused capstone project. She did it all successfully, earning her bachelor’s degree in December.
“Keeping everything on track was challenging, but in a good way. I knew I was pursuing something fulfilling, which made the balancing act worth it.”
The final course for all Health and Wellness Management students is the capstone, a semester-long project completed at a real workplace. The projects are tailored to students’ interests, ensuring that they gain experience that prepares them for their future careers. In addition to providing job experience, capstones can lead to employment opportunities after graduation. Many students say the capstone project is the most beneficial and enjoyable course in the degree program.
“There wasn’t a single part of the Health and Wellness Management program I didn’t like, but having the capstone experience in my pocket makes me feel more confident. It sets me apart from the crowd.”
For her capstone project, Emma worked closely with the YMCA’s executive director to develop a weight loss and weight maintenance program that ran during the holiday season. Emma hoped it would encourage healthy eating and exercising during months when most people take a hall pass on their health. By first surveying potential participants, Emma made sure the program catered to the needs of YMCA members. Using the results, she designed a program that rewarded healthy habits and measured weight loss and maintenance over six weeks—calling it “Maintain Don’t Gain.”
The program was a hit. It had an unexpectedly high turnout of 53 participants and was expanded to three other YMCAs. Emma credits her capstone success to what she learned in her UW courses, especially “Understanding and Effecting Health Behavior Change.” The course taught her how to create a program that helped participants to get to the root of their unhealthy behaviors and affect long-lasting change in their lives.
Emma was asked to stay on staff at the YMCA after completing her capstone and earning her degree. “Because I was hired after graduation, I was able to see the lasting effects my program had on the participants. They continued to lead healthier, happier lives, and it was really fulfilling to know I helped them get there.”
Recently, Emma accepted a new position as wellness center manager at Mercy Hospital Wellness Center in Moose Lake, Minn. Congrats, Emma!