Woodbury’s Healthy Living Program: A Conversation with Risa Williams

Risa Williams is an adjunct faculty member and the Healthy Living Program Counselor at Woodbury. We asked her a few questions about the university’s popular Healthy Living Program:


How did the Healthy Living Program get its start at Woodbury?

The Healthy Living Program (HLP) began as a way to provide students in our Sober College (a program that combines college classes and drug and alcohol treatment) with alcohol-free activities. At the same time, there seemed to be a need for more activities for the entire campus, so the idea of Healthy Living evolved to include everyone–students, staff and faculty. The administration of both Student Affairs and Academic Affairs were supportive, so I started to look for outside instructors to teach classes like improv comedy, yoga and dance, all on campus.

Since many of our students commute to campus, It can sometimes be tricky to come up with ways to engage students on campus. I find that arts and dance-related events invariably get people talking to each other while they’re having fun.

What is the goal of the programming and, specifically, what programs do you offer?

The goal is to provide a safe and encouraging place for the campus community to engage in healthy activities. We offer improv comedy, arts nights, movie nights, museum scavenger hunts, self-defense, game night, and classes in swing dance and salsa. I have a great team of student workers who help plan and implement events, and who also provide ideas on what will work best on campus. I’m always looking for fresh concepts for upcoming semesters as well as new student workers to join the team.

Participants in the Healthy Living Program improv comedy class

How have students responded to the programming?

Feedback from students, staff and faculty has been extremely positive. Not only are Healthy Living events and classes a great way to meet new people on campus, they have also enabled people to de-stress and stay balanced while juggling classes and work. It’s been fun to see students relax during yoga class, make each other laugh at improv comedy, and dance together at salsa. It’s also been refreshing to see staff and faculty showing up at events as well, since it gives students a different, more relaxed way to relate to them. Personally, I like when students tell me that activities forced them out of their comfort zones in a good way, because I believe trying new things helps us grow.

Any plans to offer new programs?

There’s been talk of adding HLP to the San Diego campus. And many students have requested a hip-hop class so we’ll try to get one started. If anyone from the Woodbury community has ideas for future events, feel free to stop by a current event and talk to me!

What more? Listen to an interview with Risa Williams on Studio 7500

Here’s what students and faculty/staff are saying about the Healthy Living Program:

“I remember coming to salsa dance night because I’d always wanted to learn how to dance but never had an idea where to start. The event provided that window of opportunity to start exploring, even though I thought I’d look silly, since I have no history of dancing. It was quite the opposite — I was in an environment where I was learning with others! It was wonderful and really felt like I wasn’t alone.” –Mohamed Hasan, Architecture student

“The Healthy Living Program has changed my view of Woodbury. I used to be so reserved but HLP helps me connect with like-minded students. It’s a way for students to enjoy themselves and the company of others while we all survive the school year together.” –Spencir Bridges, Animation student

“As a member of the Woodbury community, I’m very grateful for the Healthy Living Program. Events like these help us build a stronger sense of community. Out of all of them, my absolute favorite is yoga. Yoga classes are not just enjoyable, they offer immediate health benefits by helping us de-stress and strengthen our bodies. What Risa does is amazing.” – Galina Kraus, staff member

“Risa and her student-worker staff are filling up the school calendar with empowering events like yoga, improv comedy, games night and museum scavenger hunts. I’ve witnessed both students and faculty immensely enjoying these events, which affirms their significance.”  –Mike Sonsken, faculty member

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