The successes of the four-year-old Vanderbilt Student Health & Wellness Association (VSHWA) were highlighted in a presentation delivered by VSHWA president Amy Sanders, Class of 2013, on January 6 at the 2012 American Association of Law Schools meeting in Washington, D.C.
Sanders’ presentation was part of a panel discussion on “Balance in Legal Education” moderated by Julie Sandine, Vanderbilt Law School’s assistant dean of student affairs. Sanders provided an overview of programs sponsored by VSHWA, a student organization established in 2008 by Meredith Blount, Class of 2009, with the aim of fostering a positive environment in order to increase student success in law school and beyond. VSHWA organizes timely panel discussions and programs throughout the academic year to promote stress management, mental wellness and physical health. “One important goal of VSHWA is to get students thinking about how their health and outlook affect their study habits and their academic performance,” Sanders said.
Blount founded VSHWA with the idea of drawing on the insights of second- and third-year students to help first-year students prepare, both mentally and physically, for the rigors of law school. One important mission, Sanders said, is to offer positive strategies for dealing with the stresses all first-year law students face. “Our goal is to boost resilience, a characteristic that enables us to thrive in the face of adversity and to successfully adapt to disruptions in our life balance,” Sanders said.
VSHWA works closely with the law school’s Office of Student Affairs, Career Services, the Vanderbilt Bar Association and the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program to offer programs throughout the year. Programs start in August during orientation week with a student panel offering tips for “Navigating the 1L Year” and include “Grades: Myths and Realities,” a panel discussion scheduled immediately after first-semester grades are released each year.
“Wellness and balance are critical to success in law school,” Sanders said. “VSHWA offers students some realistic strategies for developing healthy study habits and for maintaining a good school/life balance throughout law school.” In addition to educational panels addressing topics specific to law school, VSHWA promotes intramural sports teams and other recreational opportunities available on campus as well as educational programs focusing on such issues as substance abuse, eating disorders and other stress-related illnesses.