Thriving Together Series: George Mason University’s Student Health Advisory Board

Thriving Together Student Health

By: Students serving on Mason’s Student Health Advisory Board – Taylor Thomas, Blythe Dellinger, Jannaty Hossain, Wania Ayub, Shams Al Jassar, Indigo Kellum, Vanessa Alvarez, Ruth Fassil, Petra Honainy, Douha Kalouda, Fatimah Nour, Morgan Stolarik, Narges Ahmadi, Hadi Khanji, Maharun Mia, Iris Lai, Alonzo Sanchez, Nuha Anwar, Tohfe Beidas, Clarissa Montes, Mariam Sanad, Muhammad Zaryyab Sardar, Taylor Watson, and Maryam Zafar

“The single problem plaguing all students in all schools everywhere is the crisis of disconnection. Meaningful student involvement happens when the roles of students are actively re-aligned from being the passive recipients of schools to becoming active partners throughout the educational process.” – Adam Fletcher

What is the Student Health Advisory Board (SHAB)?

Mason’s Student Health Advisory Board (SHAB) is an entirely student-run organization that acts as a bridge between the student body and the health and well-being offices on campus. Its mission is to ensure that our university provides for the health and wellness of Mason’s students. To do this, the SHAB serves as a liaison between Mason students and the administrators of the various student wellness offices on campus to ensure that students are made aware of the health services provided by our university and that Mason is aware of the services most needed by students. The SHAB cooperates with, and receives institutional and financial support from, Student Health Services (SHS), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC), and Disability Services (DS).

What Does the SHAB Do?

In years past, SHAB has hosted various events to promote resources students may not be aware are available to them. Got Health, SHAB’s largest project, is an event on the SUB 1 lawn where SHAB invites both on-campus and off-campus partners to showcase the ways in which their services can also enhance student well-being. Throughout the year, SHAB also hosts several kiosk events in the Johnson Center.

Serving a university population means that all SHAB programs are tailored for the specific needs of college students. It is a well-known fact that college students are prone to giving up sleep in favor of studying, despite research indicating that better sleeping habits improve grades. One example of how SHAB may tackle this issue is our Sleep Campaign, in which we promote healthy sleeping habits during final exam season by giving out eye masks and lavender.

SHAB had to learn how to carry out our mission in an online environment earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. After a brief hiatus, SHAB returned to functioning in fall 2020 with renewed vigor to promote the new pandemic resources. One of the first major events SHAB hosted during the pandemic was handing out COVID care packages including sanitizing alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues, simple quarantine recipe cards, and informational flyers about on-campus resources. During February 2021 SHAB invited Psychology department associate professor Dr. Sarah Fischer, Nutrition and Food Studies department Dr. Lilian de Jonge associate professor, and Mason’s former registered dietician Veronica Hayes to speak on a live Zoom panel during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The event was also recorded and converted into episodes which we posted on our social media. SHAB also regularly participates on various campus-wide events. For example, SHAB hosted a table at Mason’s Health and Fitness Expo and managed promotion on social media accounts.

Why is Student Involvement in Health Planning Important?

Integrating the student perspective into higher education policymaking is not a new concept. However, there is a huge difference between student input and student involvement. One of the greatest barriers that students have noted when it comes to having their voices heard is that their concerns fall onto deaf ears.

SHAB was established in 2017 by a dedicated group of students who witnessed the positive impacts that direct student involvement with on-campus healthcare had at other universities. Studies have shown that when students are involved in developing health-promoting policies, they gain increased skills, competency, and knowledge of health and relevant resources. Since its founding, SHAB has aimed to accomplish this on Mason’s campus by implementing various initiatives to advocate for students’ needs.

In addition to independent initiatives, SHAB meets with Mason offices such as Student Health Services, Student Support and Advocacy Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Disability Services, and the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being to discuss our joint goals, such as the yearly Community Needs Assessment SHAB conducts to gauge student’s understanding and awareness of the campus health and well-being offices. Mason offices then use the results for future program planning.

How Can You Learn about Mason’s Health and Well-Being Resources?

Be proactive! Mason has an array of resources designed to keep you healthy and foster your overall well-being. Don’t wait to do your research until you need to use those resources. Check out the websites below to gain a better understanding of the resources Mason students have at their disposal:

For more specific questions or to share a concern, please email shab@gmu.edu. For current announcements, follow our Instagram (@gmu_shab), Facebook (@gmu_shab), and Twitter (@gmushab). Applications to join the board are currently open and will be accepted on a rolling basis; the link can be found on our Instagram.

Additional Resources

 Learn more about the importance of college student health from the American College Health Association.

Discover more about student health in “Student Mental Health Status Report: Struggles, Stressors and Supports” from Inside Higher Ed.com.

Write one of these Thriving Together Series features! We’re looking for contributions on all topics related to well-being. Read other Thriving Together Series articles here and contact us at cwb@gmu.edu for guidelines. Thank you for helping our Mason community thrive together online!