Published: Aug. 18, 2023

CU Boulder on Thursday became one of the first 20 U.S. universities to sign onto the Okanagan Charter, elevating the campus’s priority of embedding health and wellness into all aspects of university life.

The Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges is an aspirational document that serves as a guide to colleges and universities, using their unique positions and roles in research, teaching and service to their communities, to be leaders for the world in developing and modeling health-promoting strategies in their campus settings. 

Patrick O’Rourke and Jessica Doty overlook Chancellor Phil DiStefano signing the Okanagan Charter

Patrick O’Rourke, Chancellor Phil DiStefano and Jessica Doty pose with the signed Okanagan Charter

Chancellor Phil DiStefano signs the Okanagan Charter along with Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke (left) and Associate Vice Chancellor for Health and Wellness Jessica Doty (right). Photos by Casey Cass/CU Boulder.

Chancellor Phil DiStefano, Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Health and Wellness Jessica Doty signed on for CU Boulder during a ceremony at the University Memorial Center. 

“Health and wellness are vital to the success of our students, faculty and staff, and everyone on campus plays a role in enhancing the well-being of our community,” DiStefano said. “Signing onto the Okanagan Charter highlights the innovative ways in which CU Boulder is already leading in this space, and it also creates a shared language and common framework for how we infuse health and well-being across campus.”

CU Boulder joins fellow Association of American University members Michigan, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine as Okanagan Charter signatories. Developed as an outcome of the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges, the charter makes two calls to action for higher education institutions:

  • Embed health into all aspects of campus culture, including administration, operations, teaching and research
  • Lead health promotion action and collaboration locally and globally

In signing on to the charter, Doty said CU Boulder has pledged to meet those calls to action by committing to and tying together three key themes that campus leaders have already identified as priorities: diversity, equity and inclusion; climate and sustainability; and creating a culture of well-being. The campus also will form a collaborative, cross-functional group representing students, staff and faculty to envision how CU Boulder continues developing its commitment to well-being.

The charter signing follows a reorganization in July 2022 that saw CU Boulder shift Health and Wellness Services (HWS) from Student Affairs to Strategic Resources and Support in an effort to take a more holistic approach to campus well-being. The move brought together under one unit the primary departments that provide health and wellness services on campus and elevated the voice of HWS leadership in campus decision-making. 

Since that time, HWS has continued to augment services for students, faculty and staff, including the addition of Academic LiveCare telehealth support, the launch of a peer wellness coaching program and continued enhancements around mental health and substance abuse services.

In April, O’Rourke promoted Doty to associate vice chancellor for health and wellness services after she’d served in the role in an interim capacity since the reorganization.

“The Okanagan Charter connects the health and wellness priorities and programs together,” Doty said. “It demonstrates our clear commitment to comprehensive health and well-being as an institutional value. It builds upon the important work already being done on our campus, and it creates a path for integrating the various dimensions of wellness across disciplines and functions of the campus.”