Director of Health Promotion and Wellness Services
Division of Student Affairs
Eric Smith, a native of Maryland, serves as the director of Health Promotion and Wellness Services. He holds degrees in education and history from Salisbury University and a master's degree in higher education and student affairs administration from Ball State University. Prior to working at Auburn University, Smith served in a variety of roles at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he became involved in health education, prevention and cultivating a healthy campus environment. Smith joined Auburn's Division of Student Affairs in 2010. When he's not in the office, Smith enjoys spending time with his wife Gina and his two sons, Andy and Sam, running, biking and racing in Ironman Triathlons.
1. What do you consider to be the most important issues when it comes to the health of Auburn students?
Being a healthy and well-balanced college student can be tough and even a little complex. For Auburn University students, a few of the major issues include stress, fitness, nutrition, decisions around substances and forming healthy relationships. I think one of the hardest health and wellness concepts for our students to grasp is balance. It can be really challenging for students to balance classes, a social life, out-of-class activities and being away from home for the first time. This is only further complicated by the reality that many students are forming an identity while experiencing a variety of life changes. This lack of balance can cause issues for students in a variety of other ways that might impact their personal and academic success. Another thing that we find is that, in some instances, students simply do not have the right information to make good, healthy decisions.
2. How is Health Promotion and Wellness Services addressing those issues?
Our programs and services encompass two main themes - we provide information and resources to help educate students and promote health, and we partner with other offices to create the healthiest campus and community environment for our students. In my mind, health and wellness comes down to having the best possible health-related information and being in a place where choosing healthy options is a little easier. In addition to older programs like Safe Harbor, StepUp and our alcohol and drug intervention programs, some of our new programs for the fall include #BeWellRadio, a tweet-in talk radio show on WEGL 91.1. The show is about relevant health and wellness topics, and we play some great music too. It airs Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and you can find out more by following @AuburnHealth. This fall we are also launching a new learning community for health and wellness, entering into new community partnerships and providing great outreach about risky choices.
3. What changes does the new smoking policy bring to campus?
August 16 kicks off the new smoking policy. This policy creates a 25-foot clean air buffer around campus buildings. Currently, smoking is only prohibited inside buildings. This buffer zone will move secondhand smoke further away from doorways, windows and air intakes.
4. How do you think the new smoking policy will positively affect campus?
Establishing this 25-foot buffer creates a healthier and cleaner atmosphere for the campus community. Our hope is the change will significantly reduce the number of Auburn students, staff and faculty exposed to secondhand smoke. Additionally, this change may provide incentive for individuals to stop smoking. The Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy and the Auburn Medical Clinic provide smoking cessation resources to those individuals who are interested in quitting.
5. You are an Ironman triathlete. What can you tell us about that?
Well to start, Ironman Triathlon is awesome! I love training for and racing all types of triathlons, but Ironman is special because of the distance (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run) and everything it takes to get to the starting line. It is simply an achievement to come out of training to the race venue in good spirits and not injured.
Triathlon has taught me more about balance, living and perseverance. I almost had to pull out of my first Ironman due to the passing of my father, but right before he passed away he told me to, "get out of this hospital and get training..." I totally couldn't back out at that point. I did the race, but wow, was it hard. The following year we raced 11 endurance events in honor of my old man to raise money for skin cancer research and treatment. These days training and racing have to be balanced around a full time job, family life including two young boys, and earning my Ph.D. in education at Auburn University. There is really nothing like the rush you get when you cross the finish line after 10 hours of swimming, biking and running - it's actually really hard to put into words, but it's an incredible feeling.