UCSB Named One of Healthiest US Colleges


Katelyn Stefani

Students biking fiercely to class, joggers running along the beach to Campus Point, workout buffs swiping their cards at the Rec Cen, athletes heading to and from practice: all are sights commonly observed at University of California Santa Barbara on a daily basis, and reminders that UCSB is a very active campus full of energy and ambition in all areas of health and fitness. This enthusiasm is not overlooked, as shown in a recent article posted by the website www.greatist.com. Out of 25 colleges that were ranked, UCSB was listed as number 15 on the website’s Top 25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S. list.

“This is an exciting time for college campuses, particularly UC Santa Barbara,” Rec Cen Director Jon Spaventa said.

UCSB students, faculty and staff maintain the value of health and fitness on a regular basis. According to Spaventa, access cards are swiped into the Rec Cen about 1 million times during one academic year. There are also a number of students that participate in intramural sports during each quarter- about 4,500 in the fall, 3,500 in the winter and 4,500 in the spring.

UCSB Intramural Coordinator Marcus McMullen oversees all activity in the intramural sports department and commends the school for its attention to health and fitness.

“We have a great program for students here at UCSB and even offer alternative adventure programs, such as rock climbing, for recreating in a different way, adding to the quality of life and wellness,” McMullen said. “The record shows that once these students begin playing, they play until the end of their last quarter attending UCSB.”

Students in all majors and disciplines participate in promoting healthy lifestyles on campus and in the community. There are a number of philanthropic and student-sponsored events each year that embody the importance of health and wellness, such as soccer and dodgeball events that donate the money back into the community.

“Students have 100 percent say in all programs supported by and used by the students,” McMullen said. “These events are part of the greater cause on campus and in the community and is all funded by the students.”

The promotion of health goes beyond exercise. Health and wellness is incorporated into all aspects of life for students at UCSB, including the dining commons. Ortega Dining Commons, for example, provides students with fresh and healthy meals with a full salad bar and alternative options during each meal. There are organic, vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options for students, and multiple choices of fruits, vegetables and milk present at every meal. The recently released NetNutrition application on the Dining Commons website also allows students to see the nutritional facts of everything served in the commons, so it is easier to regulate how much an individual eats per meal. Additionally, as noted in the online ranking, Student Health “includes dental, dermatology, and vision care- a trifecta that’s notably absent at most schools’ health centers.”

Even if students do not belong on a strict sport team or are involved in intramural activities, there are unlimited ways to be active on and around campus. The Rec Cen sponsors multiple leisure activities, including tumbling, yoga, fencing, ballroom and dance classes. Additionally, the UCSB campus and Isla Vista offer endless opportunities to informally exercise. Iliana Avila, a first-year undeclared student, enjoys running about two to three times per week either to the Goleta Beach pier and back, or along the beach of IV.

“It’s a great way to start your day, especially because you have such beautiful scenery next to you along the ocean,” Avila said. “It helps de-stress and makes you feel good when you have the self-will and motivation to get up and exercise when you’re not on an actual team.”

The bike-friendly nature of UCSB’s campus also encourages exercise, as noted by the thousands of students that use the bike paths on a daily basis. The Associated Students Bike Shop confirmed the amount of bikers there are on campus with the great amount of repairs they do per day.

“In a typical day, we have about 25-30 flats to repair, that remains constant over the entire quarter,” AS Bike Shop Manager Mike Rogers said. “That is the main repair we experience daily.”

Judging by the number of ways that health and exercise is promoted, it is no surprise that UCSB received recognition as one of the nation’s Healthiest College Campuses. As noted by Rec Cen Director Spaventa, the school has served as an example to others over the years and will continue to in forthcoming years.

“Historically, we’ve had a very active campus, and within the last 10 to15 years there has been an increase in promoting health and wellness,” he said. “It’s taken quite a long time for college campuses to embrace the importance of health and to balance lifelong wellness.”