First Wake director of wellbeing named

On Sept. 3 the university named its first ever Director of Wellbeing. Malika Roman Isler (’99) will begin her term in the newly created position on Oct. 1.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Isler got her master’s in public health from the University of South Carolina and earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she currently serves as a faculty member and a research administrator.

The Director of Wellbeing position will focus on improving not only the physical health of students at Wake Forest, but student’s emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physic

al, social and spiritual wellbeing, which are the core pillars of the Thrive Initiative.

The Thrive Initiative is a comprehensive approach to wellbeing that launches at an on-campus event on Sept. 5.

The new Director of Wellbeing will work as part of Thrive Initiative and the position is endowed by a gift from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Last April, BCBSNC donated $3 million to help support campus wellbeing including supporting the transformation of Reynolds Gym into a new wellness center, providing Roman Isler is looking forward to returning to Wake Forest and working with the Thrive initiative.

“Wake Forest has been creating innovative approaches to allow students to unplug, engage and connect to a deeper meaning and purpose,” Roman Isler said.

“In my new role, I will build on those initiatives to help the entire campus community develop healthy habits and build a sense of resilience that will carry them forward through the ever-unfolding challenges of a rapidly changing world through the new Thrive approach.”

Roman Isler hopes that her position will make wellbeing more accessible to students and members of the campus community.

“While it’s a new approach to wellbeing for the university, wellbeing is not new to Wake Forest,” Roman Isler said. “I know this from my undergraduate experience and even my time at the medical school. What is new is having wellbeing centralized under one umbrella.”

Roman Isler will serve as the point person for all wellbeing programs on campus and her office will be housed in the newly renovated Sutton Center.

The groundbreaking for the new $45 million facility will occur Sept. 5 and the first half of the project, an addition of a new wing to Reynolds Gym, is expected to be completed in Fall 2015. The entire project is is expected to take approximately three years and will feature enhancements to Student Health Services, renovated basketball and volleyball courts, a juice bar, yoga and meditation spaces, a complete renovation of the pool and new fitness equipment.

Roman Isler’s background as a researcher and faculty member, as well as her time spent both as an undergraduate at the university and then as a collaborator at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine will help her advance the university’s efforts to promote wellbeing among the entire community.

Penny Rue, Vice President for Campus Life, also believes that Roman Isler will be a great asset to the university.

“Malika’s impressive track record will help to build on the University’s holistic approach to wellbeing; create new synergies among campus partners; and help students, faculty and staff develop healthy habits and build a sense of resilience that will carry them forward through the ever-unfolding challenges of a rapidly changing world,” Rue said in a press release.

Students appreciate the university’s focus on wellbeing. “Wake Forest is more that its professors and classes,” said senior James McCallen.

“I think it’s great that the university is going to focus on making sure everyone here feels like they are part of a community and that our overall wellbeing is just as valued as our performances in the class room.”

Hatch is looking forward to Roman Isler’s arrival on campus. “I could not be more enthusiastic about welcoming Malika to this new role, and I am confident in her ability to lead us all toward healthier and more balanced lives,” Hatch said.

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