Competition: Faculty Wanted to Help Promote Healthy Lifestyles Among Students

The “Faculty Challenge” is led by UCR’s Healthy Campus Initiative. Winners can earn points, $500, and possibly a dinner prepared by Provost Cindy Larive

UCR’s Healthy Campus Initiative is leading the Faculty Challenge, a friendly competition that encourages professors to promote a healthy lifestyle.

As a sociologist, Tanya Nieri knows that her students’ personal lives and experiences can have a profound impact on how successful they are class.

That’s why she stepped right up to the Faculty Challenge, led by UC Riverside’s Healthy Campus Initiative, known as HCI. Her primary focus is figuring out ways to support her students’ wellbeing. The prize, a $500 first place prize for her department and a dinner prepared by Provost Cindy Larive, would be the cherry on top, she said.

Through the Faculty Challenge competition, a contest where participants primarily focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle to their students, HCI has created a list of possible ways to earn points. Faculty members can tally up points by simply offering extra credit to students who participate in HCI events, adding a “drink more water, less sugary beverages” reminder on syllabi, or can also develop a new health-related course.

“I’m a sociologist, and as sociologist we look at context,” said Nieri, an associate professor at UC Riverside’s Department of Sociology. Nieri is one of the professors participating in this challenge. Before joining the competition, she had already made small adjustments to her syllabi, including adding a list of available student resources that offer physical, mental, and spiritual support. Addressing the whole student is a way of helping them succeed in college, she said.

Tanya Nieri, an associate professor at UC Riverside’s Department of Sociology. ucr

Basically, Nieri said, she’s adding up Faculty Challenge points for work she already does.

One primary goal behind HCI is to take an integrated and comprehensive approach at creating an environment where everyone has an opportunity to adopt a healthier lifestyle, said Julie Chobdee, Wellness Program coordinator and co-chair of the HCI. Ann M. Cheney, assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s Center for Healthy communities, co-chairs HCI with Chobdee.

“We really want our entire campus to remember that small changes have great impacts. And through the Faculty Challenge, we are asking faculty for their support and involvement. Many are already doing the kind of things that will grant them those extra points,” Chobdee said.

HCI was created in 2016 and is part of the UC systemwide Healthy Campus Network. UCR’s HCI currently operates with nine subcommittees, created in attempts to address issues raised in a 2016 campus health survey. The subcommittees are: built environment, physical activity, healthy eating/nutrition, mental health, preventative health, substance use and addiction, metrics/quality improvements, communications and marketing, and culture change.

Survey results highlighted the need to have greater involvement and participation by faculty. So Nieri joined the HCI advisory group and is now conducting research on how willing faculty members are to promote a healthy campus climate. She’s also advising two students who were among the 11 HCI project grant recipients announced in February. These grants are funded by the UC Office of the President. At UCR, the HCI is supported by campus leadership, including Ron T. Coley, vice chancellor of Business and Administrative Services, and Deborah Deas, the Mark and Pam Rubin dean of the School of Medicine.

“As a supervisor of any kind, it’s your job to look out for the wellbeing of your staff. As a professor, the same rule applies,” Nieri said. “I encourage my faculty colleagues to think of something as simple as how you weigh assignments, how can you manipulate them to reduce your students’ anxiety levels?”

How to participate:

  • All UCR Faculty, including adjunct professors, are eligible
  • Competition runs through April 30
  • Faculty members will complete various activities on the checklist or create their own activity to earn points.
  • Points can be earned more than once for the same activity.
  • At the end of the competition, the college/unit with the most points will earn $500 from the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost to use for the department. It will be up to the department chair to decide how the $500 will be spent for the winning unit.

Awards will be provided as follows:

  • Two awards for units within CHAAS
  • Two awards for units within CNAS
  • One award for BCOE
  • One award among SPP, SOM, GSOE, and SoBA
  • Top Winner Prize: A meal with and prepared by the EVC/Provost.
  • All participating faculty must complete the online checklist or hard copy tracker and submit to:, no later than May 15 to be eligible.
  • Winners will be notified by June 15

Website: HCI Faculty Challenge 

Contacts for questions: Julie Chobdee, or Ann Cheney,

Tanya Nieri, an associate professor at UCR’s Department of Sociology, reviews the syllabi her students receive. Each syllabus includes a list of resources available on and off campus. ucr

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