125 Stanford Stories

NO. 44
Stanford Today


Staffers and their families stream out of Stanford Stadium to begin the Cardinal Walk, which was 1.25 miles in 2016 to mark Stanford's 125th birthday.
Stanford Recreation
Eric Stein, senior associate athletic director for fitness, wellness and recreation, and university provost John Etchemendy fired up the crowd.
Stanford Recreation
Nearly 2,000 Stanford employees and their families took part in the 2016 Cardinal Walk.
Stanford Recreation
Stanford's Cardinal at Work human-resources team took the opportunity to show their contributions to the university community.
Stanford Recreation
The Stanford Historical Society updated its cutout of Leland Jr. with Nerd Nation glasses.
Stanford Recreation
Work teams that designed shirts to show their spirit included Residential and Dining Enterprises, in green, and Financial Management Services, in yellow.
Stanford Recreation
The festive finish line invites BeWell walkers to further fitness opportunities.
Stanford Recreation
sarah jacobs
Stanford employee Sarah Jacobs gets into the Cardinal Walk spirit.
Sarah Jacobs

Cardinal Walk celebrates 125 years of pursuing wellness

Nearly two thousand Stanford staffers and family members joined together on a May lunch hour to walk their beautiful campus as part of the 10th annual Cardinal Walk, a free, family-friendly celebration of wellness and community.

The walk is just one facet of BeWell@Stanford, an employee wellness initiative that encourages Stanford’s more than 13,000 employees and their families to live healthier lives. BeWell serves as the point of entry to vast university resources that support well-being in all its forms: physical, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental. This year’s walk covered 1.25 miles to honor Stanford’s 125th birthday.

“Stanford has the best staff in the whole wide world, and that’s why we want to keep you healthy,” Provost John Etchemendy told the crowd that met inside Stanford Stadium for the event.

Indeed, BeWell builds on a Stanford tradition of wellness that goes back 125 years. From the university’s founding in 1891, its leaders have believed that physical activity is valuable for its own sake and that wellness complements the university’s mission.

“Grace and fitness have an educative power,” proclaimed founding president David Starr Jordan on the university’s opening day.

Jordan had an interesting way of encouraging participation in the staff vs. student baseball games that were organized to keep the community healthy: He liked to bat but not to run, and it seems that none of his pinch runners ever got tagged out.

Employee incentives have broadened since then, and so have the wellness offerings. Today’s Stanford employees partake of health and wellness amenities that the 19th century could only dream of, backed by world-class Stanford expertise in the health sciences. BeWell offers classes and programs in physical activity, eating better, practicing relaxation, managing one’s health and committing to one’s larger community. It offers cash incentives to Stanford employees who complete a health assessment and earn credits toward each of these five wellness goals. Participants can receive their biometrics and meet with an adviser/coach to develop a personal wellness plan.

All staffers can take classes in healthy living, behavior change and fitness through the Health Improvement Program of the Stanford School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center. Other classes are offered through Stanford Recreation and other university partners. Most are free or at a nominal cost. Hundreds of classes are offered, more than 30 each quarter in yoga alone.

Staffers can learn to dance, plan healthy meals, play recreational basketball, work a plot in a community garden, and improve their parenting or elder-care skills. They can plan a sustainable commute, study mindfulness stress-reduction and test themselves against one of the most impressive indoor rock-climbing walls at any university. All the recreational facilities on campus are free for employees to use.

Or they can simply walk, as throngs of staffers did on Cardinal Walk.  Some did so as BeWell Walkers, part of a 10-week online program, to gradually raise their physical activity.

Engagement is very high. More than 10,200 Stanford affiliates took their BeWell lifestyle assessment in 2015. Of these, 8,200 completed a wellness profile and 5,500 took the further step of engaging with a BeWell coach on at least one personal health goal, said Eric Stein, senior associate athletic director for fitness, wellness and recreation at Stanford.

“I like swag,” said BeWell participant Kathleen Tarr, a lecturer in the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Tarr’s sassy Cardinal Walk costume won her an audience spirit award at the event. “But I’d do BeWell anyway, because I like to be healthy,” she said.

For Stein, Stanford’s commitment to wellness exemplifies its mission to make a transformative impact in people’s lives.

It shows that “Stanford cares about their students, faculty and staff as humans and not just for the work that they complete as we work toward creating a vibrant culture of wellness,” he said.