Portland State University (PSU) has a multi-layered approach to successfully promoting health and wellness to their unique student population. “We’re a commuter school where our average age population is higher than traditionally-aged universities,” says Taylor Schwab, the director of health promotion and education at PSU’s Center for Student Health & Counseling (SHAC). “[We] don’t have a lot of housing on campus because we are located in downtown Portland, so our students come from all over the place.”
Because of their far-flung student population, Portland State University has historically faced challenges with engagement. They tried using email campaigns to promote their wellness initiatives, but this resulted in a low open rate with few responses. Students simply weren’t engaging.
It was when PSU partnered with CampusWell that they were able to successfully fill the health promotion gap—at a time when they lacked the internal resources they needed for a well-rounded department. As PSU’s health promotion department grew, CampusWell remained an integral part of their wellness programming. When health promotion staff run workshops or otherwise speak with students, they go straight into the CampusWell portal, enter the term in the search bar, and show the students what content is available. “I know they’re going to get good quality information [that is] written in a way that’s going to resonate with students,” says Schwab.
The value of analytics for college health promotion efforts
When staff better understand their students’ needs, it allows them to point students to resources that can help. Having access to real-time analytics through CampusWell is a crucial part of PSU’s health promotion efforts, as it gives them a window into what topics their students are interested in—and where they’re struggling.
The most recent analytics confirm that PSU boasted an impressive 79 percent engagement rate for the 2021-2022 school year. This engagement rate, which included emails opened, articles viewed, and other key metrics, is important for several reasons.
The first is that when it comes to health promotion, it’s not always easy to quantify results. “When you do a workshop with a group of students or you’re doing health coaching or you’re really doing any kind of behavior change work with them, you talk to them, you give them your resources and then they usually go on their way and it’s like, well, who knows what happens?” says Schwab. When engagement can be measured and analyzed, it brings the efforts back full circle to reassure the department that they’re effectively reaching their students.
The second reason is that data like the engagement rate are what SHAC and Campus Rec (who co-finances CampusWell with the Health Promotion department) share with the upper administration. Analytics illustrate a quantifiable value that proves these departments are providing beneficial wellness resources that students are, in fact, accessing.
CampusWell fosters reliable partnership through its direct customer support
Beyond analytics, CampusWell builds relationships with client schools through customer support. “One of the reasons why we have chosen to continue with [CampusWell]—beyond just the click rate and the numbers—is that partnership element that makes it feel like we are seen, we are heard, and we know where we stand on things,” says Schwab. CampusWell partners with client schools to train students to create and publish custom content on behalf of the school, and have meetings about what schools are struggling with or would like to see. “It’s always been met with open arms and like, ‘yes, let’s talk about these things, let’s help you help your students,’” says Scwab. “It’s really comforting for us to know that.”
The tools Portland State University leverages to achieve their impressive engagement numbers
PSU credits their weekly student emails and student-created content—created inpartnership with CampusWell—for their impressive 79 percent engagement rate.
“We really love the weekly email outblast that comes through CampusWell,” says Schwab. The open rates and clickthrough rates for the CampusWell emails “are really, really high,” which shows that the students routinely engage with this type of content. “Every year we’re still surprised by it. And I don’t know why, because it’s pretty much consistently the same every year—even during the pandemic.”
PSU students and staff also love the fact that students can create their own custom content. This opportunity allows students to share their voices and represent their campus, while gaining experience in health promotion, conducting interviews, and writing. Having custom content also allows PSU’s students to see themselves in the content they consume. “We’ve got students with children, we’ve got older students who are coming back, we’ve got first generation students,” says Schwab. “We’ve got a little bit of everything, and so we love that feature [that allows] our students to write about what’s actually affecting them in their lives here on campus, here in Portland, here in our little world.”
How CampusWell became integral to Portland State University’s health promotion efforts
Between the PSU branding and options for custom content, CampusWell offers the look and feel of an internal health promotion program—without the enormous amount of time or resources it would take to create such a program from scratch.
“I think having that campus voice heard, seen, and felt throughout a student’s entire journey with CampusWell is what really resonates the most,” says Schwab. “It’s like, look, here’s this great service—we’re a part of it and integral to it, and you can hear and feel our voice, our campus, our students throughout it.” Before CampusWell, Portland State University struggled to reach students with their health promotion efforts. Now they boast a 79 percent engagement rate that proves the value of the program to the college, their staff, and most importantly, their students.
CampusWell is a versatile platform that helps make a multi-departmental wellness initiative simple, sustainable, and engaging. Using technology, high quality, research-based content, and proven marketing strategies, together with your existing assets, we deliver a campus-wide wellness platform that will positively impact your students and institution.
Taylor Schwab, MPH, CHES, director of health promotion & education, Center for Student Health & Counseling (SHAC), Portland State University, Portland, Oregon