By Betsy Simon
Mar 16, 2021
A student’s health is vital to their success at Indiana State University, and the student body has a staunch advocate in Lauren Baines, who has served as the University’s Director of Student Health Promotion since late 2018.
Baines came to State from Boise State University, which was a long way from Baines’ hometown of Philadelphia. But she credits her more than five and half years serving as health educator and assistant director for Boise State University’s University Health Services’ Wellness Services as fate.
“That position reignited my passion for health education,” she said. “Students are willing to learn and they go to college to become better adults, so they want to talk about health and wellness and allow me to coach them and help develop a plan for their health that they can take into the real world.”
Baines is certified as a Master Certified Health Education Specialist. While at Boise State, she earned her MBA. Prior to BSU, she earned her Master of Public Health, focusing on Community Health, at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She also has a bachelor of science in psychology and philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh.
When Baines wanted to take on a more diverse university community, she came to Indiana State as the Director of Student Health Promotion in September 2018.
“This is a critical position, not just in higher education. There are always employee wellness programs at places of employment,” she said. “The importance of student health promotion was best exemplified during a webinar I listened to that involved the chief well-being officer at Deloitte. This is a position you can find in basically every industry because it is important that we remind ourselves that we are humans and we need to take care of ourselves before we will be able to achieve great things.”
In less than three years, Baines has achieved great things in her position. She played a major role in the creation of the Sycamore Pantry, which is meant to alleviate the stress of food insecurity among Indiana State’s students by providing an emergency food source and by promoting healthy, sustainable meals.
“I did not have experience in creating a food pantry, but I knew someone who did and that’s how I got it to work,” Baines said. “Now we’re helping to destigmatize the use of food pantries and helping meet student needs. A lot of my early time here was spent creating the pantry and I’m still making sure it is serving the needs of our students. My assistant director applied for a grant for a refrigerator to allow us to offer produce.”
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, though, Baines’ main function has switched to contact tracing and managing tracers. She also works with athletics, the dean of students, and human resources to ensure all areas are keeping the Indiana State community safe.
Baines and her assistant director are also focused on developing a strategic plan to tackle the needs of State’s diverse student body.
“We want to make sure we are addressing specific issues within our community and providing accurate, efficient, and culturally beneficial things for the population, so we’re in the planning stages of developing a strategic plan,” she said.
This includes tackling health disparities, access to healthcare, reducing the consequences of drinking, and mental health issues. Baines also hopes to use the student wellness fee to bring onboard peer educators who will help students fall in love with public health.
“I’m a public health professional and I want people to understand the field and what it means for them,” she said. “It is part of what I want to do to make sure students are whole and academically successful while they are here.”