A few years ago, Melissa Griffin, the director of Health Promotions at Northern Arizona University, was walking to her car when she saw a note on her windshield. It read, “you make me happy.” It made her day, and more than that, it got her thinking: Could the university create an initiative that encourages people share random acts of kindness like this one? After doing research and talking with colleagues, NAU’s kindness campaign was created.
The Kind Campaign, which started in 2009 at Pepperdine University, was originally intended to bring awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl bullying. As it grew, the campaign shifted to focus on health issues, including sexual assault, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and mental health. The movement has spread to college campuses throughout the United States in hopes of reminding students to be kind to themselves and others.
As Griffin put it, students didn’t want to talk about drug and alcohol problems, so things had to change.
“It’s hard to engage students,” she said. “Everyone’s like, ‘I don’t want to talk about alcohol prevention, I don’t want to talk about sexual violence prevention. Wait, maybe I can talk about helping people and being nice to them.’ So, it was really just shifting the context for the work that we do and putting it in a more positive light.”
To engage students, Health Promotions created an awareness campaign. In addition to positive messages displayed around campus, students are encouraged to make use of pass-along cards, stickers, buttons and posters with messages like , “NAU is great because of you” and “you are awesome” in hopes of spreading smiles to friends and strangers alike. Some pass-along cards even have a blank side, for people to write their own messages like, “you look great today.” Everyday Valentines, if you will. People also are encouraged to participate in the campaign by using #BeKindNAU on their social media whenever they see an act of kindness on campus.
No matter how people share kindness, the important thing is that they do. The main goal of Health Promotions is to get students engaged, so they can be active bystanders.
“We are just trying to encourage helping behaviors,” Griffin said. “Letting people know that this is our identity, this is who we are as a culture. It is all of our responsibilities to take care of each other.”
After seeing posters and pass-along cards, it didn’t take long for other departments on campus to recognize the importance of the campaign and follow suit.
NAU Admissions has the True Blue Ambassadors talk about the campaign while giving daily tours to prospective students and their families. People on the tour receive a folder with information along with a kindness pass-along card.
True Blue Ambassadors have been practicing the idea of kindness for a while, said admissions program coordinator Jennifer Gargano. As part of their job, the admissions staff is required to travel. While they’re away, True Blue Ambassadors often write the staff members letters, thanking them for what they do and wishing them well on their trip.
The admissions office can be busy, especially over the summer and at the start of the year. To make sure kindness stays at the top of people’s minds, Gargano and most of the staff members keep the kindness poster displayed on their door.
“This idea of keeping the morale up and showing kindness to everybody is something we strive for,” Gargano said.
Just like True Blue Ambassadors, the Student Health Advocacy Committee (SHAC) has promoted kindness well before the campaign began. At campus events, students painted kindness rocks, then SHAC placed them throughout campus to help brighten students’ days.
Now when SHAC tables events, they provide students with flower pots. The students are encouraged to paint the pots and are given a seed as part as the kindness campaign. SHAC president Janice Baldwin-Rowe likened it to planting a seed of kindness.
SHAC will be tabling the next Paws Your Stress event on Oct. 24. For other Health Promotion events, visit their event calendar.
Anyone interested in getting free materials such as stickers, posters and pass-along cards should contact the Health Promotions office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (928) 523-2131.