In this interview, we chat with Olivia Mays, Sexual Health Program Assistant at the University of Maryland Health Center, about on-campus resources for terps who want to take care of their sexual health. Olivia outlines a number of “edu-tainment” programs, information and safety efforts, kits, and “safer sex goodies” available through Health Promotion and Wellness Services. She also provides a little bit of insight on what drew her to the work, and how she and other terps can live their healthiest lives.
TTC: Thank you so much for agreeing to interview with Terps Take Care. Let’s get started! In general, how does your position support the wellness of UMD students?
- OM: As the Sexual Health Program Assistant at the University Health Center (UHC), most of what I do revolves around supporting the wellness of fellow terps. I work with Jenna Messman, the Sexual Health Program Coordinator, to plan the sexual health programs provided for the campus community. While a lot of the work that I do is behind the scenes to provide these services, I also get to work and partner with students and student groups. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of misinformation and stigma that surrounds topics related to sex but we are working hard to educate and empower our campus community so that they can make the most informed decisions for themselves and live their best lives!
TTC: That’s great to hear – and important work. Tell us, what are some of the specific services or programs that you offer to help students maintain their wellness or mental health?
- OM: Health Promotion and Wellness Services offers a variety of different services (meditation, peer education, nutrition coaching, Wags for Wellness, etc.). However, the services specific to the Sexual Health program are peer education workshops, free STI testing, free condoms, lube, abstinence kits, and other safer sex goodies, and sexual health and birth control consultations. One of the newest services we offer to the campus community is free STI testing parties, where we bring the testing to you! Our Peer Educators are excited to come into the residential spaces for programming so invite us in for some edu-tainment!
TTC: That sounds like a great program that could really help destigmatize testing and encourage more people to actually get tested. That’s wonderful. So – what drew you to this position and, specifically, to this area of work?
- OM: During my senior year at UMD I became a Sexual Health Peer Educator. I had many opportunities to facilitate meaningful conversations with the campus community, and I enjoyed every second of it. I’ve always been passionate about health education and I was able to put that to good use during my time as a peer educator. After graduating, I knew I wanted to continue with this area of work. Luckily, I stayed in touch with Jenna Messman, the Sexual Health Program Coordinator, and she brought the job opportunity to my attention. Health and wellness education is an evolving field and while it may be challenging at times, it is also very rewarding.
TTC: What one thing would you want students to know? It could be about your role, about the program, or about their own wellbeing.
- OM: We believe that safer sex decisions are not one size fits all. For some it may be abstinence, for another is may be STI testing and condoms, others may be really strong at communicating with their partners. The best method for practicing safer sex is one that’s best for you (and possible current or future partners). It’s not always easy to navigate the world of sexual health but having clear communication with your partner(s) about consent, safety, and your likes and dislikes is a good place to start.
TTC: And what do you do to maintain your own mental health, balance, and comprehensive wellbeing?
- OM: I try not to focus on maintaining balance, and instead focus on nurturing my body in the best way that I can at the time. It’s important for me to get a good night’s sleep and to eat wholesome food so I try to practice that everyday. In addition to having daily habits, I also I enjoy practicing yoga to clear my mind and energize my body.
TTC: And finally – how can students access the services you and your office provide?
- OM: The Sexual Health program is a part of Health Promotion and Wellness Services (HPWS) which is located on the ground floor of the UHC. Contact Jenna Messman (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule a sexual health or birth control consult. Visit health.umd.edu to request a Peer Education workshop and/or to learn more about the many services provided by HPWS.