By David Simpson 

Old Dominion University has won recognition from the 2022 Healthiest Employers of Virginia awards program, which honors organizations that emphasize the well-being of their employees.  

“I am so pleased and excited to learn about the national award received by ODU as one of Virginia’s Healthiest Employers for 2022,” said September Sanderlin, vice president for human resources, diversity, equity and inclusion. “This award, based on employee wellness programs, reflects ODU’s commitment of fostering healthy habits for our employees and our surrounding community.” 

ODU is listed sixth among employers in Virginia that have 1,500-4,999 workers. Bolstering the University’s case for inclusion was the Monarch Wellness Trail program, created by ODU’s Human Resources Department in 2021 in response to gym closings during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Conceived by HR’s Kim Butler, Brenda Johnson and JaRenae Whitehead and approved by Sanderlin, the program includes three marked trails on the main campus: 

  • Stadium Wellness Trail: Starts at Lot 8 and goes around S.B. Ballard Stadium (0.6 mile).   

  • Academic Wellness Trail: Starts at 49th Street and Hampton Boulevard (1.5 miles).  

  • Campus Tour Wellness Trail: Starts at Bluestone and 49th Street, near the ERT bike repair station (0.85 mile).   

The handsome signs along the routes sprang from a $2,000 grant awarded to Human Resources by Town-N-Gown, Butler said.  

From fall 2021 to fall 2022, the trail program included twice-monthly group walks, three times each day. The trails remain open to faculty, staff, students and local residents.  

On a blue-sky, 65-degree day early this month, Elaine Ross walked the stadium trail.  

“I love it,” said Ross, coordinator for graduate recruitment, who works in Rollins Hall. “I usually try to take one or two walks a day, just to get away from my desk.” 

In making its case to be a Healthiest Employer, the University also highlighted its other efforts to help employees thrive during the pandemic. Those endeavors included telework, videoconferencing, public health emergency leave, and free COVID-19 testing, vaccines and masks. 

The only other higher-ed institution on the 2022 list, the University of Virginia, ranked No. 7 among organizations employing 5,000 or more.  

Award applicants were evaluated across six categories: Culture and Leadership, Foundational Components, Strategic Planning, Communication and Marketing, Programming and Interventions, and Reporting and Analytics. Completed assessments were ranked with the proprietary Healthiest Employers® Index, a 1-100 rubric for wellness programming. The survey is scored and powered by Springbuk, a health intelligence platform.    

Since 2009, Springbuk has administered the Healthiest Employers® Awards Program across the country to honor employers who strive to improve their worksite health and wellness programs. Learn more at and