The SPICES of Life


Villanova University has an outstanding Office of Health Promotion. Its mission (from its website) is “to provide evidence-based health resources, facilitate opportunities for students to build skills that empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices, and to instill a sense of personal responsibility for individual health and its impact on the health of the community.”

Student can find information on topics such as the effects of alcohol, how to help a drunken friend, body image, sleep, sexual assault, nutrition, fitness, relationships, stress management, financial health, and tobacco cessation.

In addition, students can be trained to become peer counselors/educators, which enables them to promote health awareness on campus, offer seminars on a topic of their choice, and act as positive role models for other students.

But what I like most about the Office of Health Promotion is its approach to health, known by the acronym SPICES.

SPICES represents the six dimensions of health: Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Cultural, Emotional, and Social.

Our current president, Father Peter Donohue, even stressed these ideas in his inauguration speech in 2006:

We must emphasize a holistic approach to education and acknowledge that there are many aspects of the university that contribute to the process of creation. It is our responsibility to form the total person: Intellectually, Emotionally, Spiritually, Culturally, Socially and Physically. The center of the university needs to be an intellectual center. Our library needs to be refashioned to become a storehouse of knowledge from which everything radiates. Our classrooms must come to the residence halls and our residence halls must inform the classroom. Our expressions of faith should enliven our work. Our student life programs need to be extensions of our academic endeavor. Our playing fields transformed into arenas of learning. Our social events should foster respect for people. And we need to build, and I mean build, a center where culture is appreciated and explored. This is a place where we can shape the body, probe the heart and elevate the soul. Villanova prides itself as a liberal arts institution of learning, a place where humanity is examined with an open but critical mind. Therefore, in our search for truth we can never renounce the liberal or ignore the arts.”

I can’t imagine a better description of the mission of an institution of higher learning, and I love the fact that the Office of Health Promotion takes the President’s words and turns them into its mission.

In business, there is a performance planning and evaluation tool known as the Balanced Scorecard. The Balanced Scorecard is meant to look at multiple measures of performance – financial, customer, internal business processes, and learning and growth. It was developed in response to the fact that most performance measurement systems had focused on just the financial aspect of the business, causing other parts of the business to suffer. While most people would agree that financial performance is the most important measure of the success of a firm, it’s not the only one.

It’s analogous to schools just focusing on academic performance; while that is the most important objective of the educational process, it should not be the only objective.

By taking a more holistic view of the business, the Balanced Scorecard allows managers to look for the causal factors of improved financial performance, such as a more engaged workforce, more efficient operations, and higher levels of customer satisfaction. If a manager is evaluated and rewarded on multiple measures related to such outcomes, then he or she will act in a way that improves the operations of the firm, leading to improved financial performance.

It’s the same at Villanova. If a student can take a holistic, SPICES-based approach to his or her education, and not just concentrate on the academic side of the process, the result will be a graduate who is better prepared to live a happier and healthier life.

And this approach to life and health is not  just helpful for college students.

We could all add some zest to our life by setting goals in each of the six SPICES.

Bon appetit!



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