May 20, 2019

Wellness coordinator to retire

After 19 years of promoting wellness at Fresno State, coordinator Sam Gitchel is going to start focusing on his own wellness.
Gitchel will be retiring May 18 in pursuit of a calmer way of life.

“My plans are very open-ended,” he said. “I look forward to the pace being slower.”

In his years at Fresno State, Gitchel led programs and activities within the wellness program.

Gitchel also started the Social Norms program at Fresno State.

“He brought Social Norms to Fresno State and executed every event or project that we undertook,” said Sam Frank, who worked as a peer educator under Gitchel.

The project, which began in 2003, focuses on reducing alcohol abuse, alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-related harm among Fresno State students.

Diana Traje started working for the Social Norms project in 2005 when Gitchel was the project director.

“Sam has laid a foundation for the new wellness services. Under his leadership, wellness services has accomplished a lot in one year-including the first-ever campus Wellness Challenge,” she said. “He’s passionate about living well and that has been reflective of his dedication to making the campus well.”

Once retired, Gitchel plans on spending more time outdoors carrying a backpack.

“My wife and I want to do some of the walks of the world,” he said. “I need time to get into the right physical condition. I look forward to a calmer way of life.”

It wasn’t until last summer that Gitchel became wellness coordinator, after implementing and directing the Social Norms project.

“Sam made the program happen. He empowers his team to run with ideas and is very thorough with anything he plans,” said AS President Juan Pablo Moncayo, who has worked with Gitchel since 2004. “The program is a reflection of the personalities and gifts of many people on this campus and that is because he designs all of his projects so that they are brewed by a team.”

That team’s new leader is yet to be decided, Gitchel said.

“His replacement has big shoes to fill,” Traje said. “I hope that his replacement is as compassionate and determined to take initiative and get things done, especially when it involves projects that benefit students and the campus.”

And that won’t be easy.

“They will have to learn a bundle of material about so many different aspects of wellness and campus life,” Frank said. “Sam gained his strengths through knowledge and experience which his replacement will have to work very hard to compensate for.”

Even though he won’t be working for the university anymore, his influence will continue on in the students he worked with.
Gitchel didn’t just motivate them — he taught them how to make things happen.

Gitchel said the most satisfying thing is seeing young people work and develop new skills.

“He taught me so much about making ideas become reality; how to achieve great things with little but bold steps,” Moncayo said. “I have never seen him get angry or short with anyone and as a result, working in his team was very refreshing and productive. I hope to embody that style every day when I work.”

After the progress he made in the wellness program and the impact he had on students, Gitchel has one thing left to say: “Move your body, open your heart, still your mind.”

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