The University of Colorado Denver’s first executive director of the new Student Wellness Center joins us on Aug. 8. Amber Long, MEd, has held the director’s position at the Kirmayer Fitness Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center for the past four years. Long received both her undergraduate degree in community health with a minor in public relations and her master’s in higher education leadership and policy studies from Iowa State University. She grew up working on the family farm in Iowa and says early dance lessons led to her passion for fitness. She recently responded to a series of questions from “The Connection”.
The Connection: Why did this job appeal to you?
Amber Long: I feel as though this job description was almost written for me. The focus on holistic wellness in the university setting provides a position that is practically tailored to my experience and interests. The opportunity to be a part of this project from the beginning is especially exciting. I like the challenge of starting something new. I’m motivated by the process of creating and building. I lead with my head and my heart and it’s important to me that I believe whole heartedly in the mission of the organization(s) I work with. This role allows me to do that.
The Connection: The “student” in the center’s name says a lot. The CU Denver Student Wellness Center was a student-driven initiative. Is that significant to you?
Amber Long: Yes! It’s important to stay true to the directives of our students in this project. As a student initiative, the facility was conceptualized to meet the diverse wellness needs of the student population. Student leaders chose to use the six dimensions of wellness as a guide in facility design and services. This is a unique and innovative idea, and I love it. I get the opportunity to help them bring this holistic vision to life. I can’t think of anything more exciting.
The Connection: What things from your past professional experience have prepared you for this start-up opportunity?
Amber Long: As I said before, this job seems like it was created especially for me. My B.S. in community health education and a minor in public relations helps me understand the importance of fostering relationships and providing timely information to the university community. It’s my favorite part of the job. My master’s degree in higher education helps me understand the structure of a university and the importance of providing a challenging, yet supportive environment for students. I’ve worked in campus recreation my entire career in progressively complex roles. In my current position, at the University of Kansas Medical Center, I had the opportunity to lead the department through a complete staffing re-organization and facility renovation. This was challenging, because we did these things while remaining open as a full service facility. I’m happy that we will have a little more prep time with the Student Wellness Center. There’s a lot to do and I’m ready to dive in.
The Connection: Was the move to Colorado a factor in your decision to come to CU Denver?
Amber Long: It was a bonus, that’s for sure. I’ve always wanted to live in Colorado and when I saw this opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up. I love Denver. The culture and the energy can’t be found anywhere else. On average, I travel to the area four to five times a year to visit friends, family and the spectacular mountains. (Mountains are hard to find in Kansas!) Colorado provides endless opportunities for bodies on the move like me. I genuinely couldn’t be more excited to make this move and start my next chapter as a Denver resident.
The Connection: Who will be moving here with you?
Amber Long: My significant other Jon and my dog Macy. I adopted
Macy from a shelter just a few months ago. She’s a lot like me— short, energetic, a little shy at first, but once she knows you, very loyal. And, she loves to hike which will make her the perfect Colorado dog. Jon is a sports chiropractor and recently opened Denver Sport Doc in Thornton. He has a passion for helping people get out of pain to live the life they want. As you might imagine, my fitness and his rehab background work well together. We plan to take advantage of all the year-round recreation Colorado has to offer from the winter snow sports to
kayaks and stand up paddleboards.
The Connection: We hear you don’t just “talk the talk”, you “walk the walk?”
Well, I try to. Alongside my leadership roles, I’ve remained quite active in the fitness profession. I serve as a subject matter expert for the American Council on Exercise which helps me stay current on national trends. I assist with exam development and blog writing. I also make it a point to remain active as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, which helps me maintain a connection with students and patrons. It’s important to me to lead by example and I find joy in inspiring others to find their best selves through exercise. I will likely teach a weekly class when the building opens, and extend an open invitation to all!
The Connection: Raul (Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Raul Cardenas) tells us you don’t go easy when you’re personal training?
Amber Long: I’ve got to give Raul credit. He’s working hard on some virtual workouts I’ve suggested for him. But, if he thinks I’m tough from a distance, wait ‘til he works with me in person!