Kent State Employee Wins Luxury Trip, Meets Oprah Through WW at Work
A luxury trip featuring accommodations at the Ritz-Carlton, limousine rides, spa treatments and lunch with one of the most influential women in the world. Jennifer Miller, lecturer in Kent State University’s School of Lifespan Development and Educational Sciences in the College of Education, Health and Human Services, experienced these things and more after winning a sweepstakes through the WW (formerly Weight Watchers) at Work program. Ms. Miller was one of eight winners who, along with their guests, were given the opportunity to meet Oprah Winfrey and attend a WW retreat in Santa Barbara, California. Ms. Miller took along her sister Kim White, ’90, a Kent State fashion design alumna, on the trip.
WW at Work is a weight-loss program offered through Kent State’s Employee Wellness Office. Ms. Miller says she enjoys WW at Work because the meetings fit around her work schedule and she loves the supportiveness of the group.
“When I decided to make a life change to lose weight, I was searching for help,” Ms. Miller says. “I kept getting emails from our wellness department saying join us for Weight Watchers meetings, so I took a leap and went to the meeting.”
Ms. Miller was able to enter the sweepstakes at the first WW at Work meeting in September 2017 because she brought a colleague to the meeting. This entered her into the sweepstakes, and she found out in December that she had won.
“At the time when I won, I didn’t believe it,” she says. “I didn’t want to involve anyone else because I didn’t believe it.”
Meeting Oprah in Style
The Better Together Retreat that she attended took place March 21-25. Ms. Miller was the only WW at Work program participant who won the sweepstakes. The other winners came from other WW programs from different parts of North America, including Alberta, Canada; New York; North Carolina and Texas.
“From the very beginning, it was a luxury trip,” Ms. Miller says. “We were escorted in limousines, stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, and each event we went to focused on self-improvement, either physically or emotionally.”
The first two days were spent at the spa getting treatments and in aerobics/yoga classes. All the instructors, speakers and trainers involved in the retreat had either previously worked for or currently worked with Oprah.
Ms. Miller met Oprah on the third day of the retreat at a garden party at the Ritz-Carlton. They had lunch and listened to Oprah speak about the WW mission.
“Oprah’s vision is that everyone is the same and has something to offer and bring to the table,” Ms. Miller says.
At the gathering, Ms. Miller sat directly next to Oprah, and the photos taken from the event were featured in The New York Times and People magazine.
“Oprah was so open, funny and like everyone else,” Ms. Miller says. “She talked about how no matter who you are or what you believe in, we all need to come together, and everybody is welcome and important.”
Ms. Miller says that Oprah and WW’s missions are very similar, with a focus on their responsibility to educate about nutrition and health to make lifestyle improvements. Ms. Miller shared how the focus of the retreat “Better Together” really resonated with her and her family.
“When I’m eating healthier, my family is eating healthier, and when my children’s friends come over, they will be eating healthier and hopefully that will be a trickle effect,” she says.
Lifestyle Changes with Support From WW at Work
Ms. Miller is taking the new mindset on her health that she learned from the retreat and applying it to every aspect of her life, including her work at Kent State.
“I have an increased awareness of myself, and I realized this could help me be a better instructor in my classes,” Ms. Miller says. “My department, Career and Community Studies, is unique because we are one of seven colleges in Ohio with a program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism or traumatic brain injury. When I was sitting at that table with Oprah, I was thinking of my students and how they are important, sitting at the table with other college students, taking a leap and going out of their comfort zone.”
She explains that, since the trip, she has become more self-determined, and she knows she has a solid support network, including Oprah, to help achieve her goals. She encourages faculty and staff to come to a WW at Work meeting to see what it is like.
“Join us! It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “We laugh, share funny stories and learn something new every week.”
Kim Hauge, Kent State’s director of employee wellness, says the WW at Work program is highly valued by Kent State employees.
“They find the support that they receive from one another and their leader, Susan, which is pivotal to their success,” Ms. Hauge says. “The convenience of being able to attend a Weight Watchers (WW) meeting in the workplace eliminates the barrier of trying to locate and attend a meeting elsewhere before or after work. Employees can weigh in, get encouragement and support from their peers and Weight Watchers (WW) leader, and eat their lunch all within an hour or less.
“Employees learn nutritional and lifestyle changes they can make to achieve their goals, discuss challenges they might be having and get answers in the moment,” she adds. “Weight Watchers at Work is just one of many ways we try to build a supportive and healthy environment.”
WW at Work meetings are held every Wednesday at noon in Room 303 at the Kent Student Center. Employees can come to a meeting and check it out before registering, register at the meeting itself or preregister online. Enrollment is continuous throughout the year. For details on how to register, go to www.kent.edu/hr/benefits/weight-watchers-work. Each meeting date and location also can be found on the digital employee wellness calendar. The program is open to all full- or part-time employees, their family members, as well as students.