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INSPIRE TO MOVE - International Day of Persons with Disabilities
NOURISHING YOU - Tex-Mex Lasagna
HEALTHY HARMONY - Make Giving a Year-round Part of Your Life
GOOD DECISIONS - Winterizing Your Home

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The System Office Wellness Committee strives to cite relevant information from reputable sources. Employees should always consult with their health care provider before making any kind of health decision or change.


INSPIRE TO MOVE - International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Photo Credit: Storyblocks - woman touching man in wheelchair's shoulder  

By Colleen Crawford
The United Nations established December 3 as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. With more than 1 billion people worldwide living with a disability, we can celebrate this day as an opportunity to foster inclusion and awareness of barriers facing persons with disabilities, as well as learn what steps we can take to help reduce those barriers in the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities in access to healthcare, education, employment, and community participation, bringing more attention to the need to fully realize human rights for all people living with a disability. 

There are steps we can take within our University of Illinois System community to further our personal contributions toward inclusion and equity for persons with disabilities. System Human Resource Services recently launched the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Certificate Program which provides a robust experience for employees to engage in meaningful discussions, activities, curriculum, and projects to promote and support DEI. Throughout the DEI Certificate Program, participants cultivate viewpoints and action steps for sustaining a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. 

Digital accessibility is an emerging focus area where we can all make a difference. IT Accessibility 101 offered through Disability Resources and Education Services is a great first step toward ensuring equitable access to our digital presence. This free course develops an understanding of basic accessibility concepts that, when applied, can make a real impact in our campus community. Other helpful resources to ensure your digital documents are accessible can be found on the Electronic Information Technology Accessibility Policy webpage. 

Another impactful way to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities is to devote some time to educating ourselves about disability inclusion. The United Nations webinar Disability Inclusion 101 addresses topics such as the human rights-based approach to disability and combining disability-targeted initiatives with disability inclusion in mainstream activities. With these small actions, together we can make big strides in improving accessibility and inclusion for persons with disabilities. 


NOURISHING YOU - Tex-Mex Lasagna

  Photo credit: Pillsbury.com - Tex-Mex Lasagna

Introduction by Ben Taylor
Serves 8

Looking for a new way to dress up tacos? Try this hearty recipe that uses many of the same ingredients as a typical taco night. The layers give it a bit more texture and you can top each serving with avocado, or more salsa and sour cream. With this quick meal, you’ll have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes!


  • 1½ lbs ground beef 
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic 
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese 
  • 2 tbsp chili powder 
  • ½ tsp ground cumin 
  • 1 jar (16 oz) salsa 
  • 1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes with green chilis, drained 
  • 1 container (8 oz) sour cream 
  • 6 (10-inch) flour tortillas


  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Spray 3-quart casserole with cooking spray. 
  2. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook beef and garlic over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is thoroughly cooked, then drain. 
  3. In a large bowl, stir together beef, beans, 1 cup of cheese, chili powder, cumin, salsa, tomatoes and sour cream.  
  4. Place two tortillas in the bottom of casserole dish. Spoon one-third of beef mixture over tortillas. Repeat layers twice. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of cheese. 
  5. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, if desired. 

Nutrition information (serving size 1 cup): Calories 540 | Carbs 42 g | Fat 26 g | Protein 31 g

Recipe Source 


HEALTHY HARMONY - Make Giving a Year-round Part of Your Life

Photo Credit: Billy Pasco of Unsplash - hand gesturing towards the horizon  

By Jackie Billhymer
“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” Winston Churchill

You have likely heard the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, one of the main characters in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” He hoarded his money and rarely went out of his way to help others. Then one night, three visitors changed his perception of himself and he woke up a changed man! Realizing the error of his ways, he became a generous and jolly man with everyone he met from that day forward. What is it about helping and giving to others that makes us feel so good?

There are many benefits to helping others. Similar to the effects of physical exercise, when we help others our body releases dopamine and endorphins in our brain. This makes us feel good and motivates us to continue the behavior. The holidays are a time of year that often cause us to think more about helping others, but we should consider the benefits of doing this all year long.

Two examples of helping others are volunteering and “paying it forward.” Volunteering is a win-win because it has a positive effect on those receiving the generosity, while increasing the self-worth, social skills, and sense of purpose in the volunteer. Many communities have programs and events that provide ways to be more generous and connect with each other as humans. Volunteering for social services organizations (e.g., soup kitchens, homeless shelters), purchasing gifts for children from Angel Trees, and making cards for the elderly, veterans, and active service members overseas, are all ways to benefit the well-being of ourselves and others. You can explore opportunities to volunteer in your community on the System Office Wellness website under the Social Wellness section.

“Paying it forward” means responding to someone’s kindness to you by being kind to someone else. It takes just one simple act of kindness to create a domino effect that lasts well beyond the initial action. This can be something as simple as opening a door for someone or paying for the person behind you in line at a drive-up window or sitting at a table next to you in a restaurant. The happy surprise when a total stranger pays for your coffee plants the seed of giving in your own heart. One person’s positive actions increase the potential for exponential giving when we make generosity a year-round part of our life.


GOOD DECISIONS - Winterizing Your Home

Photo Credit: Robert Nelson of Unsplash - boots with snow on them - link to winterizing checklist  

By Christina A. Worthington
During this time of year, many people have begun preparing for the cold winter days ahead. That preparation may look like exchanging shorts for sweaters, turning up the thermostat, or throwing a meal in the slow cooker. However, your winter preparation should not end there! There are additional ways to ready your living space for the winter ahead that promote safety and improve your well-being.

Use the following as a Winter Preparation Checklist to begin your home winterization!


  • Test all systems
  • Clean any debris around units
  • Change filters
  • Reverse ceiling fans
  • Program thermostat to regulate temperatures when you are not home (if possible)


  • Clean and check dampers
  • Stock up on firewood
  • Inspect your chimney cap
  • Ensure you have a fire extinguisher nearby


  • Look for drafts
  • Apply caulk/weather stripping where needed
  • Remove and store window air conditioning units
  • Seal off crawl space


  • Winterize sprinkler systems
  • Turn off outdoor spigots
  • Detach and drain hoses
  • Insulate pipes and faucets
  • Turn down your water heater


  • Winterize and store lawn equipment, outdoor furniture, and grills
  • Prepare ice melt, sand, snow, shovels, and car scrapers
  • Inspect roof for damage
  • Clean out gutters


  • Test and replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Bring plants and delicate trees indoors
  • Replace old fire extinguishers

Checklist obtained from Tamara Williams and Company.

Thank you - Photo Credit: Morvanic Lee of Unsplash

As we come to the end of 2021, The System Office Wellness committee would like to say THANK YOU to everyone who has participated, encouraged and supported wellness. Whether you joined one or both of the UI Stride campaigns, attended a lecture via Zoom, read the Wellness Connection newsletter or accessed the wealth of information on our website, including the new On Demand section, you made your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you a priority. We are especially thankful to System Office leadership for continuing to support this important initiative.

We look forward to 2022 with gratitude and excitement for the New Year. Make sure to look for the now quarterly newsletter in February and a spring UI Stride campaign in April!