'Walks with Matthew' can lead to better health, communication

By Leslie King | Emory Report | July 14, 2014

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Matthew Early, vice president of Campus Services, says seeing participants laughing and smiling together is the best part of his Friday 'Walks with Matthew.' Emory Photo/Video.

Vice President of Campus Services Matthew Early is committed to a healthy lifestyle. He runs Mondays through Thursdays at lunch.

But on Fridays, he walks. “Walks with Matthew,” held every Friday at noon, are Early's effort to promote that healthy lifestyle among Campus Services employees and the Emory community.

"The walks started as a result of our Healthy CS [Campus Services] program and I wanted to set the example by promoting the workforce to get out and exercise by just walking," Early says. "And I wanted to offer people the opportunity to have a conversation with me about any topic they wish." He hopes the walks will start a trend.

The walks are subject to cancellations for vacation, conferences, weather, "some extreme high priority meeting," says Ashley Cobette, executive assistant to Early. But the goal is get out every Friday and make them happen. The next walk is set for July 18.

Walks with Matthew started about 18 months ago and so far have been held near the facilities maintenance buildings off Eagle Row, on the Quad, at the North Decatur building and the Clairmont Campus.

"Every quarter we change the locations," Early says. Employees are welcome to suggest locations for the walks.

In addition to changing the locations, Cobette says, "We also try to switch up the time, like starting at 11:30, because we have a lot of hourly employees so we  try to make it convenient for everyone to take a little time out of their lunch hour if they want to come and join us."

Early sets the pace by the slowest walker in the group.

Helping coworkers feel like family

On a recent walk, Early led a group on his designated favorite route. Leaving from behind Building C of the facilities maintenance buildings, the 12 walkers who joined Early started out in the sun's heat, moving past the Clyde Partin batting cages where summer baseball camp was being held, then into a wooded area noticeably cooler because of its shade. A stream runs along the left.

Passing Spanish House on the right, then Asbury House a little further down, the group came to the intramural fields and up to the embankment of Old Briarcliff Road on the westernmost edge of the main campus. They turned around and headed back to the facilities maintenance buildings to complete the walk.

During the walk, Early paused to ask about the cleanup of some brush that had been cut.  "The walks bring out the engineer in him," says Cobette. "He's always evaluating, looking around at what needs to be done."

Early notes that the day's turnout was good. The record number of walkers is about a dozen.

"Clairmont's not a bad area to walk in," Early says. "When we're at Clairmont, we walk around the exterior of the buildings."

"We cut through a portion of Lullwater [Preserve]," Cobette notes.

"We have," Early acknowledges. "Right behind one of the towers, you can get on a path and pop up on the Starvine Road."

He says a walk in Lullwater may be up for future consideration.

"We also go to the center of campus and try to get more people to walk there," he says of the walks around the Quad.

Has he discovered any surprises taking these walks? "How much Campus Services is more than just a workplace; it is family," Early answers.

What is the best aspect of them? "I enjoy seeing people smiling and laughing as we walk," he says.

To join a walk, check the calendar on the Campus Services website.