NMU Wildpups has been selected as Northern Michigan University's 2022 Team Innovation Award recipient. The Wildpups team included chair Michelle Andriacchi and team members Michelle and Dominic Andriacchi with Fonzie, Casey Hopper with Boris, Katie Taylor with Sadie, Rachel Nye with Maggie, and Anne Stein with Ramsey.
“The Wildpups team began the program to address the increasing level of stress among campus students, faculty and staff," stated the nomination. Additionally, the team intended to positively impact NMU's learning environment, student retention and enrollment.”
The team started campus sessions in fall of 2021, and held seven sessions throughout the semester. Each session averaged 170 visitors. Students were pleasantly surprised to find that the team's handlers were university professors.
“Students expressed appreciation to professors for taking time out of their busy schedules to organize and attend the events. These events allowed time for both students and faculty to ask and see how the semester was going. Although these interactions were brief, the support, encouragement and advice provided seemed to have a positive impact.”
Animals and handlers go through rigorous training and evaluation before registration as an Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) Team is granted. Several NMU faculty organized and planned, applied for grant money, took AAT courses with their pet partners and passed the team assessment.
“Instituting an embedded AAT program on campus has been a huge success. The students and participating therapy teams have bonded, creating valuable relationships that can positively impact enrollment and retention. The students know the dogs names, they share stories about the dogs and are always excited to see them. The Wildpups have added value to campus life at NMU.”