Professor honored for innovative teaching, dedication to student success

Man against blurred background of green foliage.

Professor of Holistic Health Studies Adam Burke

Professor of Holistic Health Studies Adam Burke reimagines wellness education

Students today experience many unique challenges that can be taxing on the mind and body. One San Francisco State University faculty member who is deeply committed to this issue is taking an innovative approach to student well-being. For his work, Adam Burke, San Francisco State professor of Holistic Health Studies (HHS), was recently recognized by the California State University (CSU).

Burke, who is also director of the University’s Institute for Holistic Health Studies, was recently granted the 2019 Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award for his pioneering work in integrative health and wellness education. Launched last year, the award recognizes faculty members at CSU campuses who contribute to student success through innovative teaching practices as well as course design and redesign.

Seeing the everyday stresses his students experience, Burke believes there needs to be a significant change in the approach to promoting health. “As educators, we recognize that today's students will adopt a world of unprecedented challenges — climate change, social inequity, political conflict, career displacement and debt,” he said. “This burden contributes to anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol misuse, suicide, academic underperformance, disengagement and dropout. We need new ideas.”

To be part of that constructive change, Burke helped develop the HHS program at SF State to include courses that teach students a deeper understanding of personal health from a holistic perspective to support their success in college and beyond. Although most universities offer health-related courses and majors, he says few offer a systems-oriented, interdisciplinary, integrative health curriculum like the University’s HHS program. Offering courses in a university setting on self-care, social responsibility and well-being is key to promoting student achievement and a civil society, Burke says.

One course Burke created, Holistic Approaches to Academic Success, earned him a grant from SF BUILD, a multi-year SF State project funded by the National Institutes of Health to promote diversity in the biomedical workforce. Through the grant, Burke conducted a five-year evaluation that showed students who completed the course earned a significantly higher cumulative GPA at graduation than their peers.

Under Burke's leadership, HHS is one of the most popular minors at SF State, drawing about 700 students from all majors every semester. He notes that whether students take the courses for personal well-being or their career, they find the instruction relevant and inspiring.

Burke will be honored along with the other awardees at the fourth-annual Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium this October in Sacramento. The Graduation Initiative 2025 is an effort to raise graduation rates and close achievement and opportunity gaps for students across the 23 CSU campuses.