A renovated wellness center is in the early planning stages at UP. It will be located in the lower level of Orrico Hall, which previously housed the career-center.
The entire lower-level is being reimagined with a communal space in mind, open to clubs and other student gatherings. Therapy rooms and de-stressing activities will also be incorporated.
There will be a heavy focus on preventative care within health and wellness to address students’ mental and spiritual well being. Quiet spaces, natural lighting and biophilia (human instinct to connect with nature) are some of the design elements that can aid in creating a calm and peaceful environment for students to decompress.
“There are all kinds of studies that show that being immersed in nature or seeing photos of nature help reduce blood pressure, stress levels, anxiety levels, and cortisol,” Associate Vice President for Land Use and Planning Jennie Cambier said. “And so what are some ways that we can introduce those ideas into the design?”
James Peña, the wellness education and prevention program coordinator, is working with students and staff to brainstorm ideas to implement in the new space.
“Before students even get to this place of needing more intensive care, what are we doing at this level to help care in a holistic way and in a way that's preventative?” Peña said.
Another aspect of the wellness lounge is creating a safe space for students with disabilities.
Sarah Nuxoll, coordinator for the disability affinity group, is part of the conversation to make the new wellness lounge accessible and inclusive to all.
“One of the challenges that I'm trying to wrap my head around is that even within disability, there's so much diversity,” Nuxoll said. “I think it's really important to get feedback from people who experience those things rather than try to guess.”
The Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Assessment, made by Elizabeth Ortiz, brought up a lack of support for students with disabilities. The new Wellness Center would be one of the first areas on campus that would directly respond to the recommendation for more identity centers and spaces for students to meet.
Although next academic year won’t have a completely renovated space, Peña and the rest of the Wellness Center staff are hoping to provide support for students any way they can.
“The hope here is that there's more attention and more of an emphasis placed on your holistic well being and it will take time to fully achieve this dream, but I think that this is a tangible step that we can take,” Peña said.
Construction is set to take place during summer 2023. However, the center will be utilized as a temporary wellness space during the 2022-2023 academic year.
The renovation is made possible by the original benefactors of the building. The Orrico family supplied a donor maintenance endowment for the building that is allocated for renovations, maintenance and general upkeep.
As plans for development are underway, Peña is seeking feedback from community members.
If you have suggestions for what you’d like to see in the Wellness Center next academic year, or after the renovation, you can reach out to James Peña at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chiara Profenna is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com.