January 29, 2023

New Student Health and Wellness building welcomes public at official opening event – The Cavalier Daily

The University’s Department of Student Health and Wellness celebrated the opening of its new building, now located at 550 Brandon Ave., from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Friday with an official grand opening event.

The ceremony included a speech from University President Jim Ryan, along with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a scavenger hunt and self-guided tours of the building. Several hundred students, staff and community members attended the event, which also featured entertainment such as live music by Willy and the Hoons, food trucks, outdoor games and trivia.

The building was designed to create a space for promoting well-being, Ryan said, integrating the architecture into the surrounding landscape by housing the four units of Student Health and Wellness — Counseling and Psychological Services, Medical Services, the Office of Health and Promotion and the Student Disability Access Center.

“This building is really one-of-a-kind,” Ryan said. “I couldn’t be more excited at this moment.”

After more than two years of construction, the four floors of the Student Health and Wellness Center were open to tour during the event. The project cost the University $100 million, with $40 million in funding coming from an anonymous gift and $1 from the family of Robert Hardie, vice rector of the Board of Visitors.

The first floor of the building includes the pharmacy, reflection rooms, the Office of Health Promotion and the Student Disability Access Center. The second floor houses the Medical Services Clinic, Medical Services Administration, Medical Records and Insurance and Billing. The third floor has a large living area reserved for the use of students and an area for administration, information technology and kinesiology. The fourth floor holds Counseling and Psychological Services. 

The Elson Student Health Center — the previous home of Student Health and Wellness — will now act primarily as a transitory site for services that have yet to be moved to the new building, such as staff in the data science department. 

Jamie Leonard, director of the Office of Health Promotion, and Anika Kempe, assistant director of marketing for the Department of Student Health and Wellness, described how the building was constructed with Carter Mountain as a natural focal point. The Student Lounge, located on the third floor, has a direct view of the mountain. CAPS, located on the top floor, has skylights letting natural light directly into the offices. 

“As folks enter into the space, they should begin to feel physiological changes just from being in that space,” Leonard said. “All of the decisions in there from the design to the furniture to the natural lighting from the windows … are well researched and specifically designed in order to increase a person’s well-being.”

Leonard and Kempe explained that the design of the Student Health and Wellness Center is intended to educate students about building healthy and enjoyable environments for themselves. 

“We also really wanted to focus on the education for students … recognizing that most people don’t get to live in a building like this,” Leonard said. “Students can tap into [questions like] why am I drawn to this space? What is it about this space and then how can I maybe emulate that at home?”

Kempe explains that the space is meant more for general well-being, with medical services as just one component of a broader goal.

“[Even] if you use medical services once or never … we want students to have the space for their well-being,” Kempe said. 

Echoing Kempe, Ryan emphasized in his speech the importance of using the building for any use — medical or otherwise. 

“This is not a traditional student health center,” Ryan said. “Instead, the idea is to take a holistic approach that focuses on student’s physical, emotional and mental well-being, which is to say that the wellness part is [just] as important as the health part.”

Some of the new features of the building — beyond a larger space — include a kitchen for classes in cooking and nutrition, a kinesiology center, all-gender restrooms, the Gordie Center for substance abuse recovery, private telehealth offices and a lending library in CAPS. There are two rooms in the building specifically dedicated to clinical research, which is a growing focus of the Department of Student Health and Wellness.

Offices are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but all of the spaces accessible to students are open from 8 a.m. to midnight every day of the week, including weekends. 

“It’s a place that I hope and expect will be abuzz with activity,” Ryan said. “The way I think of it is this is like Student Health and Wellness meets Newcomb Hall in terms of what’s available.”