Attending college is an exciting time for many students; however, it can often be a highly stressful experience. Contributors to student stress and anxiety may include living independently away from home, increased academic pressures, and adapting to the college culture.
In recent years, the demand for student health services has risen dramatically due to a variety of factors, including increases in:
- the overall student population
- awareness of increased student anxiety and depression
- the number of students with chronic medical conditions
- the number of students with disabilities
According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), 30% of college students reported feeling so down at some point during the previous year that they found it difficult to function. In another ACHA report, students cited depression and anxiety as among the top impediments to academic performance.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the number one reason students do not seek help is that there remains a stigma surrounding mental health and asking for help.
What is most concerning is that two-thirds of students who are struggling do not seek treatment2. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the number one reason students do not seek help is that there remains a stigma surrounding mental health and asking for help. Leaders on many campuses are working to eliminate stigma and cultivate an atmosphere that reflects a paradigm shift towards the approach to wellness by focusing on prevention rather than intervention.
More and more colleges and universities are realizing they need improved health and wellness facilities that better address today’s students’ health concerns.
The McLeod Tyler Wellness Center
At the College of William & Mary, Dr. Kelly Crace, the Associate Vice President for Health & Wellness, has noted that there are new opportunities to model how university environments cultivate a collective wisdom and resilience where excellence, integrity, and wellness are synonymous. Dr. Crace has noted that the College is embracing a model of integrative wellness that is ‘holistic, multi-dimensional, and self-directed’. This model is supported by a variety of health and wellness initiatives housed in the new McLeod Tyler Wellness Center which was dedicated August 28, 2018.
William & Mary’s new universally accessible wellness center will integrate:
- A student health center with a pharmacy and a lab to support a full-range of primary care services including general medicine and gynecology
- A center for student counseling and psychological services
- A suite for Health Promotions and a Center for Authentic Excellence
- Spaces for Campus Recreation’s health and wellness programs
- A Wellness Commons and spaces for variety of wellness programs
The contributions of nature on health and wellness are well documented so the design is carefully integrated with the site and optimizes views to nature throughout.
The building is sited on 4.5 acres of naturally wooded land along the scenic Crim Dell Pond directly south of the Sadler Center, the main student center. The site was selected for its peaceful, oasis-like setting where the campus community can discover new ways to address stress and learn sustainable life habits. The contributions of nature on health and wellness are well documented so the design is carefully integrated with the site and optimizes views to nature throughout. Along with the building’s architectural character and massing, the landscape design was also developed in response to the natural setting and the overall result is welcoming and non-institutional.
Our team at EYP has learned that certain characteristics applied to the design of these facilities support the paradigm shift towards a holistic environment where students can flourish and build resilience:
- A massing and site design that integrates harmoniously with the campus and natural contexts and provides strong landscape connections.
- A modern, yet grounded, exterior design that engages students and draws them into the building without hesitation.
- A calm and welcoming interior that puts students at ease and promotes health and well-being.
- A design that provides multiple opportunities on the interior and exterior for meditation and reflection.
- A design that includes positive distractors such as biophilic elements, expansive views to the exterior, and the calming sounds of a water feature.
- A healthcare environment that is comfortable and encourages students to seek medical and counseling help before they are at a crisis stage.
- A layout that effectively meets the many operational needs of healthcare personnel.
- A thoughtful, holistic design that accommodates diverse programs, so students recognize the multiple opportunities to experience integrative wellness.
Bringing Research into the Equation
To support our design efforts, EYP is engaged in research to help us advance the profession and help our clients stay on top of the latest thinking in sustainability, health, well-being, human performance, neuroscience, psychology, physiology, building technology, and other related fields. We are working with the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Advisory Board of Fitwel (a healthy building certification developed by the Centers for Active Design and piloted by the GSA), and the University of Oregon and their Institute for Health in the Built Environment.
And in conjunction with a team of researchers at the University of Virginia, EYP is engaged in a research study to confirm the positive outcomes of changes in the physical environment on student health and well-being at the College of William & Mary. An initial survey was completed in the Spring of 2018 prior to the completion of the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center. A follow-up survey will be issued in the Spring of 2019. While the study is still in progress, preliminary data indicates that students value wellness, but are not clear on the various opportunities available. In addition, caregivers have noted that a new facility is likely to have a significant positive impact to address student needs.
In summary, with the knowledge of the role health and wellness plays in the success of students and rise in the need for these services on campus, the investment in accessible and welcoming facilities are well worth it and the payoff can be measured in multiple ways.
1. ACHA National College Health Assessment
2. Spring 2014 2 ACHA Spring 2015 Assessment