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Inside Look: Wellness Centers

Campus wellness centers integrate services for the mind and body, creating a one-stop-shop for student health needs
University Business, June 2015
  • The Geisinger-Susquehanna Health Center at Susquehanna University in Pa. underwent a $3.1 million renovation in 2010, with the 16,271-square-foot space acting as both clinic and student health center, granting students access to a wide array of medical services as well as a fitness trainer, chef and a selection of health-focused presentations. Architect:  Hiller Architectural Group Ltd. (Milton, Pa.) Construction manager: R.S. Mowery & Sons Inc. (Mechanicsburg, Pa.)
  • The University of Southern California at University Park’s Engemann Student Health Center, completed in 2013 for $53 million, treats 90,000 students through an array of services, including primary and acute care; laboratory, radiology and counseling services; an office for wellness and health promotion; a center for women and men; an insurance office; and an immunizations and travel office. Architect: HKS Architects, Inc. (San Diego) Contractor: Hathaway Dinwiddie  (San Francisco)
  • The Wicker Wellness Center at Union College in Schenectady, New York, uses a two-pronged approach to care for students. The two-story building has health services on the first floor, and the Eppler-Wolff Center for Psychological Services (which has a private entry) on the second.
  • Besides more traditional mental health services, psychological services include couples counseling, roommate conflict mediation and even dog therapy via Jenna, a goldendoodle certified by Therapy Dogs International. The Wicker Wellness Center, costing  $2.3 million, was completed in 2013. Architect: McKinney MacDonald Architects (Latham, N.Y.) Contractor: Wainschaf Associates (Rensselaer, N.Y.) Design: FPI Mechanical (Cohoes, N.Y.)
  • The health center at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, originally built in 1964, underwent a $14 million renovation and 26,000-square-foot expansion. Completed in 2014, the facility is now a counseling and full-service health center, with student activities and recreational space for team-building and after-hour wellness activities.  Construction: Windover Construction (Beverly, Mass.)  Architect/interior design: Connor Architecture (Lexington, Mass.)
  • In 2014, The University of Alabama at Birmingham invested $4 million in its student health and wellness center to offer comprehensive and integrated medical, psychological and health promotion services and programs to students. The 23,000-square-foot space, housed in the campus learning resource center, has seen a 60 percent increase in clinical visits year-over-year. To handle this additional traffic, the center operates under a common electronic and health counseling system.
  • Students are now able to access the system through a secure patient portal that provides information such as test results. They can also schedule many of their own appointments, regardless of the hour, and can self-check-in to these appointments. Modern patient exam rooms were designed to be both practical and sleek in form and function. Architectural firm: Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood Inc. (Birmingham, Ala.)  Interior designer: Jill Hall, Bonesteel Trout Hall (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)
  • The University of Akron’s $23 million student recreation and wellness center was designed to serve students’ health needs in both mind and body. The department of health services shares space with a variety of offerings, including nutrition, physical fitness assessments, exercise programs and personal training. It also houses a healthy cafe and therapeutic massage services. Architects: Moody-Nolan, Inc. (Columbus, Ohio) and  TC Architects, Inc. (Akron, Ohio) Interior design: Schumacher designs (Akron, Ohio)

More diverse student populations demand more of the health and wellness services offered on campus today. Colleges and universities must meet the unique needs of veterans, and students who are international, older, recovering from addictions, or who have physical or mental disabilities. Many schools are meeting this challenge by combining physical and mental health services under one roof, and even integrating recreation into the mix.

The case for a comprehensive wellness center on campus has never been stronger, explains Jenny Haubenreiser, executive director of student health services at Oregon State University. “The need for primary care is acute in this country, particularly for students, and especially if they’re coming in from out of town,” she says. “There is a consumer literacy piece to the Affordable Care Act—including networks, copays, deductibles and more—that we can help with.”

Oregon State links health, psychological and academic services. A card-swiping system tracks student interaction with various departments on campus, and a two-tiered survey process logs consumer satisfaction and invites suggestions for improvement. In this way, student behavior can be closely monitored, and departments can work together to create a cohesive treatment plan for patients.

This kind of technology enhances the health services, says M. Jacob Baggott, executive director of student health and wellness at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. “As more interactions with technology provide online options, the number of phone calls is reduced, sometimes freeing up staff and space to be used for patient/client care areas,” he says.

A holistic approach to campus wellness is not limited to health services. The student health services department at Oregon State works closely with campus housing as well as Greek communities to promote wellness, says Haubenreiser. Health services will also work with local law enforcement during high-risk weekends.

See examples of how universities and colleges are innovating, moving wellness services from an afterthought to an integral part of student life on campus.