To best help new generations and those that will follow, colleges and universities are reimagining their student health centers. Gone are the days where health centers were places to avoid unless students absolutely had to go there due to illness.
Today, student health centers are infused with mental health spaces, demonstration kitchens, access to nature, multipurpose rooms for yoga and relaxation, social zones, cafes, and much more. They are becoming campus beacons rather than campus backdoors. In fact, they are helping reduce the stigma around health and well-being and any associated physical and mental health challenges. Such dynamic spaces make wellness a strong piece of campus DNA and help more students.
Just as no college campus is the same, there isn’t one way to reimagine a student health center. It is essential each project is calibrated to each institution’s student body and unique culture. That said, there are common themes that cut across leading-edge spaces in this typology. Several factors are outlined below:
Historically, institutions spread health and well-being resources across numerous buildings. Student counseling here, recreation over there, a health center on the other side of campus. More and more, modern student health centers are uniting these resources and departments under one roof to “supercharge” their facility.
As such, by providing a broader range of services and well-being resources in one place, students are more likely to visit, socialize and learn about the services they may not have known about otherwise.
There is extensive data that proves nature can improve health outcomes, accelerate recovery, and elevate mood and mental health. It should be an essential part of any modern student health center.
First, it is critical to consider how a building welcomes nature inside:
Secondly, integrating outdoor spaces into the layout of the building can also be a very successful solution.
How can a university claim without a doubt that their student health center is their healthiest building on campus? The WELL Building Standard is the roadmap for creating and certifying spaces that advance health and well-being. Moving beyond the more typical LEED certification, WELL focuses on 10 factors that directly address mental and physical health.
Student health centers can become beacons on campus. But, they can also become essential to larger campus well-being strategies. By locating them strategically near other student life buildings, institutions can amplify their impact.
The University of South Florida’s new student wellness center is a great example of this as it sits immediately next to both the school’s recreation center and one of its campus dining halls. This creates an epicenter for health and well-being on campus.
At its core, this shift in student health and well-being buildings reflects the simple reality that these buildings can be much more than places to visit when students are sick. They can also be beacons for health, spaces for well-being education, mental health counseling, rejuvenation and much more.
Colleen McKenna and Roland Lemke are both leaders in the Sports, Recreation and Wellness Practice at CannonDesign. They help colleges and universities create spaces and systems where students continuously flourish.
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