Thinking Outside the Wellness Box at Clemson University

Clemson University

What started as a mini convenient store in the Fike Recreation Center, featuring Swann Fitness Center, at Clemson University has now transformed into the Wellness Zone.

A hub for fitness and wellness hitting all eight components of the wellness wheel, the idea began with the recognition of an under-utilized space at Clemson. It was developed into the Wellness Zone in hopes to reach all students, not just those interested in playing sports or physical fitness.

“The goal is to do all of our programming revolving around the eight dimensions of wellness,” said Jenny Rodgers, the assistant director of fitness and wellness at Clemson University. “We have a team of interns who are always thinking of ideas to get people to stop and to start a conversation, thinking outside the box of what they thought they were coming to the recreation center for.”

The Wellness Zone is an embodiment of that “thinking outside the box” mentality. It’s a 250-square-foot, store-front like glass area at the entrance of the recreation center. Home to couches and a bike desk, wellness programming is done either within the room or outside of it.

While the actual space isn’t exactly what the team at Clemson would have drafted up themselves, it makes great use of what was already there. “You can’t go into it as necessarily space being a barrier,” said Chris Fiocchi, the senior director of campus recreation at Clemson. “Is it optimal of what we want to do? Absolutely not, but how you approach it and use the resources you have shows there’s a lot of things you can accomplish.”

One of the ways Fiocchi described overcoming the space barrier is through campus partnerships. “We want to make sure it’s beneficial and it’s intentional, not just, ‘We both each get a little something out of it,’” he said. “We want partners who are willing to be in it for the long run with us. We identify those and the ability to dream beyond that.”

One of the program’s partnerships include PNC, a local bank on campus, in order to focus on financial wellness. Other programming has involved planting herbs for environmental wellness, therapy dogs during finals week, a yoga program at the performing arts center with a string quartet playing in the background, and working with the healthy campus department to organize alcohol awareness-based events.

One pitfall to watch out for is groups on campus looking to use your wellness space for activities other than wellness. This is where collaboration can get tricky but can also be easily addressed. “Oftentimes, we have student organizations or other departments reach out, asking if they can utilize the space,” said Rodgers. “If we can find a tie in to wellness or one of the eight dimensions, we do our best to make that happen.”

While most programming is centered around students, Fiocchi also elaborated the importance of wellness for staff through a partnership with the Sullivan Center, an on-campus clinic, to do health screenings and flu shots. “We’re utilizing our staff as well to promote our well-being,” he said. “We really feel we have to model the way of what we want whole person wellness to be on campus.”

Overall, beginning a wellness program starts with finding a space, no matter how small. Remember, there’s always room for expansion and growth. “Don’t get boxed into the place,” said Fiocchi. “There’s not a lot of boundaries once you get things rolling and understand what you can provide.”

Wellness Events Programmed by Jenny Rodgers:

  • Rock affirmation event – Participants select a rock and use mod podge to glue words from magazines and create their own positive self-affirmation rock.
  • DIY trail mix – As part of Stress Less Week during finals, participants are encouraged to come by and create their own trail mix.
  • Therapy dogs – Also held during finals week, campus rec partners with a local service dog group in the community, encouraging participants to take a break from studying and play with the therapy dogs.
  • Pumpkin painting – It’s an event held outside where participants paint a pumpkin during breast cancer awareness month.
  • Love your body week – Participants write one thing they love about their body to be featured on the windows of the Wellness Zone to promote body positivity.
  • Nursing home Valentine’s Day cards – A Service-To-Go event where students write and decorate a Valentine’s Day card to go to Clemson Downs, a local nursing home in the community.
Brittany Howard
Brittany is a staff writer at Peake Media. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com

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