A New “Wellness Dorm” At Univ. of Vermont Breaks The Mold

we_uvm_shirt.JPGCollege: those formative years when you pursue knowledge, find your independent voice, hopefully fall in love and, of course, attend daily guided group meditations in your dorm after counseling with your nutrition coach, right?

we_uvm_students.jpgPHOTO:WE students come together to exercise and test their moves through boot camp training and Zumba! Courtesy UVM WE News

If that last activity didn’t quite ring true for you, you're not alone. But that may be changing. University of Vermont now offers students a wellness-oriented living experience in their dorms. Given the program’s enthusiastic reception and the growing wellness movement in general, we may see more programs like this before too long.

we_uvm_class.JPG

PHOTO:First day of class for Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies - the required course for students living in WE Courtesy UVM WE News

Dubbed the Wellness Environment (which conveniently abbreviates to WE: a nice nod to the project’s community focus), the freshman-only dorm program introduces students to a neuroscience-based class called Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies. Focused on fitness, nutrition, mindfulness and mentorship, their dorm experience features fitness trainers, nutritionists, meditation and yoga instructors, a learning kitchen, and a gym. Alcohol and other drugs are verboten. Led by Dr. James Hudziak, the project was born out of a desire to give students tools to make healthier choices. Over 360 people applied for the 120 spots initially, and the program will nearly quadruple in size next school year due to its popularity, according to Brian MacQuarrie of the Boston Globe:

The concept is admittedly simple — preparing students to be more than learners — but it’s one that has lagged in application, Hudziak said. Traditionally, parents have sent their children off to college with the confidence that they possessed enough judgment, after a bit of trial and error, to make the right decisions.

While this is most likely the first program like this in the nation, the idea of integrating wellness into the college experience is nothing new as colleges and universities are realizing the importance of their role in helping to create healthy habits. Among the many examples is Spelman College’s decision a few years ago to dissolve their athletics program, and reallocating the funding toward college-wide wellness initiatives.

x_oral-fitbit-640x427.jpgPHOTO: Students in "Health Fitness I," at Oral Roberts University have a requirement of 10,000 steps a day, and the app-tracked targets account for 20 percent of a student's grade in the course. Official ORU photo originally published in ORU News

Some programs are more creative and controversial. A mandatory freshman fitness class at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma will require all students to wear fitness trackers and sync the data into the school's grading system. In a workplace setting, there are some that would argue that linking employees to fitness data sets up a slippery slope to judgments or firings based on health-metrics performance. In a world where our personal information is becoming less and less personal, it may be wise to approach these more invasive types of programs carefully.

The WE program, however, is a far cry from being overbearing and mandatory. It seems to be a great way for the next generation to lead the charge in the wellness movement!

Sources:

Read all stories by Damon Cory-Watson


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