The Pillars of Wellness
University of North Dakota Wellness Center
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Opened in August 2006, the University of North Dakota's new Wellness Center has expanded the opportunities for students, faculty and staff to develop the foundation of a healthy lifestyle through leisure, fitness and social activities. Through a well-considered planning process, the facility has come to represent a holistic approach to wellness.
"The university as a whole has made a strong stand on health and wellness issues," said Laurie Betting, assistant vice president for wellness at University of North Dakota. "We created a coalition that looked at multidimensional wellness, and they said we don't have enough space on campus for students, faculty and staff to engage in physical activity, so the students voted a fee increase and said, 'Please give us something.' We've more than delivered from what the initial concept papers were."
The Wellness Center was designed to integrate seven dimensions of holistic wellness, including physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, environmental and occupational. The seven dimensions are integrated into the design of the Wellness Center, from the seven colors of the terrazzo floor to seven pillars within the lobby.
"It's in the floor. It's in the banners. It's certainly in the philosophy," Betting said.
And the university has made other strides in wellness as well, being one of the first schools in the United States to move forward on a tobacco-free policy—both indoors and out, Betting added.
The center features a recurring mild wave motif, meant to recall the plains of North Dakota. Also important in this northern climate, the center is filled with natural light by way of large windows and skylights, and the overall impact of the materials employed in the interior makes for a natural, calming effect.
The components of the facility also contribute to campus wellness. The Wellness Area of the facility features physical assessment rooms, a massage room, two classrooms, a first-aid station and reception area. The Burnt Toast demonstration kitchen provides a location where students and others can learn smart nutrition. The Quiet Lounge, complete with a labyrinth, free-standing water feature, fireplace and seating, offers a serene space for contemplation and renewal.
For students who want to get active, there are multiple gymnasiums for sports like basketball, volleyball, badminton, indoor soccer, roller hockey and tennis. A 200-meter, three-lane track also winds through the facility, providing a variety of views into the activities taking place inside as well as the trees and natural landscape outside.
The Fitness Area includes a 10,000-square-foot fitness floor, where the weight machines are organized according to user-friendliness to encourage newcomers to get involved. A 5,000-square-foot cardio deck overlooks the fitness floor.
Group fitness classes take place in several studios, including a specialized Spin Studio. Other studio spaces can be adapted for a wide variety of group classes, including yoga and aerobics. One of the rooms is specially equipped for Pilates classes, featuring Reformer tables.
As if that weren't enough, students can also climb various routes on the climbing and bouldering walls, or simply drop in to the juice and snack bar for a healthy bite.
The Wellness Center had an immediate impact on campus recreation, with more than 80,000 visits within the first two months.
While facilities like the Wellness Center provide a framework for healthy living, Betting said that in and of itself, this is not enough. "Education and resources do not necessarily equal healthy behaviors," she explained.
"At the end of the day, it isn't that we have so many treadmills or basketball courts," she added. "It's about ensuring students' success in their education by providing the means to walk a holistic path to wellness."