WPI Cuts Ribbon for Center for Well-Being; Officially Launches Health & Wellness Collaborative
This article is one in an occasional series about the people, offices, and services dedicated to supporting WPI students and our community.
Worcester, MA—January 26, 2023—At a ceremony held today, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) officials cut the ribbon to launch the Center for Well-Being, a groundbreaking model of wellness programming and support for the campus community. To help foster a more holistic approach to student health and well-being, the university has also co-located the new Center with its Student Health Services (SHS) and offices for the Student Development and Counseling Center (SDCC). The convergence of these three entities, plus WPI’s Office of Accessibility Services, comprises WPI’s pioneering Health & Wellness Collaborative.
“The connection between mind, body, and spirit is undeniable, and the creation of the Center for Well-Being and the establishment of the Health & Wellness Collaborative demonstrates a thoughtful and holistic approach to more fully supporting the wellness of every individual in the WPI community,” said Winston (Wole) Soboyejo, WPI Interim-President. “Academic success is best achieved when a student’s needs are met such that they can thrive both in and out of the classroom. This ethos of care also extends to supporting our faculty and staff in their work. I am truly grateful for all who worked tirelessly to bring this Center – and this Collaborative – to fruition, and I believe WPI’s experience can ultimately benefit others.”
"The connection between mind, body, and spirit is undeniable, and the creation of the Center for Well-Being and the establishment of the Health & Wellness Collaborative demonstrates a thoughtful and holistic approach to more fully supporting the wellness of every individual in the WPI community." -Winston (Wole) Soboyejo
Centralizing Care for the WPI Community
The opening of the Center for Well-Being is the culmination of years of planning to centralize a broad range of services to support students in an integrated approach that recognizes the important connections between physical health, mental health, overall well-being, and academic and professional success. Guided by input from an internal Mental Health and Well-Being Task Force composed of students, faculty, and staff and collaborations with external consultants, this new Center will allow WPI to apply evidence-based practices that promote well-being for students and the broader campus community, recognizing the importance of faculty and staff in creating, maintaining, and modeling a healthier environment for all. Importantly, all components of the Center and Collaborative are built on engagement and connection and provide not only programming and resources for individuals to support their own wellness, but advisors, guides, and peers to help along the way, as well as structural and systems level changes to better support the well-being of the community.
The visionary new Center, designed by Lamoureaux Pagano Associates/Architects and built by Shawmut Design Construction, includes a welcome desk staffed by students serving as Peer Well-Being Ambassadors, staff offices, and a wellness hub with comfortable seating where students can connect or relax to the gentle and soothing sounds of water flowing in the waterfall feature. The Center also features a programming room for hosting wellness activities (such as meditation or yoga) and a rest and recovery room equipped with a zero-gravity chair, compression boots, and red light therapy to virtually connect with nature, find balance, and ground yourself with restorative content. The Center is adjacent to new spaces for Student Health Services, which relocated from another area of the campus and additional offices for the Student Development and Counseling Center. The overall project, supported by a $10 million commitment by the university, positions these significant health and well-being services next to the campus quad in an area well-traveled by students heading to the university’s largest dining hall.
“Although these initiatives were years in the making, the importance of this work was underscored and accelerated last academic year — a time that brought unprecedented challenges and a major focus on mental health and well-being to the WPI campus,” said Charlie Morse, WPI Dean of Student Wellness. “Young people everywhere are grappling with a mental health crisis that was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now all colleges and universities must gain a better understanding of how mental health and well-being intersect with the rigors of higher education so that we can identify opportunities to better support our communities.”
“Our belief is that this new approach will help nurture a culture of wellness that promotes healthier habits, behaviors, and decisions that permeate all areas of the community. We aim to help students, faculty, and staff at WPI, while also sharing what we’ve learned with other colleges and universities so they can help their own campus communities as well.”
Relax, Reflect, Recharge
With offerings ranging from small group programs and Koru Mindfulness Meditation to individual consultations and mental health awareness educations and trainings, the Center for Well-Being is a supportive and safe space for all members of the WPI community to gather, relax, reflect, and recharge. Explore more of what the Center's got to offer.
Leading, Listening, and Offering Help and Hope
The Center for Well-Being will be led by Paula Fitzpatrick, a former college dean, professor of psychology, and a certified mindfulness meditation teacher. Fitzpatrick was named inaugural director in February 2022 and has been integrally involved with the Center’s design and creation.
“I have great hopes for this center and all it represents,” said Fitzpatrick. “Not only is it a focal point for community support programming and wellness resources, but it is also a safe space where individuals can slow down and connect mind, body, and spirit in meaningful ways that foster greater resilience and holistic well-being that will carry them through life. What truly makes WPI’s Center unique, and what drew me to the position, is the comprehensive and coordinated approach that also includes academic and research initiatives. Such a truly integrated and holistic strategy is rare, and I am excited to contribute this this emerging understanding of well-being.”
"I have great hopes for this center and all it represents. Not only is it a focal point for community support programming and wellness resources, but it is also a safe space where individuals can slow down and connect mind, body, and spirit in meaningful ways that foster greater resilience and holistic well-being that will carry them through life...Such a truly integrated and holistic strategy is rare, and I am excited to contribute to this emerging understanding of well-being." -Paula Fitzpatrick
The new offerings are part of a larger effort begun last year to address the overall wellness needs of the campus community, led by the Mental Health Implementation Team. The group is composed of students, faculty, and staff, as well as liaisons with WPI parents, and aligns with WPI’s strategic initiatives. The team has focused on six sections: student life, academics, programs, training, and services (including the Center for Well-Being), the First-Year Experience, communications, and faculty and staff, and has implemented programs, practices, and other changes across campus to support wellness. The group will transition to an advisory group to continue monitoring and supporting community wellness.
The university will also continue other newly adopted initiatives such as Wellness Days—which are held throughout the academic year to give the community time to pause with no classes, no assignment due dates, no non-critical lab work, and no meetings. Additionally, the Be Well Together website and newsletters will continue to provide updates to the campus on resources and programming, as well as peer training opportunities.
“WPI is composed of thoughtful and dedicated people who are hard-wired to help address the greatest challenges facing our world,” said Philip N. Clay, Senior Vice President of Student Affairs. “In the case of the ongoing mental health crisis, we focused first on helping and supporting our community, but in true WPI fashion, we want to use both theory and practice to help others, too. I am so proud of the dedicated individuals at WPI who have been doing this important work tirelessly for so long and with such care. On their behalf, I want to offer understanding, empathy, and the knowledge and experience we’ve gained to other colleges and universities who are also working to help their communities achieve better health and well-being.”