Morrisville Focuses On Student Wellbeing With Student Wellness Center
Published: June 22nd, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

Morrisville focuses on student wellbeing with Student Wellness Center The Student Wellness Center at the SUNY Morrisville Norwich campus. The space was designed with the help of Human Services student interns, who surveyed Morrisville students to determine what they would like to see and use in the Wellness Center. A focus was placed on creating a calming and comfortable environment where students could destress. (Photo by Sarah Genter)

NORWICH — Staff and student interns at SUNY Morrisville put a focus on student wellbeing and mental health this year by designing and implementing a brand new "Student Wellness Center" at the Norwich campus.

The SUNY Morrisville Human Services Institute newsletter, The Interventionist, describes wellness as "the area of needs which affect a student's ability to succeed and thrive — their personal mental health and wellbeing."

SUNY Morrisville Human Services Program Coordinator Dr. Julanne Burton said she and former Campus Director Lindsey Lefevre, as well as the Campus Counselor Betty Ann Liddell, were focused on supporting students' wellness after the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"The three of us were talking frequently about, what do we feel like students need as we come out of the pandemic? And as they communicate their stress level, what could we do to help them deal with that?" she said. "We were thinking about the pandemic and how that made people really stressed, and we wanted to give them a space that would really address some of those stressors and just be a comfortable, relaxed place."

"So that’s when we said, well, here’s an idea: we can make a space for them and we said, alright we need to kind of slow down and ask the students, one, if they would even use the space, if they want the space, what they would do with it, and how? And so all of their answers to those questions informed us going forward and the design of the space itself."

According to Burton, the Human Services program teaches students how to become counselors, case managers, and crisis intervention personnel, and that many of her students go on to become advocates and counselors at local nonprofits.

As part of their schooling, students are required to complete three internships. For students not working with a local nonprofit, Burton said they can go through SUNY Morrisville's Human Services Institute, which will sponsor their internships and allow them to design their own.

"As part of an internship you want students to be in a situation where they can take leadership," said Burton. "They can have their own ideas and kind of see them come to fruition. That’s really what I want to be able to offer them is, okay, here’s your idea, how can I support you in making this happen?"

In this case, two student interns, Angel Audette and Sammy Musk, were brought on to assist with the design process and implementation of the wellness center.

"We decided that we wanted the perspective of the students to be what guided us in designing this space," said Burton. "[The interns] basically were involved with the design, they sent out surveys to the other students at the campus, they talked to people, they developed a couple of different events to help students understand what is wellness, and then we really took their ideas in the design of the center."

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Once the design and specific elements of the space were nailed down, the group repurposed a classroom at the Norwich campus using Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) money awarded to the school, as well as some existing SUNY Morrisville funds that were available.

The room was transformed into a calm and comfortable space complete with low lighting, small couches, rugs, bean bag chairs, an Amazon Alexa for students to play music, an electric fireplace, massage chairs, and many other wellness-geared elements.

"There’s access to all kinds of games that we purchased, we’re planning on developing a library for students related to wellness that they can just take out books or resources, and the room is set up in such a way where there’s kind of areas of where a group of people can sit, but then there’s also an ability to move things around," Burton explained.

Another big factor for the group was creating a space that could be easily recreated or adapted for each student's home, to provide them access to a calming environment when not at school.

"We wanted to make sure that we were able to do that in such a way where if you came into the Wellness Center, could you recreate something like this at your house?" said Burton. "It’s really the lighting, the space itself. There’s nothing extraordinary about it other than, you know, you’re not necessarily going to buy some massage chairs. But you can buy a bean bag chair and you can have low level lighting, and you can have your music on."

"So we have music and then we have a TV in there, so different things, a fireplace. So things to make it calm and comfortable, but really, how can you replicate this if you wanted to develop something similar at your own house?"

The Student Wellness Center held its grand opening to students on February 7 and 8 with an event that taught students how to make their own essential oil roller balls and overnight oats. Since then, the center has been host to events and activities all focused on wellness.

"I had another student come in during the spring semester and they really were more focused on, okay, what do we need to purchase? So games, things to give away, stuff like that for the Wellness Center, and then how do we start student-led events? So she led a game night for students," said Burton. "We’ll bring in professionals to teach things like yoga or whatever, but we want students to kind of think about what they might like to lead, and so she led a game night. So there was snacks, and people were asked to bring their friends or whomever for game night, and that was one of the first big events that we had so that worked out pretty well."

Burton also said the Wellness Center has been a hit with students, and that "it's rare when I walk by that room and there's not students in it."

"They used it from the moment we opened the doors. There were groups of students there, and we were kind of surprised at how quickly the students kind of took ownership of the space, and they really do use it," she added.

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In addition to the Student Wellness Center, SUNY Morrisville also offers counseling and therapy services to students, and have developed an agreement with Liberty Resources to provide assistance and education related to domestic violence and sexual assault, according to Burton.

Although the space is now open to students, Burton said the Student Wellness Center will only continue to grow through the addition of resources, guest speakers, and events and activities led by future student interns.

"I’ll have new interns coming in and they will, whatever they decide is something they have skills about, or they want to learn about, or they want to take leadership on, that will be what we do. So it might be more game nights but it might be something different," said Burton. "I encourage students to think about what they want to learn more about, what they want to take charge of, and then that really dictates what we do."

The Student Wellness Center will also be expanding their Wellness Lending Library: a collection of videos, books, booklets, and arts and crafts supplies to teach students more about wellness and mental health.

"I had a student who was researching the kinds of books and videos and things like that that we should have. She developed a whole list of things, so we just have to purchase them. So we’ll have them available for the fall when students return," Burton explained. "Same with crafts, arts and crafts projects. We want those to be available, so that student intern did the same thing: She came up with a list of things that she thought students would actually want to make and use, so those are things that’ll be ready for September when students are returning."

More information on SUNY Morrisville and their Human Services program can be found at and