New Student Wellness Center Throws a Launch Party

The new Student Wellness Center, offering students opportunities to “reflect, connect, and decompress” is holding a launch party Nov. 11 on the third floor of Robinson Hall.


“We support students on an individual level with making healthy behavior changes,” says Caitlin Barthelmes, director of the Student Wellness Center. “But simultaneously, we want to shift the culture to one that really allows students to thrive.” (Photo by Robert Gill)

Students can relax in the Zen Zone’s massage chair, book a 15-minute appointment with a massage therapist, relieve stress by drawing or painting, or just play with one of the two official Wellness comfort dogs.

The goal of the center, which opened at the start of the fall term, is to help students “reflect on the different dimensions of wellness and take proactive steps to feel their best,” says Director Caitlin Barthelmes.

Barthelmes took over as director in July after working as an alcohol and drug education coordinator and assistant director in the office of Student Health Promotion and Wellness, which transitioned into the Student Wellness Center.

The new center represents a shift in focus from responding to high-risk behaviors to promoting proactive steps for a healthy life, Barthelmes says.

“We support students on an individual level with making healthy behavior changes,” she says. “But simultaneously, we want to shift the culture to one that really allows students to thrive.”

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Many students come in to de-stress and just hang out, she says. A number of students drop in to play with Alvin, Assistant Director Amanda Childress’ collie-Labrador-mix puppy, or Mochi, Barthelmes’ Maltese-shih tzu mix. The center’s seven-person staff offer individual “wellness check-ins” for students while also working to bring evidence-based practices to campus.

Wednesday’ launch party, from 2 to 4 p.m., is both a celebration of the new center and a way to get the word out to students at the end of the term, when stress levels are often at their highest, Barthelmes says.

Visitors will be able to try out the Zen Zone including short, guided meditations, practice stretches to counteract sedentary study practices, make their own herbal incense bag, or enjoy a “wellness-inspired beverage” and healthy snacks at the event, Barthelmes says.

The center will continue to coordinate the Brief Alcohol Screening for College Students (BASICS), designed to curb high-risk drinking; and the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative, which trains students to intervene when they feel another student is bring drawn into a high-risk situation.

The Student Wellness Center shares space on the third floor of Robinson Hall with Residential Education, which is working to develop programs for the new residential house communities launching next fall.

“This is an intentional partnership,” says Barthelmes. “We share the goal of creating an environment that integrates a positive emotional, social, and academic culture into the fabric of the Dartmouth experience.”