The entrance of the Wellness Commons on University Avenue. Photo by Rob Mohr (C’21).

By Madison Sellers
Junior Editor

There has been a clear effort by the University to expand mental and physical health resources this semester to combat new stresses on campus due to the pandemic. This effort has led to the growth of new programs like Peer Health Educators, increased offerings of virtual mental health workshops and peer support groups, and free flu vaccines to be provided by University Health Services. The construction of the new Wellness Commons had been planned long before COVID-19 struck, but there’s no better time to promote student health and well-being by opening a new, centralized health resource center on campus.

The Wellness Commons is one component of the University Commons project to enhance student life, which also includes the Learning Commons in duPont Library and the future Social Commons. Originally, a plan was designed in 2014 for one building to house the Learning, Wellness, and Student Commons together, but the design was changed from one building to three for better distribution across campus. 

The Wellness Commons will be the new home for the University Wellness Center and the Sewanee Outing Program (SOP), as well as Sewanee FitWell and a bookstore. The bookstore is now open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m and carries similar items like bluebooks, snacks, school supplies, and Sewanee gear. The SOP is currently still located in the Bishop’s Commons, but its future location is the bottom floor of the Commons next to the Wellness Center.

The central location next to McClurg will give students easier access to health resources, especially services provided by the Wellness Center. Previously located next to the Southern Tennessee Regional Health System Hospital, a long walk from main campus, the University Health Service (UHS) is now fully open to students on the bottom floor of the Wellness Commons. To visit UHS, students should make an appointment by calling 931-598-1270. 

FitWell is a fitness and recreation program with new facilities and weekly classes, and serves as another fitness option in addition to Fowler Center. 

“FitWell strives to promote relationships and connections in our student community with movement and exercise, in hopes of developing a lifelong appreciation of wellness and movement,” says Sarah Rundle, director of the Wellness Commons. 

Classes like indoor cycling (moved outside to the patio), total conditioning, yoga, and cardio remix are primarily taught by student fitness instructors, who have each completed training and passed a national certification exam. Rundle says they plan to gradually offer more classes. “It will be dependent on a number of things, including COVID-19 restrictions, demand, and availability of instructors and equipment,” she explained. There are also general exercise spaces available for use. Since FitWell is opening with a limited capacity to maintain health protocols, students must reserve time slots for working out.

In the next week, students will be able to sign up for classes and reserve spaces in FitWell through an online registration portal at https://fitwell.sewanee.edu/. A Sewanee FitWell app will also become available sometime this month. Currently, students can find the program schedule through this link, along with other resources like guided meditations and Wellness Center events. The link can also be found in the Wellness Center’s Instagram bio (@uwcsewanee). 

While construction is complete, the Wellness Commons is not yet fully open. This week was FitWell’s soft opening for student staff, and it plans to fully open to the student body in the next one to two weeks. 

The Biehl Commons, which will be a Social Commons and student union, will be the final piece of the University Commons project. Its construction is set to begin in early 2021 on the site of the Thompson Union.

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