With the fall semester now in full swing, students are flocking to libraries, scrambling to complete problem sets and rushing to turn in their first essays of the term.
Some of those stressed-out students might benefit from a new space on campus — complete with soothing meditation rooms and cozy private study spots — that has opened its doors to Yalies in search of a break from the fast-paced rhythm of daily life.
The Good Life Center celebrated its official opening on the fourth floor of Silliman’s Byers Hall with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday afternoon. The event drew a crowd of over 50 students, professors and administrators. The center, which features a meditation room with a sandbox, a study with board games and a small library of self-help books, is the brainchild of Head of Silliman College Laurie Santos. Last semester, Santos taught “Psychology and the Good Life,” a course about wellbeing that attracted a record number of undergraduates.
“I’m really grateful that Professor Santos took a very popular course and found a way to expand its benefits for the whole student body through this space,” Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun said. “It’s my first time seeing it and it’s marvelous. I really hope students will utilize it.”
The construction of the wellness center was financed with funds from Silliman’s budget and the Yale Well program — an initiative to promote wellness in students’ lives — as well as donations from students. Administrators hope that the center’s opening will encourage students to stay on campus and send a clear signal that mental and physical well-being are a priority for everyone at Yale.
Programming at the Good Life Center started on Monday night, before its official opening, with a meditation session led by Molly Crockett, director of the Crockett Lab at Yale, which studies morality and decision-making. On Tuesday night, graduate students with the Yale Psychology Department Clinic hosted the first of multiple sessions aimed at helping students set goals, develop concrete skills to demonstrate resilience at stressful times, reduce anxiety, create better sleep patterns and strengthen relationships.
Workshops and events will continue throughout the year and will be open to undergraduate, graduate and professional students alike.
“This is a really contemplative place where you can relax and be quiet,” Santos said. “These spaces already existed in wonderful ways through the Chaplain’s Office but, for students who are more secular or non-believers, they may not have felt that those spaces were supposed to be accessible for them.”
Tracey George SPH ’15, the inaugural director of the Good Life Center and the Yale Well Program, emphasized that the center exists to meet students’ needs. She also said that students will play a vital role in the daily operations of the space. Undergraduates will have the opportunity to serve on the center’s board and student groups will be able to host their own events in the space.
According to Sergio Gonzalez, Silliman College operations manager, planning for the center began with a Pinterest board, brought to life with the help of undergraduate event aides.
The majority of the furniture in the Good Life Center also belonged to former students, Gonzalez said.
“Students got to learn how to use a drill and saw and we wanted to show people that you can do this kind of thing on a budget,” Gonzalez said. “We like to be scrappy in the ways that we do things. There’s a certain kind of grungy feel to this space as you can see.”
Students who attended the ribbon-cutting said they were excited about the opening of the new space and for the chance to unwind and connect with their peers. Evin Henriquez-Groves ’19, a Peer Wellness Champion — one of 70 undergraduate, graduate and professional students trained to have conversations about wellness with their peers — said she looks forward to having open dialogues with students visiting the center.
Cami Arboles ’20, another Peer Wellness Champion, said the new center is an important resource to have on campus, given that many students struggle with wellness.
“I feel like self-care is always the first thing to go for Yale students,” Arboles told the News. “Students here are very ambitious and dedicated and constantly putting other people’s needs before their own, often to their own detriment. This is a space that reinforces that you need to sometimes put your own health and wellness first in order to make the other parts of your life more abundant.”
Gabi Limon ’20, one of the founders and managers of the Silliman Acorn — the student-run coffee shop located across from the wellness center — hopes that the two spaces will operate in tandem, providing a place of refuge for all students, regardless of their needs.
Santos said she hopes that as more and more students seek out classes on meditation and mindfulness, these practices will become social norms.
“When the first years come in and see that there’s this space just for meditating in my residential college, they’ll see that it’s a normal thing to do,” Santos said. “The biggest thing that these spaces signal is take a break. Just think, just be, and that’s OK.”
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Correction, Sept. 22: A previous version of this article stated that Gabi Limon is a member of the class of 2021. She is, in fact, in the class of 2020.