University of Richmond officials announced plans for a new well-being center that will house various wellness offices in a single building and add another on-campus dining facility, in a statement released last week.

The new center will house the Student Health Center, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Center for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, according to the statement.

The fundraising for the center has been kick-started by a lead gift commitment from the Walrath Family Foundation, a philanthropic foundation established by UR alumni Michelle and Michael Walrath, according to the statement. 

The Walraths chose to keep private the amount of the donation.

The couple has helped fund wellness projects in the past. Michael Walrath helped produce a childhood obesity documentary titled “Fed Up” in 2014, according to the New York Times.

Peter LeViness, director of CAPS, said he was pleased about the announcement.

“CAPS staff are excited to be part of the new well-being center and look forward to the ways the new building will enable enhanced collaboration and integration of programs and services in ways that will benefit UR students, and be a model that other institutions will want to emulate!” LeViness said in an email statement.

When contacted, representatives from the other wellness offices were not available for comment.

Along with housing the wellness offices, the new well-being center will also have a health-food cafe and patio, mindfulness and meditation facilities and services and a venue for speakers and interactive learning focused on wellness, according to the statement.

Steve Bisese, vice president of student development, previously told The Collegian that the well-being center would be built near the recently announced basketball training facility, which will be between the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness and Millhiser Gymnasium.

“The main concept is to think of wellness more holistically, with everything from what we eat to relaxing," Bisese said then. "The idea is that it’s an easy-access, one-stop shop. Hopefully, we’ll have healthier and happier students and it’ll be tied to retention and student satisfaction.”

Sophomore Sara Messervey is a strong advocate of mental health and sexual assault reform on campus and said she was hopeful about the new center.

"I think that this could be a great opportunity for students," Messervey said. "I think creating a safe mental-health space could do wonders for stress relief and mental-health treatment."

The location may not be ideal for most students, Messervey said, but it would be near most freshman dorms, which would be helpful to freshmen while they transition into life away from home at an academically rigorous university.

VMDO Architects designed artistic renderings of the center. VMDO is a Charlottesville-based company that has done work for Virginia colleges, including Virginia Commonwealth University, according to VMDO's website. This will be its first project with UR, said Jim Kovach, a VMDO designer who is working on the project.

"We are not only doing the conceptual planning and design for the project, but are also going to take it all the way through construction," Kovach stated in an email.

Kovach explained that UR's original architect, Ralph Adams Cram, also designed Sweet Briar College in Amherst, Virginia, and that VDMO has designed buildings for Sweet Briar since the mid-1990s. Because of this, Kovach said VDMO designers felt well-suited for such a project.

Both Kovach and Cynthia Price, UR's director of media and public relations, said it was too soon to reveal the cost or the timeline of construction and that information would be released in the coming months.

Contact news editor Julia Raimondi at julia.raimondi@richmond.edu.

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