Earlier this year, at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, New York, Alpha North Esports and Entertainment hosted the “Battle of the Colleges” esports tournament. Syracuse University’s Rocket League team competed in the tournament and had reached the third-place match….
A New Era at Syracuse University: Barnes Center at The Arch Transforms Health and Wellness
Today, Syracuse University opened the Barnes Center at The Arch, the University’s new state-of-the-art health, wellness and recreation complex. The new facility and the programs that find their home there include many amenities found in other college and university recreation centers, but the facility isn’t what makes the Barnes Center transformational for students.
Recognizing that individual well-being encompasses mind, body and spirit, the Barnes Center offers something different. Its staffing, resources and services go well beyond the scope of a traditional college recreation center. In addition to recreational fitness and personal training, students will find student health clinics, nutritional advice and stress management, meditation resources and mental health counseling in a central location.
“Today’s university students want excellent academics, extracurricular activities that ignite their passion, and health and wellness opportunities that help balance the rigor and demands of their entire experience. Creating a place where students can find life balance will empower them to succeed,” says Board of Trustees Chairman Emeritus Steven W. Barnes ’82. This was the vision that led Barnes and his wife, Deborah, to donate $5 million to help build the center—a central component of a plan to transform the student experience at Syracuse University.
A Beautiful Facility—and More
“Even though I have been involved in the planning from the beginning, I was blown away by the reality of the health and wellness facilities at the Barnes Center at The Arch,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “Each part of the facility is dramatically bigger, better and genuinely uplifting than the former locations all over campus where health and wellness was housed.”
Chancellor Syverud stresses that the facility itself is just one part of the University’s commitment to health and wellness. “The activities, staff and programming at the Barnes Center are what matters most,” he says. “We want to continually work to provide the services that Syracuse University students need to succeed—personally and academically. My hope is that the center will become the place to meet on campus.”
Based on students’ reaction, this hope is being realized. “When I first went inside the new building I was awestruck. It’s gorgeous and much more than anything I had imagined. I definitely think that having this holistic wellness facility will make it easier for students to access the resources they need without having to run all over campus,” says Julia Cutler ’21. “I’m really excited and I look forward to spending much of my time there in the next few years.”
The model makes a lot of sense, says Director of Health Benjamin Domingo. “There are a lot of wellness centers that assume someone can just get what they need by walking into a building,” Domingo says. “We’re going way beyond that here, hand-delivering people to personal trainers to get them comfortable with working out or nutritionists to get them eating better. We are going to be proactive in providing referrals to holistic care.”
Student-Centered Integrated Care
The centralization is more than just location—a new electronic records system also helps staff coordinate resources that address each individual student’s concerns. Medical providers can share information with a student’s counselor—and the other way around. Giving just one example, Cory Wallack, interim executive director of health and wellness, notes, “You can’t provide quality mental health services if you’re not simultaneously providing nutritional services, sleep services and physical activity.”
Interim Director of Counseling Beth Salatti agrees, noting that counselors will integrate the variety of tools available to help students. For example, a student struggling with mild depression may be referred to one of the new personal trainers for an initial series of free sessions to demonstrate the close ties between emotional and physical health. With an estimated 2,800 students seeking therapy at the Counseling Center last year to help with issues as common as anxiety and depression, the need for innovative and integrated services has increased.
“Because medical care and counseling are now in the same space, we are able to offer an integrated assessment approach when a student comes in for help,” says Wallack. “We will have a nurse, a therapist and other health care professionals to meet individualized needs.” And even if all appointments are booked, a walk-in student can benefit from having an assessment from a specialized registered nurse.
Learning Outside of the Classroom
According to Director of Health Promotion Katelyn Cowen, locating all of these services at the Barnes Center will help students find educational resources easily. Because the college experience brings inevitable stressors, the health promotion team offers services to help students identify and deal with them. There are peer educators trained in sexual violence prevention and mental health. There are themed wellness kits designed to deal with stress, sleeping difficulties and overcoming colds and the flu. The Crowley Family MindSpa, in its own dedicated space, will allow students to de-stress with meditation, light therapy and biofeedback. “The MindSpa utilizes tools to measure your heart rate and brain activity to get a sense of how you’re breathing and how you can control your stress levels,” adds Cowen.
New offerings include pet therapy, thanks to the Deborah A. Barnes Pet Therapy Program and the Kathy and Stan Walters Pet Therapy Room. “We’re coordinating with local organizations that have certified animals,” says Cowen. “The animals will be available in the dedicated room several days a week.” Visiting the pets has already become a highlight for students in the center’s first few weeks of being open.
For students who have never made exercise a regular part of their lifestyle, the Barnes Center at The Arch will have dedicated personal training staff to introduce them to fitness activities that will meet their unique interests, needs and skill levels. Matthew Hackett, director of recreation, believes the Barnes Center’s innovations go beyond those at other universities. Hackett has developed centers at several major institutions, and his opinion is shaped by his previous experiences.
“The fact that we offer features like outdoor equipment check-out, e-sports programs, more than 115 new pieces of cardio equipment and 10 metric tons of free weights, and then we connect them to health and wellness programs takes our program to the next level,” Hackett says. “Plus, we are offering 50 classes a week with a drop-in model at no additional charge to students, so as schedules or interests change, students are able to take part in other classes.”
The recreation facilities also include two new pools, new basketball courts, a new indoor track, dance studios and classrooms, and new cardio and free weight facilities. All of these facilities are also open to faculty and staff.
“Almost from the moment I came to Syracuse, students were asking for better facilities, staffing and programming so that we could have a holistic approach to student physical and mental health,” says Chancellor Syverud.
“Thanks to the leadership and generosity of Board Chair Emeritus Steven Barnes and his wife Deborah—and to our other leadership donors—the students now have what they so heartily advocated for,” Chancellor Syverud says. “The list of those in our community who came together to make this possible includes everyone from our board to our staff to our students and faculty to our alumni and friends to the many in our community whose transforming work has created this wonderful place.”