New ‘Whole U’ brings naps, wellness and collaborative possibility to heart of campus

The Whole U

Students, faculty and staff returned to UMSL this month to find a new space – the Whole U – coming to life inside the buzzing Millennium Student Center. Secily Adams, assistant director of fitness and wellness, is spearheading the initiative. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Secily Adams is quick to admit that the colorful room she just opened up along a central University of Missouri–St. Louis passageway is a work in progress.

Dubbed the Whole U, its inviting atmosphere and furnishings started coming together a few weeks ago, and the new space continues to evolve. But that’s probably as it should be right now.

“Our first month will be kind of working out the kinks and seeing what campus community members really want,” Adams says of the space – a new next-door neighbor of the Triton Store inside the Millennium Student Center.

“Of course, I’m already programming,” she adds, “thinking that maybe these are the things that students, faculty and staff want to participate in – but are they?”

The initiative began late last fall when Assistant Dean of Students Miriam Roccia reached out to Campus Recreation staff to see if they might have any ideas for the previously vacant spot near the MSC’s popular north entrance.

Yvette [Kell] mentioned it to me, and I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s make it a wellness space for students and faculty and staff that’s a little bit closer to areas where they’re already moving in,’” Adams says. “I mean, the rec center isn’t that far off the track, but this ­– it’s right here in the MSC, they’re eating lunch here, they’re meeting with advisers, doing whatever it may be – and so this space is just really easy for them to come into.”

By wellness, she doesn’t mean simply what people might usually think, like exercise and healthy eating.

The Whole U is definitely going to be a space where we’re hoping to incorporate all aspects of wellness ­– not just the physical and emotional which is what you typically envision when you think of the rec center – but hitting into financial and occupational wellness, too,” Adams says. “We’re really hoping to partner with a lot of campus offices, and we already have started those talks and have some programs in the works.”

Coming up this week are programs including a motivational card-making activity in celebration of National Handwriting Day, a lunch-hour chair-yoga session and more. There’s also a grand opening event set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 1 – with giveaways including eye masks and other goodies.

Why eye masks? Because naps. Tucked away in a far corner of the Whole U are three comfy-looking cots – and that feature is expected to garner particular interest.

Adams notes that with UMSL’s big commuter base, many students end up catching some shut-eye while cramped into a chair or another spot that may be loud, public and less than ideal for rejuvenation. But in the Whole U, nap-takers can stretch out on the cots as well as enjoy partitions for some privacy, dimmed lighting and even sound machines to block out any noise.

“I think right now we’re just going to call it our napping corner – when anyone sees ‘nap’ they’ll be excited,” she says. “Sleep is very important, and a lot of times college students aren’t getting enough sleep. So really giving them that option, that opportunity if they need it. And faculty and staff can use it as well – anyone with a Triton Card.”

Campus community members can schedule half-hour naps by logging into their UMSL Rec Account through the website or app – or by simply calling the Whole U (314-516-2345) within 24 hours prior to reserve a cot.

Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday – and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays – the Whole U was named as such to emphasize its collaborative aims when it comes to all things wellness for the UMSL community.

“It incorporates the idea of not just thinking about ‘me’ but about how this space can impact the whole university,” Adams says. “We can do great things by ourselves, but we can do a lot more together. We’ve got three or four offices already on board, and I think that will just continue to grow. I envision the Whole U not just as a campus rec space but representative of the whole campus.”

It also dovetails nicely with the Recreation and Wellness Center’s U-themed programming on a variety of fronts.

“There’s U-Create, which is our summer camp for children, and then we have our U-Lead program, which is our leadership initiatives and team building, and when this new space came along we were trying to figure out how to incorporate the U as well as talk about it being like holistic wellness. So we came up with ‘Whole.’ But we didn’t want to put the U before ‘Whole,’ because it kind of didn’t really work as well. So we tagged it at the end and did Whole U.”

Adams says she’s eager for feedback and ideas from students, faculty and staff as the initiative gets underway. Have a thought? Shoot her an email.

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