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Student Life and Wellness Building Creates a New Hub on Campus

February 15, 2022
The Student Life and Wellness Building

With the new Student Life and Wellness Building that opened its doors this semester, Bryn Mawr has created a welcoming space for students that brings together three key centers to create a synergy that redefines wellness for the community.

“This project began with the need to build a Health and Wellness Center that is inviting and accessible,” says Dean of the Undergraduate College Jennifer Walters. “The new building makes it possible for us to advance a concept of wellness that includes learning how to care for yourself and communities that are important to you. Locating the Pensby Center for Community Development and Inclusion and the Career & Civic Engagement Center with health and wellness services and programs creates opportunities for innovation and collaboration in student life.”

The main lobby of the Student Life and Wellness Building.

Visitors to the 21,000-square-foot building are first met with a glass enclosed entryway that leads to the main lobby where they pass a calming “water wall” as they make their way to a central information desk that’s flanked by a common area of sofas and chairs on one side and offices on the other. Past the information desk is the elevator and wide, inviting stairs leading to the second-floor home of the Health and Wellness Center. The first floor is home to the Career & Civic Engagement Center and the Pensby Center for Community Development and Inclusion.

The water wall feature in the main lobby.

The building, which is located between Erdman Hall and Helfarian, has quickly become a favorite spot for students on campus, says Ameera Hussain ‘24, who works in the Career & Civic Engagement Center.

The information desk at the Student Life and Wellness Building.

“My favorite features are the multicultural room, the study spaces in the hall, the water wall, and the big windows. It was like being in a snow globe when it was snowing.”

Among the highlights of the new space for the Career & Civic Engagement Center are three dedicated interview/meeting rooms and a community room that will be outfitted with all the necessary technology for students to meet with employers and community partners and to engage with guests from around the world. The space also brings together the Center’s entire 16-person staff, which had previously been dispersed in four different locations across campus.

“Now when a student needs to see one of our staff members, they don’t have to worry about figuring out where to go,” says Career & Civic Engagement Center Director Katie Krimmel. “And when they’re here, we can work together much more easily to meet their needs.”

For the Pensby Center, the new space means a much more central location on campus and brings a dramatic increase in common areas for student programming and support. The building is home to both a halal and kosher kitchen, a prayer room with a foot-washing station, and a multicultural living room.

The Student Life and Wellness Building community dining room.

“We didn’t get a lot of foot traffic out on Cambrian Row and already, just by being in this location, the foot traffic has increased tremendously,” says Pensby Center Director A.T. Ortíz. “It’s also communicating to students the importance of recognizing how wellness and wellbeing connects to anti-racism, belonging, and identity.”

Upstairs, the new Health Center has six new exam rooms and the Counseling Center has 10 rooms for students to meet with counselors.

Early planning for the building started in 2014 with several opportunities for community input prior to the start of construction. The design phase of the project wrapped up in early spring of 2020 and the plan was to start getting the site ready for construction with a target completion date of spring 2022. Then COVID-19 hit.

“Initially, there was a moratorium on construction so there was no way to get anything done,” recalls Director of Facilities Nina Bisbee. “However, that did eventually get lifted but then we had to make a decision about moving ahead. The College made what turned out to be a wise decision and continued the project.”

While the pandemic did impact construction, deciding to move forward meant the College dealt with far fewer supply chain issues and rising costs than it would have had the project been put on hold, says Bisbee.

“We still had to battle the pandemic and it took a lot of creativity. There are still a few things that need to get finished, but we got the building open on schedule.”

The architect for the building was Ewing Cole, Philadelphia, Pa., and the contractor was HSC Builders & Construction Managers, Exton, Pa.

The Student Life and Wellness Building was made possible in part through the generous gifts made to the College during the Defy Expectation Campaign. To enhance student life, the College invested more than $103 million in buildings and infrastructure over the course of the campaign, with the campaign raising more than $25 million for new capital projects such as the Park Science Center renovation, New Dorm—the first new residence hall in nearly 50 years—and the new Student Life and Wellness Building.