There are opportunities to improve one’s well-being and mental health throughout campus, but sometimes these are not well known to the student population.
The modest-sized hall has been around for over a decade. Located in the most prominent locations on the UC San Diego campus., easily bypassed compared to the large Price Center Theater and bustling eateries nearby. Sometimes students are seated in ergonomic chairs inside for a quiet getaway in the early hours of the morning, and sometimes the atmosphere inside is brimming with handicrafts. The area is often referred to as the welfare lounge located “right next to Jamba Juice in the Price Centre”. Yet it constantly stands on its own, unseen by those who just haven’t heard of it.
The region demonstrates another aspect of the one-size-fits-all approach to many well-being and mental health programs or services: a collaborative approach. There are facilitators to guide the programming or activities that take place inside and outside the hall. But Zone’s emphasis is on the UC San Diego student community, united by shared interests or even a simple desire to have a comfortable place to take a nap in peace.
Zone is entirely based on the activities students want to see on campus.
Laura Ross is essentially an educator. She has taught at other institutions as a professor. However, she is also the Peer Health Coordinator and the Regional Coordinator within the scope of Health Promotion Services.
With the COVID-19 pandemic – Closed the area for a few years – and the lasting effects of the Omicron variant starting in January 2022, Zone has undoubtedly undergone changes. Ross joined the District nine months ago to bring in more programming. When it arrived, he optimistically described the time as a chance to grow again, or a “2.0 upgrade.”
Ross remembered how a graduating student asked him to sign his diaries. – temporary one year — At the end of the Spring Quarter. Ross called this regular of the salon a “Friend of the Region”. Ross tries to make students feel at home. He addresses those around him by name and never forgets any of the faces that come to the Zone. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that he finds working with students to be the most rewarding part of working in the parlor.
In fact, Ross considers his “friends of the region” his regulars. They come once a week or even once a day. Some relax while others study. She remembers being a regular There was a group of three to attend each painting event. Others go on to become Well-Being Peer Educators, receiving training and joining the leadership team.
While Ross works Monday through Friday, he admits his role is as spontaneous as the Zone’s programming. After all, it helps with peer coordination.
There are four departments for health and mental health at UCSD: Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Student Health Clinic, Health Promotion Services (part of Ross), and the Administration, which keeps all departments running. These four pillars are under an umbrella. Umbrella consists of the Student Health and Wellbeing Cluster, which includes more than 175 people. The entire cluster focuses on the eight dimensions of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Eight dimensions include: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, social, physical, spiritual and occupational.
These dimensions offer tremendous flexibility in Zone events, from 15 minutes of guided meditation for Finals Week to craft hours. For example, there was crochet, an idea that was introduced and produced through a campus club called STITCH. Some of the most popular events have been painting events. — when students can take home small works of art. Sometimes organizations reach the Zone and other times it’s the other way around.
Zone has even collaborated with the Craft Center, which focuses on activities at Sixth College. like woodworking, glassblowing and jewelry making – most of them are free.
In fact, events range from collaborating with psychologists to meditations through CAPS. UCSD Recreation even has events with CalFresh alongside yoga sessions. These events take place from Week 1 to Finals Week and are all available through Health Promotion Services.
After students attend an event, they complete a program evaluation questionnaire that is analyzed over the summer – this ultimately helps to validate the programming taking place in the District.
Ross looks to the next year with optimism. Currently there is 10-15 hours of programming per week, but 30 hours are expected for next year.
But the Therapy Fluffies program may be the biggest event. Contrary to what some students think, therapy dogs do not live in the Zone. Outside of UCSD, several dogs come in once a month to help put students’ minds at ease through a volunteer program where the school covers parking. They are either located outside the District or next to the Library Walk, the latter attracting more attention. As of now, more than 1,200 students are participating in the event. Next year, dogs may come more often, depending on the budget.
“I like dogs,” Ross said. “They are my favourite. And I really love seeing students volunteer for Zone. It’s really satisfying. They develop this skill set they can use for jobs.”
After all, Ross can’t be a one-man show. Managing the area is only part of his responsibility.
There are four to six undergraduate students and one graduate student assisting the region. They help run all the programming and marketing. As of early June, Ross is in the middle of recruiting more students to market and market the District further to other students. From now on, the Student Health and Wellbeing group is sending out newsletters to all students on Monday mornings to Sunday events.
Ross’ role is to oversee all 50 Wellness Peer Educators as they will be part of one of four focus teams: Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs; Sanity; Sexual Health/Healthy Relationships; and Region. For the field, too, a well-being educator may have a variety of tasks, such as creating tables, facilitating presentations, and creating things like Zone buttons.
Educators have little in common, aside from all being UCSD students with a passion to serve and learn. – Something that Ross refers to as a willingness to step out of their comfort zone and learn to be uncomfortable in a safe place.
Students also have some input to offer. Zone area consists of sustainable products — the floor and cabinets are bamboo. The salon is LEED certified. These applied pieces were a result of the students’ desire to see more environmental sustainability. Getting a Smart TV is another thing on the “wish list” as it can help with ongoing programming in the background for presentations and workshops. In other words, a Bob Ross image video can be played in the background of a painting event. For now, Zone has the latest improvements like chargers as well as music inside the lounge.
The district will be open for Summer Session 1 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 to 16:30 throughout the summer. Events and presentations will continue to be piloted along with many arts and crafts events.
Ross emphasizes that the District is a service to students – not a club or organisation. The Zone holistically covers every aspect of student life and always strives to be a welcoming wellbeing lounge.
“This is not what I want. This is what students want. What do your friends want?” Ross told the UCSD Guardian.
Image courtesy of Erik Jepsen/University Communications