Herkimer College unveiled its new student wellness space, The Zen Den, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, March 28.

The Zen Den, located adjacent to Alumni Hall in the Robert McLaughlin College Center, will provide a comfortable, quiet space for students to relax, study, read, play board games, color, practice yoga, meditation, and more. The space features massage chairs, soft seating, small round tables and chairs, a large-screen TV for yoga instruction, and a community book exchange.

Funding for the new wellness space was made possible by the Supplemental Support under the American Rescue Plan (SSARP), a phase of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The Zen Den name was selected after a campus-wide contest. The winning name was entered by student John Looby of Watertown, NY.

The Zen Den is an inviting, safe, and relaxing space

The idea for The Zen Den was to provide an inviting, safe, and relaxing space where students could manage daily stressors and decompress, as overwhelming statistics point to the importance of mental health awareness and services on campuses. Recent data shows that during the 2020–2021 school year, more than 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem, according to the Healthy Minds Study, which collects data from 373 campuses nationwide. In another 2021 national survey, almost three-quarters of students reported moderate or severe psychological distress.

According to Wendy Marchese, director of counseling services, the Zen Den is one facet of the services offered on campus, where the aim is to support students holistically.

 “Our hope is that this wellness space and all of the mental health supports offered at Herkimer College will benefit students now and beyond our campus,” said Marchese.

In addition to The Zen Den, the College’s Counseling Center provides students with individual counseling, referrals, and emergency services. Herkimer College partners with Catholic Charities, YWCA Mohawk Valley, and ICAN to connect students with additional services including short-term and long-term case management, mental health services, and other basic needs.

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