New Student Relaxation Lounge in Cheng Library Offers Calming Wellness Space for WP Students

Funding was provided by a grant from the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education

Cutting the ribbon for the new Student Relaxation Lounge are, left to right, Nicole Bartolotta, director, Accessibility Resource Center; Francisco Diaz, associate vice president for student development; Jill Guzman, director, Counseling, Health, and Wellness Center (CHWC); Edward Owusu-Ansah, dean, Cheng Library; President Richard Helldobler; Daisy Rodriguez, associate director, CHWC; Teddy Lockhart, SGA president; and Kevin Garvey, associate vice president for administration.

The Student Relaxation Lounge, a new wellness space for students who are seeking a quiet place on campus to relax and destress, is now open in the David and Lorraine Cheng Library.

The space, established by the University’s Counseling, Health, and Wellness Center, was dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 27. The lounge, in room 215, is open to all William Paterson students and is especially targeted to the University’s neurodiverse population and students in need of relaxation and coping strategies.

“This Student Relaxation Lounge is a great example of the elements that make up a student support network that extends to meet our students’ academic, social, and wellness needs so that they can do their best work in the classroom, build and nurture strong relationships, and dedicate the time and focus needed to achieve and maintain physical and mental wellness,” said President Richard J. Helldobler. “(It) is important because it signals to students that we understand the need for these spaces. We know that earning a college degree—in addition to being exciting and immensely rewarding—is a hard job under the best of circumstances. My hope is that this new space will help make it a little easier.”

The lounge was funded as part of a Mental Health in Higher Education: Community Provider Partnerships and Professional Development Grant from the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE), was developed through a partnership between the Counseling, Health, and Wellness Center, the Cheng Library, and the Accessibility Resource Center.

“We are all aware that students are more stressed, anxious, and fatigued, and they continue to face mental health challenges as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jill Guzman, director of the Counseling, Health, and Wellness Center. “This lounge is meant to promote self-care and will give all students a space on campus where they can fell less anxious or overstimulated.”

Located in a quiet corner on the second floor of the Cheng Library, the lounge features a relaxation area, a meditation area, and a telehealth room. Students can relax in the lounge’s two massage chairs, two large window seats overlooking a wooded section of the campus, or other comfy chairs and pillows, or take advantage of supplies such as anxiety-relief coloring books and music. A telehealth room provides a private space for students who need a location for such appointments.

All registered students can access the lounge with their University ID card. The space is open during regular library hours—including 24/7 during exam weeks—as well as evenings and weekends.

“We are glad that library is the setting for this lounge,” said Edward Owusu-Ansah, dean of the Cheng Library. “The library is open for the most extensive hours of all the facilities on campus, including until 11:45 p.m. five nights a week. We hope the students will use this lounge whenever they need it.”

College campuses across the United States have seen an increase in the number of students who identify as neurodivergent, a definition that includes conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s, dyslexia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The Hope Center #RealCollege Survey, the nation’s largest and longest-standing rigorous assessment of students’ basic needs, which was administered by William Paterson in 2020, found that approximately 32 percent of WP students experienced moderate anxiety and 30 percent experienced moderate depression, says Guzman.

“Among students engaged in mental health services, nearly 60 percent reported that these symptoms impaired how they functioned academically,” she added. “It’s important for us to find innovative ways, such as the relaxation lounge, to support our students.”

At William Paterson, during the 2023-24 academic year, more than 50 percent of students who have disclosed a disability to the University’s Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) identify as neurodivergent. The ARC assists students with documented disabilities by providing reasonable accommodations and services that ensure equal access to all programs, activities, and related benefits of the University’s educational and professional programs.

“Students need alternative strategies for dealing with their stress,” Guzman says. “Promoting self-care across campus can help students identify ways to cope with stressors, which in turn will have a positive benefit on their mental health. The lounge provides our students with a space where they can decompress when they feel anxious or overstimulated and we hope that all our students can benefit.”

The three-year, $462,000 OSHE grant, which runs through 2026, also includes development of community partnerships to support the increased demand for mental health services on campus, including psychiatric evaluation and treatment, outpatient services, group programs, and drop-in services, and professional development for William Paterson faculty, staff, and administrators.