Tucked down the hill off Campus Road lies Rogers Estate: a large, two-story building with a sprawling field as a front yard and abundant trees and greenery as a view. Rogers is furnished with a full kitchen, library, living room, and television lounge – a housing option that differs in many ways from the standard dorm experience.

Instead of being an option in the substance-free lottery as in recent years, this past spring Rogers had its own lottery on April 11, before both the substance-free and regular housing lotteries. The reason for this change was the newly established wellness program at Rogers, one that would allow students to actively focus on their mental, emotional, and physical health. David Sills ’20 is the resident advisor for the 10 students in the building.

“I wanted to see an isolated community come together around a common interest,” Sills said. “The goal is to develop the ‘whole individual,’ to use this programming series to nurture specific tangible skills that allow students to identify and focus on which aspects of wellness are most important to their individual selves. There are many facets to overall wellness – physical, nutritional, spiritual, etc., and we want to check off all of those boxes by the end of the year.”

The idea for a wellness program had come about a couple of years ago, but it became official this year. Director of Residential Life Ashley Place and Sills work together to provide programming for the house, and they have already had several activities: the executive sous-chef of Bon Appetit taught them a cooking class, Chaplain Jeff McArn guided an evening meditation session (and brought his dog Lily), and a representative from the Kirkland Art Center taught a watercolor painting class – all at Rogers. After each activity, residents receive short Google surveys to indicate whether they enjoyed the program and what experiences they would want in the future.

“We [the Office of Residential Life] had talked about wanting to do some sort of wellness program because substance-free housing is really popular but there seemed to be a group of students who wanted a substance-free program where they could focus on wellness,” Place said. “We thought that Rogers would be perfect … because it’s a great place to come together and build a community, with plenty of space to do programming.”

The goal is to develop the ‘whole individual,’ to use this programming series to nurture specific tangible skills that allow students to identify and focus on which aspects of wellness are most important to their individual selves.

Knowing that she would be taking five classes and doing research this semester, Claudia Karademas ’20 decided a wellness program would be beneficial for her. After two years on the Hill, she recognizes the impact and difference of living in Rogers.

“There’s definitely more of a community feel. In Eells and Dunham, I had no idea who my neighbors even were. I know everyone in the house, which is nice,” Karademas said. “Everyone’s there to support you and you see each other often. More people cook, so you see people in the kitchen all the time, which … builds that sense of community.”

Sills had also been the resident advisor for Rogers last year, but he has found that this year’s programming has truly shifted the dynamic of the house.

“I’ve gotten to know the folks this year much better than in the past,” Sills said. “Oftentimes, the hardest part of being an RA is getting touch base with your residents, and there isn’t a single person in the house who I’m not (in) frequent contact with. That’s been wonderful for me as an RA because it makes it easier for me to know what’s going on in their lives and makes them more comfortable to approach me … and it’s made us an interconnected community through this atypical college experience.”

Area Director for Upper-Class Students Robin Wonka has also helped guide Sills and implement the wellness program. Place, Wonka, and the rest of Res Life hope to implement more special-interest housing options, both for first-years and upper-class students in the next few years.

“Our students are so divided because everyone is doing a million different things, and it seems that their residence halls, which should really be their homes, often is a place to just sleep, and everyone is out and gone for the day,” Wonka said. “But when it comes to one’s overall experience of life, having a space they can identify with and feel comfortable to go home to on a good, bad, or indifferent day, and knowing they have a central location with people they know, trust, and can really relate to is important. At the end of the day, we want our students to have a place where they can really be themselves, [a place of] respite.”

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