Why TMU students are excited about the Student Wellbeing Centre
Plans are underway for a new Student Wellbeing Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) after students voted yes in a referendum last fall on a health and well-being fee to improve the quality, timeliness and level of well-being services students receive.
Since the TMU student body agreed to increase the health and well-being fee, the university has made a commitment to dedicate at least 25 per cent to support vital investments that will address the pain points students have noted over the years. This may include hiring additional front-line support staff, such as counsellors, mentors, nurses, dietitians, Academic Accommodation Support facilitators, care coordinators, health promotion specialists, consent educators, case managers and navigators, to better serve student needs and reduce service wait times before the centre is even built.
“By adding more resources [in the meantime], current students are also benefiting,” says Alexander Casucci, a third-year philosophy student, who has accessed many of the university’s student well-being services, including counselling, to help him succeed academically. It was for this reason that he chose to be part of the Student Action Team that helped deliver a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum.
“I think having more attention and monetary resources dedicated to well-being will allow for fewer students to fall through the cracks,” said Casucci. “A centralized building makes the user experience, from a student perspective, more seamless.”
TMU plans to bring many health and wellness initiatives to a purpose-built, central hub at the heart of campus. The project will add an eight-storey tower to the 137 Bond Street site, the current location of O’Keefe House, to house all health and well-being services under one roof.
The design intends to marry the existing heritage of O’Keefe House with a functional and modern addition that is sustainable and inclusive. The building will have sustainable building materials and even incorporate green roof elements. The university will be working with Indigenous design consultants, Two Row Architects, to ensure opportunities for Indigenous placemaking within the project.
“TMU’s Campus Master Plan recommends that we add density to existing buildings on campus,” said Nic de Salaberry, director of planning and development in TMU’s Facilities Management and Development department. “This is one of the first projects that has been initiated out of the Campus Master Plan and is a really great example of mixing old and new.”
While Two Row Architects will provide Indigenous design services, TMU has hired Hariri Pontarini Architects to execute the overall sustainable and inclusive design.
Jen McMillen, vice-provost, students, says that this building will also be innovative in how students will access services. In addition to housing the medical and counselling centres, the building will be home to the Tri-Mentoring Program, Academic Accommodation and Support, Consent Comes First and Thrive TMU.
“This building is designed to allow students to build on their strengths,” said McMillen. “It is where students can go to get help, find community and get support to challenge barriers and make change.”
McMillen adds that the co-location of all well-being services will not only make it easier for students to access them, it will encourage more collaboration.
“It’s incumbent upon us as the university to help students make connections to what services and programs can support them,” she said. “It is everything in one place. If you don’t know where to go or where to start, we’re going to help you figure it out.”
An investment for students
This innovative new building, and TMU’s collaborative and strength-based approach to well-being, was made possible by the Student Wellbeing Centre referendum that was held last fall. More than 57 per cent of students who voted agreed to a fee increase in order to improve the quality, timeliness and level of service offered to students now and in the future.
“The biggest appeal to me was how fast we will get access to [more] services,” said third-year Child and Youth Care student, Marilyn Saad. Saad is also a member of the Student Action Team who helped inform students about the benefits of increased wellbeing service resources via the student fee. “I don't see it as a “spend” or a fee, I see it as an investment. I truly believe it's an investment.”
The university will be asking students to share their voices and opinions on how each program will function inside the new student wellbeing centre and the Student Health and Wellbeing Advisory Committee will re-launch in time for fall.
For more information on TMU’s Student Wellbeing Centre, visit the Facilities Management and Development website.