Joliet, Ill. – Students attending the University of St. Francis (USF) have a new option for relieving stress thanks to the school’s Schmitt Scholars, who recently opened a sensory room at the school’s main campus in Joliet. The room, located on the third floor of the LaVerne and Dorothy Brown Library, offers students and employees a calming place to unwind and refocus.

The development of a sensory room began two years ago following an experience one of the group’s members, USF nursing student Madelyn Rogge, had while working a summer camp. The idea eventually evolved into the USF Schmitt Scholars’ senior service project.

“I had experienced a sensory room while working with foster children at a summer camp. For the past three years, we implemented a sensory room into the camp. We set up a few touch, smell, see, and hear activities in a room, including pasta noodles to sort, pillows of all textures, and foam puzzles. Also in the past two years, we introduced aromatherapy tools to help the kids. The Schmitt Scholars figured that if we could create a safe space for USF students to use their senses and refocus their thoughts, then we could potentially decrease the pressure college students put on themselves,” Rogge said.

USF nursing student Jada Sims added in addition to offering a safe space, the room also offers a place for not only students, but also employees of the university, to de-stress.

“As a group, we felt that college students would benefit from a space that promoted a break from the stress of college for a few minutes. Taking this break would ultimately make USF students better by having an increase in concentration, among other benefits. We believed that everyone, including employees, could benefit from a space that is created for the purpose of decreasing stress and anxiety through low-stimulus activities such as coloring,” she said.

Once the concept was finalized, the group went to work researching and working with university administration to move the project ahead from concept to completion.

“We officially landed on this idea in the fall semester of 2018. The rest of the year was spent working with Damon Sloan (USF vice president of student and alumni affairs) and Terry Cottrell (USF vice president of operations and information technology) to find a proper space for the room. We secured the space in fall semester of 2019 and the room was officially opened at the start of the current semester,” said USF accounting and management student Morayma Barron.

Since its opening and subsequent promotion through a variety of methods such as the distribution of fliers, social media and on-campus television advertising, the sensory room has received a wealth of positive feedback from USF students. The Schmitt Scholars also administered a survey to collect feedback on the new space, and responses included several positive comments about the space’s lighting and impact.

“The student response has been very positive. Students are happy with the space and appreciate it,” Barron said. “Survey responses included comments such as, ‘I feel much better after spending 10-15 minutes in the room,’ and ‘the room calmed me before my quiz,” to “I have ADHD and I felt like I could understand lecture so much better after spending time in the sensory room.’”

Barron added that the purpose of being a Schmitt Scholar was the main catalyst behind the group’s project at USF.

“The purpose of each Schmitt Scholar group is to create an everlasting change on campus. We recognize that students are often stressed and feel tired. We also recognize that students are facing many challenges and overwhelming situations that don’t allow them to focus. This space is meant to stimulate a person’s senses and help them be more mindful of the now.”

The sensory room is open every Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. The room is closed on Saturdays.

About Schmitt Scholars

According to schmittfoundation.org, Arthur J. Schmitt created Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation in 1941 to discover and nurture the intellectual, spiritual and leadership potential in young people. Undergraduate Schmitt Scholars are accomplished students who take on leadership projects to both learn and do. Examples include creating new playgrounds, holding fundraising events, launching educational seminars, to name only a few.

The University of St. Francis Schmitt Scholars engage in thoughtful, intentional, and comprehensive service learning which addresses the roots of problems in our society. Using the Social Change Model of Leadership (the most ubiquitous college leadership model), Schmitt Scholars gain a theoretical understanding of social change and service with the hope that upon graduation, they will continue to engage in service in their post-undergraduate lives. Additionally, the university provides networking opportunities for Schmitt Scholars at nearby institutions, and Schmitt Scholars are featured at reunion and homecoming activities with a quadrennial booklet published outlining the accomplishments of Schmitt Scholar alumni.

About USF

Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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