Fitwell to Propose Faculty and Staff Membership

Rebecca Cole


Fitwell recently wrapped up its trial run opening the doors to faculty and staff. The plan to permanently implement the program will be proposed to the administration. Meant to serve as a student space, the Wellness Commons has been open for around three years, exclusively to students. Faculty and staff have traditionally been able to use Fowler as a gym to exercise in, but many have expressed the desire to attend group classes taught at Fitwell that provide a different experience from what is offered at Fowler. 

Leigh Collins, the director of counseling and psychological services, and Kayleigh Perlotto, the associate director of Fitwell and community health, both sat down with The Purple to discuss the benefits of the pilot program. 

Since the equipment requires regular maintenance, with a lifespan of anywhere from 3-10 years, Fitwell is already functioning with little money allocated to the upkeep and replacement of equipment. The resource was created with no equipment replacement plan in the budget. Overuse of the machines without enough money to replace them is a big concern of Fitwell’s and one reason it was reserved specifically for students. Collins said, “There was no budget planned out to replace those [equipment] when they broke and not a huge budget even for repairs.” 

The structure of Fitwell was another concern. Students, who serve as the main staffing of Fitwell, often leave for breaks. Which means that Fitwell is often closed over breaks and not staffed beyond its sometimes limited hours. “When you think about including faculty and staff, first of all, are we going to have enough certified student instructors?” Collins said, “Getting the coverage has always been an issue and we didn’t really have the budget to pay for more staff.” Unlike Fitwell, the Fowler center has staff that are University employees. 

Perlotto said, “The space in general is much smaller compared to Fowler.” A big consideration also has been how can Fitwell make accommodations, sustain the space, and remain inclusive. 

For the pilot program, approximately 100 faculty and staff were invited to participate. Fitwell tracked their usage and conducted a survey to the full faculty and staff. As a student space for holistic wellness, the number one priority of Collins, Perlotto, and the rest of the Wellness Commons and Wellness Center staff remains student inclusivity and comfort. Students were polled concerning their comfort with the implementation of the program and many were excited for the opportunity to build community with the faculty and staff in another space on campus. 

Collins said, “most of the students indicated that they would be comfortable.” Perlotto also said, “I think another component is that Sewanee is so prideful in building community and having community, so including faculty and staff into that is important.” 

There will be a membership fee associated with faculty and staff use of Fitwell since it is not in Fitwell’s budget to offer it free of charge, but this fee will also offer them resources such as group exercise classes. However, Perlotto made it clear that Fitwell hopes to keep this membership cost very low compared to gym memberships off the mountain to make it not only convenient but accessible. The membership will only be available to faculty and staff and not their families. 

Students, faculty, and staff are excited for the possibility of the program and the Wellness Center staff have been working diligently on the proposal.

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