Campus Rec Magazine has published a new Q+A interview with Ali Cross and Chris Wise from Virginia Tech (VT) on how their War Memorial Hall project sets exciting new standards for recreation and wellness integration on college campuses. Set to open in 2021, the renovated and expanded War Memorial Hall will unite VT’s School of Education, Department of Health Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Hokie Wellness, collegiate recreation and human performance under a singular roof to best help students lead healthy lives. Our team is thrilled to be designing the project in collaboration with VT.
One of the most significant buildings on VT’s campus, War Memorial Hall was originally constructed in 1926, and outside of an addition in 1975, it has not benefited from comprehensive renovations, upgrades or improvements until now. The new effort to renovate and expand War Memorial Hall – along with pieces of nearby McComas Hall – will set VT up to offer students remarkably unified health and wellness programming long into the future.
Our Matthew Dates conducted the interview with Chris and Ali. The full discussion can be read online at Campus Rec’s website. Here’s a key excerpt:
VT’s focus on integrated health and wellness stems back to at least 2005. In your words, how will the War Memorial Hall updates amplify this integrated approach?
Ali Cross: We’ve done a really strong job of empowering physical and mental health over time, but I think the exciting new opportunities this building introduces come with the connectivity to academics. We can develop partnerships with academic advisors, and already departments like our Master’s of Public Health and our veterinary school have reached out about collaboration. The new War Memorial Hall is going to amplify health and wellness in our academic units, and as they learn more about what we can do, the synergies and programs that develop will help students and staff in new ways. That’s one of the most exciting benefits of this project.
Chris Wise: I’d agree and add that it’s not just academics. Once this renewed building opens its doors, we’re also going to be establishing a new live-learn community (LLC) focused on wellbeing in the residential hall next to War Memorial. The residence hall where this LLC exists is literally footsteps from War Memorial Hall; you can spill out between the two buildings and always be connected. I think it’s going to be one of the most unique LLC environments in the country, and it demonstrates how partnership with other departments can equate to better health outcomes for our students. We’re going to find so many more opportunities as this building develops and opens.
War Memorial Hall will expand cardio and fitness training areas, but what are unique or novel features of the building design that most excites you both?
AC: I’m thrilled that Hokie Wellness, a program focused on providing prevention services, education, outreach, and resources to our employees and students will now have a dedicated space customized for them. To date, they’ve existed in more of a corporate, HR-like setting. In the renewed building, their space is designed for them. They’ll have a kitchen, meditation rooms and touch-down counseling spaces calibrated to help them amplify their mission and reach.
CW: There’s two I want to mention. First, the new human performance lab. I think that will be a standout feature and really contribute to accelerating campus collaboration that elevates student experience. It will give students the opportunity to understand the wellness from a scientific perspective, improving their ability to attain health and wellness no matter what point they are starting from. Second, the new entrance link that really opens this building up to natural light and the campus. We think we can use it as a testing area for new student wellness ideas and offerings. It’s really unique to have a location where we can pilot leading-edge health and wellness trends and determine which make the most success to integrate into the center for the future.