Student voices: How Etown’s Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Well-Being fuels health, wellness and campus culture
By Chris Whitcomb
April 5, 2022
“The Bowers Center is an absolute game changer for our students and campus,” Whitney Crull tells me during a visit to Elizabethtown College (Etown) earlier this fall.
“It has elevated our health and wellness even more to the forefront of the Etown experience,” she elaborates. “It has recharged our athletics programs with all new spaces for training. It’s an amazing facility many of our peer institutions simply don’t have.”
Whitney would know. She’s the director of the Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Well-Being at Etown and has held the position ever since the 82,000-square-foot, multidimensional facility opened in late 2019. The building is prominently located on campus amidst numerous sports and athletic fields and features multi-use recreation courts, expansive cardio and weight-training spaces, a demonstration kitchen, student lounges, athletic training areas, a cafe and study spaces, a relaxation room and much, much more.
The center truly equips Etown to ensure students flourish on campus and then graduate ready to live healthy lives into the future.
“It was a lightning bolt for Etown,” Whitney continues. “Prior to its opening, students had to travel off campus to exercise and the resources were minimal. This building opened and welcomed 45,000 patrons, students and guests its first semester—and we’re a small, rural campus. We’ve doubled fitness programming, increased intramurals and essentially 25% of the student population walks into this building each day.”
The building is also forging exciting new connections. As Crull explains, “Since it opened, we’ve had nutrition and biology classes use the demonstration kitchen. We’ve had biomechanics hold events in the fitness areas. Our diversity and inclusion team has had cultural nights via food, fitness and fun. People want to come to the Bowers Center, and its surfacing new possibilities on numerous fronts—it has transformed our campus and student experience."
Looking to learn more about the human impact of the Bowers Center, I caught up with numerous students during a campus visit. Snippets of those conversations are below.
As Student Senate President, Andrew Furman is ever-busy representing the Etown student body. Still, he tells us, “I find time to use this building each week.”
For Andrew, there are numerous reasons he may enter the building. “I’ll come do yoga and other fitness classes. I often come with friends to study and hang out. I also play intramural volleyball.” Outside of his personal use, Andrew also organizes several Student Government Association (SGA) events in the building each semester. “One that really stands out was a cookie baking session in the demonstration kitchen, that really helped us connect with more students.”
“We really need to make sure there’s fun and engaging things for students to do each week,” Victoria Vaughn tells us as we sit in the Bowers Center upper lounge. As the Office of Student Activities Leader at Etown, Victoria truly is charged with keeping students engaged on campus as much as possible.
“This building always would have helped. But with the pandemic, it has been essential. The field house in this building has the largest capacity, so we are able to do events with 100+ people and still provide social distance,” she explains. “It was so important to have a space like that amidst such a tough time.”
What types of events, we ask? “All different,” she smiles. “We’ve done a roller rink, movie night, there was a Mario Kart tournament, lots of fun memories.”
“This building is a major reason I came here,” Ben Watson says emphatically. “It wasn’t open when I was being recruited, but I watched the videos and I could see how it would be a great addition to the campus.”
A junior baseball player, Ben explains that he’s in the building at least six days a week to exercise, meet up with coaches and train.
More intramural opportunities, easier scheduling, exciting new opportunities—those are the themes of my chat with Jocelyn Kosik, Etown’s Student Intramural Coordinator.
“We used to only have a couple intramurals, soccer and flag football, and then just a few others here and there,” Jocelyn says. “But since Bowers opened, we now have at least eight intramural leagues each semester. Our equipment and scheduling is all so much more centralized and easier to manage as well.”
She continues, “The building empowers intramurals in many ways. We have more space, so we can have multiple games at once. When it gets cold, we can bring traditional outdoor sports inside. We also have more Sunday tournaments which allow us to offer new sports and different activities.”
I'm sitting in the dedicated wellness room in the Bowers Center when I meet Kendall Beverly, Student Wellness Advocacy Leader. She says this room alone has reshaped her team’s efforts.
An increase in traffic means more wellness help for more students. “We can give student over-the-counter medicine, sexual wellness supplies; we can direct them to resources; we can host more activities; it’s been great,” Kendall continues.
Kendall specifically cites the demonstration kitchen on the building’s ground floor. “That’s been another visibility boost. We’ve done alcohol awareness events, Kombucha floats, and more. This building has definitely given us a hub and home base to amplify wellness on campus.”
“My favorite thing about this building is its proximity to all the practice fields,” Trinity Soto tells me. “I can grab my stuff and go. It’s efficient; it’s great.”
“This building is central to my student-athlete experience here. We’re practicing here all the time. I use the locker rooms every day. I’m always hanging out in the trainer’s room. I also study here occasionally on my personal time,” she adds.
About the author: Chris Whitcomb is a writer and the media relations director at CannonDesign.