With Therapy Dogs and Massage Chairs, Tranquility at Hand

News subtitle

Academic Skills Center and Student Wellness Center unveil a new shared space.

Rosie the goldendoodle with Aurora Wackford '26
Aurora Wackford ’26 spends time with Rosie the therapy dog during the Student Wellness Center and Academic Skills Center open house in their new shared home on the ground floor of Berry Library. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

The grand opening party Wednesday for a new shared space for the Academic Skills and Student Wellness centers offered a variety of “wellness enhancing rooms,” including a chance for students to enjoy a little time with a therapy dog.

The goldendoodle, and other offerings, were a big hit.

“Her name is Rosie. I just met her. She’s big and white and fluffy and super sweet,” said Bella Dunbar ’23.

She learned that Rosie was going to be at the opening of the new shared space on the ground floor of Berry Library from her friend Armita Mirkarimi ’25, a well-being intern in the Wellness Center.

“I’ll definitely try to get Rosie’s schedule for when she’s back,” said Dunbar, a government major modified with economics with a minor in Middle Eastern studies who took a break from deadline writing on her senior thesis to drop in on the celebration.

Mirkarimi, who recently started a podcast about wellness offerings at Dartmouth, had good news. Rosie the therapy dog will hold office hours from 4:45 to 5:45 p.m. every Thursday throughout the term.

“Since we’ve moved, my heart has been full witnessing students popping in to take a study break by using the massage chair, puzzling, or chatting with new and old friends in the space,” Caitlin Barthelmes, director of the Wellness Center, said before the event.

Students cut the ribbon to a new room with massage chairs.
Student Government officers Jessica Chiriboga ’24 and David Millman ’23 cut the ribbon to the new tranquility room in the Student Wellness Center at the Wednesday open house. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

More than 300 students, faculty, and staff members attended the two-hour open house on Wednesday afternoon, which offered activities such as crafting, seated massage, nonalcoholic drink tastings, and education that included well-being tips and information about offerings from both departments.

“We are so excited about the co-relocation of the Student Wellness Center with the Academic Skills Center within Berry Library as it increases the accessibility and visibility of our departments, making it easier for students to engage with our services,” Barthelmes said.

The move, centering wellness alongside academic support services like the Academic Skills Center, Student Accessibility Services, and the Undergraduate Deans Office, sends a powerful message, said Katie Lenhoff, JED campus project manager with the Student Wellness Center.

The Jed Foundation—a nonprofit that works to protect the emotional health of teens and young adults—partnered with Dartmouth to help strengthen and deliver programs and services that support undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students.

“Pairing the Student Wellness Center and the Academic Skills Center advances an essential message to our community: student wellness is foundational to—and critically intertwined with—advancing academic success,” Lenhoff said.

Barthelmes also lifted up the efforts of Dartmouth Student Government, co-sponsor of the grand opening event, for partnering with the Student Wellness Center and JED in co-creating the vision for the opening event and ongoing options at Dartmouth. In particular, she praised the work of Jessica Chiriboga ’24, Student Government vice president and chair of the student mental health committee.

“Jess especially has been a key partner in helping garner student input and support as well as funding to support well-being on our campus,” Barthelmes said.

Chiriboga secured an American Eagle Future Together grant of $10,000 for student mental health and wellness programs, which funded one of the wellness spaces, the tranquility room. The room, featuring two massage chairs, ambient lighting and music, and other supplies to enhance well-being, was unveiled at the grand opening. Chiriboga said there are also plans under discussion to use the remaining funds from the grant to build a meditation garden on campus over the next year or so.

“I think there is a growing recognition that you need physical wellness, mental wellness, spiritual wellness … all these things together,” Chiriboga said after cutting the ribbon on the tranquility room.

One of the first students to check out the room was Shivangi Tandon, Thayer ’24, looking like an astronaut about to be launched into space immersed in the reclining full-body massage chair.

Tandon said it was an odd sensation, but relaxing.

“We’re often taught that we need to be going, going, going all the time, or we can’t unplug, and I think that the Student Wellness Center, and this new tranquility room, encourages unplugging and taking care of ourselves and stepping away from the buzz of everyday life at the school,” Chiriboga said.

Bill Platt