Mind, body and soul floor comes to WPU


By Dale Shoemaker / Staff Writer

This year, students can study, work out, shower and still have time for peaceful prayer or reflection — all without leaving the William Pitt Union.

Student Affairs finished renovations to the third floor of the Union on Aug. 15 — a change that will provide a new way for students to unite mind, body and soul, according to Dean of Students Kathy Humphrey.

“After listening carefully to what our students said were the best ways to utilize the space, we determined that the needs fell into three main categories,” Humphrey said in an email. 

The $1,225,000 renovations came after a long collaboration between student organizations, including the Muslim Student Association (MSA), Student Affairs and Provost Patricia Beeson’s office. The project, funded by Student Affairs, comes after more than a year of MSA campaigning to establish a separate room on campus where students could pray, worship or reflect.

In the past, the MSA reserved one room of the Union between 8 a.m. and  5 p.m. every day for prayer, said member Wasi Mohamed. Praying five times daily is one of the basic pillars of the Islamic faith for practicing Muslims.

The new reflection room, open to students of all faiths, is shaped like a short letter U. Tall, thin windows outline the perimeter, and even with the shades drawn, it is bright. Below the windows is a continuous padded bench with storage space underneath for prayer mats and holy books. The floor is carpeted, and the carpet and padding on the benches absorb most of the sounds in the room. 

Talha Aamir, a former MSA board member who graduated this summer, said that in previous years, if there wasn’t a space available during the day last year, he and other Muslims would have to stop what they were doing and pray where they were.

“A friend of mine was praying in Hillman, between the bookshelves,” Aamir said. “Someone walked by and thought he was looking for a book and said, ‘Oh, can I help you find something?’”

Aamir hopes the reflection room will prevent such encounters from recurring in the future.

Though the reflection room was the MSA’s primary goal for the floor, there are several other features. Beside the elevators is a quiet study lounge equipped with new tables and office chairs, and it’s separated from the rest of the floor by a thick glass wall. Near the quiet study lounge is a meeting room outfitted with a television and AV equipment. 

Next door is the Stress Free Zone. Blocked off by a wall of iced glass, the Stress Free Zone is silent and has three stalls, separated from one another by curtains. In one is a large massage chair, and in the next is a yoga mat. The third stall has a chair and a box of tissues.

At the end of the hallway is the fitness center comprised of three large rooms, each for a different type of exercise. The first is a large cardio room with treadmills, ellipticals and similar equipment. The second is an aerobics room, which has a wooden floor and a wall of mirrors to be used for exercise classes like yoga or pilates. The last is a cycling room, filled with spinning bikes, for personal use or spinning classes, also offered through the Healthy U program.

On the opposite end of the floor are two private showers, restrooms with basins for foot washing and the reflection room. 

Mohamed, a senior chemistry and neuroscience major, said Student Affairs was helpful “through the whole process” of creating and constructing the new floor layout.

Students who are not in the MSA said they plan to utilize the new space as well. With such a central location on campus in the WPU, many students may find a new favorite spot to study, de-stress or exercise. Previously the closest fitness facilities on lower campus were Bellefield Hall or small workout rooms within students’ dorms.

Lorraine Scott said she is happy about the fitness center and the other renovations.

“It’s amazing,” Scott, a junior English literature and psychology major, said, “It’s the best floor in the Union. I don’t want people to know about it.”

Charisse Pearson-Bey, a junior finance and nonprofit management major, said she is excited that the third floor includes so many different facilities. 

“I’m so happy I don’t have to go to the Pete right now. I can study, take a break from studying, work out, take a shower, then go back to studying,” Pearson-Bey said.

Renovation of the floor began in May, University spokesman John Fedele said in an email. WTW Architects designed the architecture for the project, and Volpatt Construction contracted the construction work. The fitness center isopen 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Stress Free Zone is open from 1 p.m to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. 

“We’ve only been open a week, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback so far,” Humphrey said. Our students did a great job helping us design a floor with amenities that meet their needs.”