New health initiatives provide affordable classes for students

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Fitness classes at the Student Recreation Center will now be free to all students. LEONOR GRAVE / THE FLAT HAT

On the cusp of the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center’s opening Monday Aug. 20, free group fitness classes and wellness application programs await students at the College of William and Mary for the 2018-19 year.

Associate Director for Fitness and Wellness Jennifer Dunfree noted that dropping the price on group fitness classes had been considered for some time, but with the opening of the Wellness Center, staff took the opportunity to offer these classes for free as a pilot program for the upcoming school year.

“We think it’s great timing with the opening of the Wellness Center,” Dunfree said. “We would really like for classes to be free both at the Wellness Center and the Student Recreation Center. And it’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time but we’ve felt like that we had the resources to be able to try it out this year — we don’t know if we’ll be able to offer it more than one year, but we’d really like for students to be able to take classes for free.”

Normally, group fitness classes are priced based on the type of membership purchased. One semester pass costs $50, whereas an academic year pass and a three-season pass cost $80 and $95, respectively. Students can also purchase a one-time drop-in pass which costs $5 per visit.

For the entire 2018-19 academic year, however, these prices are nullified for students. Students who already purchased a pass in the spring that includes the fall semester, such as the three-season pass, are eligible for a partial refund.

In order to accommodate the reduction in revenue, Dunfree said that the College has lowered the number of instructors for each class from two to one.

“We have reduced the number of classes that we have two instructors [in], so we have one instructor [in] those classes,” Dunfree said. “… This year especially, we’re just being careful to not overschedule our instructors or try out classes at days and times that in the past may have not worked.”

Students can reserve their spot 24 hours before the class begins, utilizing a new online registration portal through MindBody, with students able to cancel eight hours in advance with no penalty.

All group fitness classes will be listed for online registration starting in September. According to Dunfree, walk-in spots will still be reserved for each class.

“We know classes will be crowded, especially in the beginning, and by enabling online signup, we’re hoping to be able to minimize this a little bit — at least minimize the congestion at the front desk and also enable the benefit of [knowing] you have a spot online,” Dunfree said.

For students who do not show up after registering online, Dunfree said that there will be a penalty system which progressively delays the student being able to register for classes again online.

“We’re excited about this [online registration] feature — we have been trying it for the past year and a half with Body Pump — that’s the only class we’ve had online signups available for, and we got a lot of good feedback about it,” Dunfree said.

The Wellness Center will not only host free group fitness classes, but also courses for academic credit. Last spring, new, one-credit wellness application courses were announced and made available for students to register for.

Over the summer, three new courses were added, bringing the total number of wellness application courses to nine. The new courses, Creative Arts and Wellness, Mindfulness Meditation, and Yoga are now available to students.

“We are pleased to see how quickly most of the classes have filled,” Dean of Undergraduate Studies Janice Zeman said in an email. “It was fun to see how one yoga class filled within a day of being put on the books in the middle of the summer. We still have seats remaining in a few of the courses and expect that students will fill those once the registration window opens.”

According to Zeman, a minor in wellness has been considered and has progressed in development, but is not yet ready for reveal or inclusion in the college curriculum.

The College previously offered activity courses in the kinesiology department, but phased them out with the addition of the wellness application courses. As a result, longtime instructors were left without jobs, as Virginia law mandates that retired faculty can only be rehired after a six-month period.

Zeman said that the College has been supportive of the retired faculty members, and has hired new instructors from both the College community and outside of it to teach the wellness application courses.

“We have made sure that these valued members of our William and Mary community know that the apps will continue to be offered each semester, and that Commonwealth law only requires a mandatory gap in teaching for 6 months,” Zeman said in email.

Because wellness application courses will have fees, Zeman said that the College is working on scholarships to make the courses more accessible.

“We have worked hard on making sure that all students can take part in these classes by collaborating with the Financial Aid Office to formalize a scholarship application process to cover the $100 course fee,” Zeman said in an email. “We hope that this will allow any student who has interest in taking an Apps class to enroll without a financial barrier.”