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Spaces on Campus: Exploring the SHAW waiting room

The+SHAW+waiting+room+provides+activities+and+supplies+for+students.+Photo+by+Eva+Hill.
The SHAW waiting room provides activities and supplies for students. Photo by Eva Hill.

By Eva Hill
hilleva@grinnell.edu

Welcome to Spaces on Campus, a series of profiles of Grinnell’s most unique places to work, relax, and/or nap. Today, we’re looking at the Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) waiting room.

The SHAW waiting room has something for a wide variety of tastes. Whether you like looking at photographs of trees, inspirational quotes, or a plastic skeleton wearing head-to-toe Grinnell apparel (including laurel leaf flip-flops and an Honor G baseball cap), this oddly-shaped underground space has all of the above and more. SHAW is filled with an assortment of unusual objects, including a cut-glass lamp, a two-foot-tall metallic red vase filled with branches, and a trickling fountain in the form of a big brass sphere in a dish.

SHAW offers a number of relaxation tools, including coloring materials, the aforementioned fountain and a puzzle, as well as a cabinet full of board games and books. According to SHAW doctoral program director Charles Bermingham, the puzzle and other activities were introduced in 2014, originally the idea of Deborah Shill, department head of health and wellness and director of health services at the College.

Bermingham wrote in an email to the S&B, “Our front desk staff makes sure the activities are rotated routinely to keep them new and interesting for students.”

At the time this article was written, the puzzle was a 750-piece brightly colored scene with boats docked next to a row of houses with glowing windows. In addition to the relaxation-centered activities, SHAW provides work-friendly seating with countertop outlets.

The waiting room is also the home of the Great Barrier Reef, probably the most accessible source of free safe-sex supplies for students, and the restroom offers pads and tampons.

The waiting room has two entrances, with a wheelchair-accessible door on the parking-lot side of the building and another door, non-accessible, that leads out to the Forum. There is seating in the form of mismatched leather furniture, two barstools and a bench and chairs by the puzzle table.

A bowl at the front desk offers “Smile Pills”, M&Ms in orange RX containers, and another sometimes has snacks. Music plays through wall speakers (asked how SHAW decides on what to play, Bermingham wrote, “The front desk alternates selections from a variety of Pandora channels”). One five-song sampling of the playlist, from a morning earlier this week, consisted of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”, followed by “My Lady’s House” by Iron & Wine, “When You’re Gone” by The Cranberries, “Almost Lover” by A Fine Frenzy, and “If You’re Gone” by Matchbox Twenty.

Bermingham wrote, “We have tried hard to make the waiting room inviting, including things like comfortable furniture and a soothing water feature. We obviously have limits based on space and budget, but we would certainly welcome any recommendations from students about how to make the space even more inviting.”

The SHAW waiting room provides activities and supplies for students. Photo by Eva Hill.
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