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Merideth Sherlin and DeAnn Bjornson
Merideth Sherlin
and DeAnn Bjornson


Student muscle builds
wellness center


A $5.2 million Wellness Center is under construction at the corner of 18th Street North and Centennial Boulevard, and should be completed in the fall of 2001.

When finished, students and visitors will see a beautiful structure that contains both the student health service and a fitness center for students. It will include a one-story clinic with exam rooms, offices and a pharmacy and a two-story building with a student lounge, locker rooms, drop-in child care facilities, a running track, workout machines and aerobics room. It will offer individual counseling and wellness education in fitness, nutrition and smoking cessation.

Normally, a university building is funded with state dollars or private donations, but for this Wellness Center, students cut through the red tape. Students wanted it, fought for it and they’re paying for it.

Student leadership has seen the project through a decade of development.

DeAnn Bjornson chaired the first committee in 1993-94. “We absolutely believed in the project from day one,” said Bjornson, a marketing representative for Federated Insurance, Fargo. “We felt it should be for the students, from the students and available to the students. It was probably the project that I worked on as a student that taught me the most, affected me the most and made me the most proud.”

Patterning their efforts after the students who organized the building of the original Student Union in the 1940s, the group did research, built support and developed a business plan. When they completed a study in 1995, they found out how rare it is to have a joint health service-fitness center. They could not find a single university that used the same model they were proposing.

That did not deter them, nor did the idea that they personally would graduate long before the center became a reality.

“The members of that first committee weren’t self-involved at all,” said Merideth Sherlin, an outreach coordinator in the NDSU admission office who was a member of the group. “All of them had NDSU’s best interest in mind, and it just goes to show the loyalty and dedication that develops with students here.”

It was a project that students would not allow to falter. “It was just teamwork, the idea of sacrificing some things now for what’s going to happen later,” said Jonathan Benge, a partner in the financial company Preferred Resource Group, Minneapolis, who chaired the group for two years. “We went from nothing really, just some research and an idea, to finishing a business plan and presenting it to the legislature and the State Board of Higher Education.”

The final business plan was presented to the House Appropriations Committee during the 1999 session by Jeremy Greene, 1997-98 committee co-chair and 1998-99 student president. “The center will be a landmark building for the west side of campus,” said Greene, now with Andersen Consulting, Minneapolis.

The sense of accomplishment is shared by Teresa Brandt-Zupancich, committee chair in 1996-97, manager of Appletree Fitness Center, Bloomington, Minn. “I was part of it, got to voice my opinion and got the chance to be in charge of different parts of the project,” she said.

The work of these people, and many others, was the catalyst to make the project a reality. Gary Narum, associate vice president for student affairs, advised the student committees from the beginning. “Because it was a great idea, students stayed with it. It wasn’t just one class buying in to this, it was year after year after year of students believing in it and providing the leadership to make it happen,” he said.

The student body clearly was in step with the leaders of this project. In 1998, students voted to fund the center through a $38 per semester fee paid by full-time students. Bonds on the project will be paid off during the next 30 years.

“I can’t say enough good things about the center. It’s one of the greatest things that has happened in a long time on this campus,” said Tadd Tobkin, student president, noting that current students appreciate the hard work of those who came before them. “I’m glad they did it because it is going to be a beautiful, and busy, addition to campus.”


— S. Bergeson
steven_bergeson@ndsu.edu


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Laura McDaniel: laura_mcdaniel@ndsu.edu
Last Updated: Monday, 05-Jan-2009 14:05:00 CDT
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