PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In recognition of the critical importance of physical, mental and emotional well-being to academic success among students, Brown University is advancing plans toward a new integrated health and wellness center and residence hall to be built on its College Hill campus.
As envisioned, the new center will bring together in the same space services and programs instrumental to students’ physical and emotional well-being — including Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, Brown Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and BWell, the University’s health promotion program. The building will also include a residence hall with beds for more than 150 students who share a deep commitment to sustaining healthy lifestyles and promoting health in the Brown community and beyond.
The Corporation of Brown University began the process of selecting an architect for the project at its recent fall meeting, marking a significant step toward realizing Brown’s vision for the building.
President Christina Paxson said the creation of a 21st-century health and wellness center that integrates essential services under one roof and complements them with a wellness-focused residence hall demonstrates the University’s innovative approach to promoting community wellness.
“Physical and emotional health and well-being are inextricably tied to each and every student’s ability to take full advantage of the academic opportunities at Brown,” Paxson said. “In that way, health and wellness is fundamentally essential to Brown’s mission, and a dedicated, state-of-the-art center reaffirms that importance.”
Paxson said that generous financial support from University benefactors — a gift from the family of the late Duncan MacMillan, and a gift from Barry Sternlicht and Mimi Reichert Sternlicht — are enabling Brown to advance the project from a vision into an active project.
“Early support from these two generous families will be critical in realizing our vision for a health and wellness center that positions Brown as a national leader in providing holistic wellness-centered services,” she said.
Integrative approach to health and wellness
The health and wellness services and programs envisioned to come together in the new building are currently spread across multiple locations. All are in high demand — in total, students access them 50,000 times each year. Approximately 32,000 visits are to Health Services and another 9,000 to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), with the remainder of student interactions with Brown EMS and BWell.
Creating a new center will build on increasing momentum at Brown toward holistic, integrative health practices, said Dr. Vanessa Britto, the University’s assistant vice president for campus life and executive director of health and wellness. It will also enable more effective coordination between physical and mental health services.
“Physical well-being is deeply interconnected with mental and emotional well-being,” Britto said. “Co-locating Health Services and CAPS in a modern and welcoming building will not only build our capacity to fully support students, but also provide a more seamless clinical experience.”
Britto said the new center will include expanded space for clinical and health promotion activities — medical exam rooms, nursing stations, counseling and peer education offices — as well as opportunities to explore partnerships with faculty and community health providers. Early discussions about the center have also considered possibilities for health and wellness-focused amenities such as a test kitchen, a garden and spaces for activities such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi.
“There are so many opportunities here for us to learn together and support students in very tangible ways,” Britto said. “Within this modern, expanded facility, we will be able to continue to deliver high-quality services to our students while also exploring our academic and community connections in really innovative ways.”
Eric Estes, Brown’s vice president for campus life, said that as envisioned, the building’s residence hall will house more than 150 students who show a dedicated interest in health and wellness. The unique residential option will open new possibilities for peer education, outreach and community-building around health and wellness, as well as intriguing potential for collaboration among students, staff and faculty, he said.
“By bringing students together in a residential community, a leadership space will be created that will benefit the entire campus,” Estes said. “I envision that new ideas and a wide range of work on health and wellness-focused initiatives will emanate from a dedicated center and residence hall.”
The anticipated home for the health and wellness center and residence hall is 450 Brook St. on a site approved by the Providence City Plan Commission in April 2018.
The location, between Cushing and Meeting streets, is directly adjacent to green space on Pembroke Field and a short walk to Brown’s Erickson Athletic Complex and Nelson Fitness Center. University Architect Collette Creppell said the anticipated site complements the center’s mission and will help create important physical connections on campus and to the Providence community.
“This is a really dynamic site,” Creppell said. “We are looking for an architect who will be able to design a building that serves a dual purpose as a clinic and a residence hall. We envision an imaginative building that fits into the community surrounding it while still having a distinctive presence.”
Architect selection is expected to culminate in late 2018 or early 2019, Creppell said.
Generous support for Brown’s vision
As plans toward the new health and wellness center and residence hall advance, two generous lead gifts are providing funds toward planning, design and construction.
One gift comes from the children and grandchildren of the late Duncan MacMillan, a Class of 1953 graduate and longtime Brown benefactor. In a statement provided by the family, MacMillan’s children said it is important to support this project because “the mental, physical and emotional well-being of each student is critical for growth and success in academic pursuits and life in general.”
“We are thrilled with Brown University’s thoughtful implementation of our family's passion for individual health and wellness, which was instilled by our father, Duncan, and his father, John,” the MacMillan family members said. “If students and graduates are balanced and healthy, they will thrive, succeed and meaningfully contribute to a better world. We, collectively as a family, are grateful to Brown for supporting our vision and are inspired by the University's commitment and leadership to the whole student.”
Duncan MacMillan served three consecutive terms as a member of the Brown Corporation. A classics concentrator at Brown, professionally he served on the Cargill board for three decades and was the longtime president of the family office. Brown awarded him an honorary doctor of laws in 1993 and a Brown Bear Award for lifetime service to the University. In recognition of his philanthropy, Brown’s geology, chemistry and environmental sciences building was named MacMillan Hall in 1998.
The other generous lead gift is from Barry Sternlicht, who graduated from Brown in 1982, and Mimi Reichert Sternlicht, a Class of 1983 graduate. The Sternlichts are dedicated Brown benefactors with a history of service to and support of Brown. The completed health and wellness center and residence hall, they said, will be a center of excellence for Brown.
“A Brown education is rigorous and demanding, and this new center will further elevate the University’s focus on promoting physical and emotional well-being, which is tied to academic success,” Barry Sternlicht said. “We were especially impressed by plans to establish a residential wellness facility on campus, where students can be part of a living and learning environment and build healthy lifestyle habits that will have long-term impact.”
Barry Sternlicht, a two-term former Brown Corporation member, is founder, president and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, a private alternative investment firm he founded in 1991, and founder, chairman and CEO of Starwood Property Trust, the largest commercial mortgage real estate investment trust in the U.S. From 1995 through early 2005, he was chairman and CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, a company he founded in 1995. In 2008, Sternlicht founded the SH Group hotel management company. SH Group is the owner and manager of Baccarat Hotels and Resorts and 1 Hotels brands.
Mimi Reichert Sternlicht is co-founder of Bread Ventures, a branding and business development firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut. An award-winning creative director who has worked with global marketing communications firms, she co-founded Campus Goose, which offered concierge and errand services to Brown students and their families beginning in 2013.
“Brown students are among the most exceptional in the world,” Mimi Reichert Sternlicht said. “They deserve to have world-class care while they are at the University to help them feel well and do well, and to excel.”