What do goats, plants and massages have in common?
All were featured at Wellness Fest Aug. 19 outside Nebraska Union. The Big Red Welcome activity, now in its second year, aims to introduce new students to the variety of activities, resources and programs on campus that are focused on physical and mental health.
Organizations represented included Big Red Resilience and Well-being, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Health Center, Campus Recreation, and Student Advocacy and Support. Additional booths introduced students to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Dining Services and Big Red Pawp-Ups — once-monthly events where therapy dogs are available in Love Library and students can stop in to say “hi.”
Students won prizes, got a chair massage, mingled with friends and learned about the many resources available to them. Some students also chose to pot a plant with the Nebraska State Arboretum for their dorm room. Sarah Spilinek, a student in landscape architecture and staff member with the Arboretum, said the 350-plus donated plants were chosen specifically for dorm life. Plants are a finishing touch that research has shown to boost moods, productivity, concentration and creativity.
“They’re all low-light, low-maintenance plants,” she said. “We’ve got spider plants, jade, aloe, pothos, succulents and cactus.”
Hollie Swanson, director of administrative operations and strategic events for Student Affairs, said the Wellness Fest was tweaked slightly this year, as they continue to listen to feedback and grow the event. Last year, in addition to informational booths, Campus Recreation offered fitness classes on the greens. This year, those classes were dispersed throughout the week.
“We want this event to grow each year with more vendors and more activities,” Swanson said. “We also want to offer students lots of options throughout the week. The Campus Rec classes previously offered here were offered at different times so more students could take advantage.”
One class that did stay was the perennially popular goat yoga, which took place on Meier Commons. Two sessions were offered, allowing about 60 new students a wildly unique opportunity to get in some exercise while mingling with kid and adult goats from Shepherd’s Rest Goat and Sheep Rescue near Pickrell, Nebraska. The class was first offered in 2019 and fills up nearly immediately when registration opens.
Roommates Kayla Jeffrey and Kyra Jenkins, both of Springfield, Nebraska, were floored by the experience, despite the fact that they forgot to bring towels.
“The grass was a little itchy, but it was so worth it,” Jeffrey said. “I love goats. We have goats back home and being around that reminded me a little bit of home. And it was just fun!”
Jenkins agreed, adding that she’d encountered many fun, new and unusual experiences during Big Red Welcome week.
“That was such a unique experience,” Jenkins said. “Where else are you going to walk out your door and be able to do goat yoga? It’s a really big school, compared to my hometown, and it felt a little intimidating at first, but everyone has been so welcoming.”
Jeffrey said it was one of those helpful people who tipped them off about downloading the ActiveHusker App, where they could register for the class. The roommates have also taken full advantage of many of the other fitness classes offered throughout the week.
“We’re both going to join Campus Rec,” Jeffrey said. “We both like working out and there are so many options, and so much to do.”
Swanson reiterated that the week had been a big success, for the students — and the staff who work tirelessly to welcome students to campus.
“We’ve been going since Sunday, and it’s been intense, but I love the students’ energy,” she said. “These first weeks are always so exciting.”