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Herkimer College opens The Zen Den student-relaxation space

By Traci DeLore (


Herkimer County Community College unveiled The Zen Den on Tuesday. It provides students with a place to relax and destress in support of their mental health and wellbeing. (Photo credit: Herkimer County Community College)

HERKIMER, N.Y. — Herkimer County Community College unveiled a new student-wellness space, The Zen Den, at a ribbon cutting on Tuesday, March 28.

Located adjacent to Alumni Hall in the Robert McLaughlin College Center, the Zen Den provides a space for students to relax, study, read, play board games, color, practice yoga, meditate, and more. The space features massage chairs, soft seating, tables and chairs, a large-screen TV for yoga instruction, and a community book exchange.

“Our hope is that this wellness space and all of the mental-health supports offered at Herkimer College will benefit students now and beyond our campus,” college Director of Counseling Services Wendy Marchese said in a press release. The Zen Den is just one facet of the services offered on campus.

In addition to the Zen Den, the college’s counseling center provides students with individual counseling, referrals, and emergency services. Herkimer College also partners with Catholic Charities, YWCA Mohawk Valley, and ICAN to connect students with additional services.

Jane, a certified therapy dog, joined the campus last fall as part of the counseling department. She participates in animal-assisted therapy with her handler Kaitlyn LaPolla.

The idea behind the Zen Den is to provide students with a safe, inviting, and relaxing space to manage daily stressors and decompress, Herkimer College said. Recent data shows that during the 2020-2021 school year, more than 60 percent of college students met the criteria for at least one mental-health problem, according to the Healthy Minds Study. The study collects data from 373 campuses nationwide.

“Student wellness is a core part of the Herkimer College experience,” President Cathleen C. McColgin said in a release. “Our goal is that all students thrive during their college years and beyond, and we recognize that personal wellness is a key contributor to success. This new relaxing, restorative space is another way we can support physical, emotional, and mental health. We are grateful to the faculty, staff, and students who were instrumental in its development.”

Herkimer College used supplemental support under the American Rescue Plan to help fund the Zen Den. The college used a campus-wide contest to select the name. John Looby of Watertown submitted the winning name.

Herkimer College is also addressing food insecurity among college students with an on-campus food pantry, The General’s Cupboard, which stocks a variety of free food and personal-care items for students in need.


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