Satya Nelms has arrived at Swarthmore, filling the role of wellness coordinator, sorority liaison and all-around do-gooder. Perhaps you’ve seen Nelms around campus. She’s known to show up at study breaks, in the yoga studio and all sorts of places in between, giving spontaneous hugs wherever she goes.
If you haven’t yet met Nelms (and you should), she’s the new wellness coordinator, a new full-time position this semester, established after a student survey pointed to a lack of resources in that area. Wellness services were previously operated out of Worth Health Center by Nurse Practitioner Suzie Long, who eventually found that student demand for wellness services was too high for her to keep up with on top of her full nursing schedule.
Enter Nelms. She lives in town, partially because her mother-in-law teaches dance here at Swarthmore. Nelms would periodically check in for job openings at the College. When the Wellness Coordinator position opened up, she thought it would be a great way to transition her wellness work with “tiny people” (kids, that is) to big people here at the college.
Nelms signed on with characteristic enthusiasm before anyone had really developed what the job would entail. She started last semester part time, but found herself wanting more time to meet with students one-on-one and run more activities. So this semester, the full-time Wellness Coordinator position was born.
Nelms says she hopes to use the extra time to encourage a culture in which students are more proactive about their health by developing good habits before they get sick or overwhelmed. “Our culture tends to be really reactive,” she said, “and I’d love it if students could be more proactive about their health.”
After charming the socks off all the RA’s during training, Nelms has already run three hall-based study breaks to do wellness workshops. Camilla Ryder ’13 said of her study break in Wharton, “She’s just so cool! It was really enjoyable, the kids [freshmen] really liked it”
“I just want a little Satya for my room,” said Johnny Oh ’13, a Mertz RA.
A trained yoga instructor, Nelms has led students in exercises like breathing and meditation to practice relaxing before bed or in the middle of a work bender. But study breaks or meetings with her can focus on just about anything. “There’s really nothing too small or silly – you can schedule an appointment for a hug!” Nelms said.
Nelms has also set up the new Wellness Lounge in the hidden part of Wharton C basement (get in through the door in the archway, next to storage). The lounge is cozy and comfortable, stocked with tea and available for student reservations. Besides being a dry space, the lounge is available for any group and any type of activity – an email to Nelms will take care of the reservation.
It was here in the Wellness Lounge a few weeks ago where the Bedtime Stories idea was born. Nelms and Student Activities Coordinator Paury Flowers had organized a tea tasting on a rainy afternoon, and a group of students was lounging. The lounge boasts a serious collection of children’s books, and Abby Holtzman ‘16 spontaneously started reading The Giving Tree aloud to everyone. The students, apparently, were all eyes agog, listening to the story, and cycled through several more books.
She said she was “floored” by how rapt and peaceful the students were upon listening to the story, and she and Flowers were “sure it had to become a regular thing.” The program kicked off Wednesday night with Myrt Westphal reading Goodnight Moon, and will regroup next month with Tom Elverson’s reading of Where the Wild Things Are.
In addition to all this, Nelms is the campus advisor for Swarthmore’s fledgling sorority chapter, Kappa Alpha Theta. Although there have been concerns in some circles surrounding how the sorority will impact social life on campus, Nelms says “a lot of concerns were that the sorority would be a ‘stereotypical’ one that would become a divisive and exclusionary presence on campus. But there has really been a focus on keeping it in line with what the women who founded Not Yet Sisters wanted it to be: a safe space for women that could provide international and national networking opportunities, and ways to engage in the community.”
“Not Yet Sisters would not be where we are today without the knowledge, input, patience, and grace of Ms. Nelms. She has been instrumental in helping us achieve our goal of being Thetas,” Rachel Silverio ’14 said. Once the sorority kicks off in full swing this spring, they will receive a campus consultant from the sorority organization, which will relieve Nelms of some of her sorority-related duties.
As she moves forward with her first full-time semester, Nelms said she is available as a resource. “[I would] love for students to use the wellness program as a resource as much as they can,” she said. “I love feedback, and students should speak up if anything isn’t happening that should be.”
If you haven’t met Nelms yet, stop by her office or make an appointment. Even if she doesn’t solve your time management crises and haphazard sleep patterns (which she will), she is guaranteed to brighten your day.
Disclaimer: Abby Holtzman ’16 is a staff writer for The Daily Gazette.