Print Edition: May 8, 2013
It doesn’t take much to attract a roomful of stressed-out students – just some bubble wrap, freshly baked cookies and four-legged friends.
Students lined up in the hall outside B121 on April 17, waiting for the SUS puppy room to open. They were met by the wagging tails of volunteer therapy dogs, plates of cookies and a table for colouring – all intended to help students relax and relieve the stress of final exams.
The St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program provides certified dogs on a volunteer basis to the sick and the elderly. In this case, the dogs comforted stressed-out students.
Charline Derksen, department assistant in the Arts Advice Centre on campus, volunteers with the program and coordinated the event with SUS VP social Zach Soderstrom.
“I just went out and bought things like food and colouring pages and markers and bubble wrap and bubbles for people to play around with,” Soderstrom said of putting the event together. “We threw it all in the same room with the dogs and people really, really liked it.”
The event took place over three days from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. during the first week of exams. Twelve different dogs and their owners cycled shifts in the room.
“Traditionally, we haven’t had a lot of events during exam time because we thought … people are too busy,” SUS president Shane Potter explained. “But I really like the idea of doing events that de-stress people and bring positive energy. People can pet a dog and it lowers the anxiety and frustration they’re experiencing with exams.”
Over 500 students came by the puppy room during its three days. Pairing the turnout with the low cost, SUS deems it one of their most successful events.
“The entire event cost us basically the food, so $100-150,” Potter said. “Just in cost per student ratio, it was extremely successful … It proved that you don’t need to spend $5000 or $6000 or $7000 to have an event that students like.”
The puppy room is just the first of many events that reflect a new direction that SUS is taking with getting students engaged on campus.
“The stuff I want to work on directly is focused more on low-key, laid-back events, as opposed to the big blowout concerts and pub nights,” Soderstrom said. “Not so much that I’m against those—I think they’re important—but I find that there are enough student groups and other people going out and doing them … I would feel better myself working with them and helping to enable them to do it on their own.”
Soderstrom plans to support student groups in launching their annual AfterMath parties like the Big Bang and Casino Royale while he coordinates movie nights and other smaller, low-cost events for students to enjoy.
Potter assures students that SUS will still be putting together the usual events through AfterMath, but also says students should expect to see new creative events coming from the society board of directors.
“We’re still going to have our concert days, we’re still going to have our AfterMath days,” Potter explained. “We’re still going to really engage AfterMath this year but we’re going to try to throw different events.”
Based on the positive reception from students, St. John Ambulance therapy dogs will be making more campus appearances for exams and for the Weeks of Welcome events in September. Next time SUS says they will be better prepared with more advertising, more food and more fun ways to take minds off of the three-hour exams promising to make or break your whole semester.
“The students have indicated to us that this is something they want to see every exam period,” Potter concluded, “and that’s something we’re going to do.”