Newly Opened Colonial Health Center Prioritizes Student Wellness

Expanded wellness hub provides comprehensive services, emphasizes privacy.

The grand opening ceremony for the Colonial Health Center will be held on Jan. 14 at 4 p.m.
The grand opening ceremony for the Colonial Health Center will be held on Jan. 14 at 4 p.m.
January 07, 2015

By Brittney Dunkins

Just hours after the Colonial Health Center opened its doors on Monday morning, George Washington University students lined up in the reception area of the new, nearly 18,000 square-foot modern wellness hub located on the ground floor of the Marvin Center.

The buzz of activity was a promising start for the center, which offers students a central location for medical, counseling, prevention and health promotion services. It replaces the separate offices held by the University Counseling Center, Student Health Service and the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education.

The grand opening ceremony will be Jan. 14.

“Right now we have clinicians conducting interviews with intern candidates in the conference rooms and staff are finishing up moving in—it’s exciting to see things in motion,” Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine said during a tour of the space on Monday. “We want students to know we are open and ready to help.”

Architecture and design firm SmithGroup JJR designed the center with input from a working group of staff, students and administrators. The space features blue carpet and wood paneling accented by sleek hanging light fixtures and a bright mix of colorful chairs. Practical features include a water bottle filling station and dry erase boards.

Student privacy is emphasized throughout the space—a priority of the design, Mr. Levine said. Mid-rise wooden dividers separate groups of chairs in the shared waiting room. Offices for all medical and mental health services are located behind the walled reception area so that students can access services without revealing what kind of help they are seeking.

A white noise system and increased insulation between rooms and around doors also promote privacy.


“The design is focused on eliminating the stigma around seeking help,” Mr. Levine said. “We want to shift students’ thinking from, ‘this is a place to go when you have a problem,’ to, ‘this is a place to gain knowledge and resources to promote personal health and wellness.’”

To that end, the center includes a combined call center for medical and counseling appointments, conference rooms for group activities such as the “George’s Heroes” bystander intervention program and nearly 50 offices and exam rooms for medical, mental health, psychiatric and immunization services.



Health promotion and prevention services will have two offices where students can seek resources on a range of topics from managing stress to alcohol and other drug awareness.

The center is also home to the GW Parenting Initiative, which provides support for students, staff and faculty who are new or expecting parents.

“The expanded square footage doubles the space of the former locations and will allow staff to serve students more quickly and collaborate across offices for even better treatment,” Mr. Levine said. “We are also working toward updating our system to accommodate electronic medical records and will introduce computer-based check-ins for medical services, similar to the system used for mental health check-ins.”

Medical services are just one of the comprehensive resources available to students in the nearly 18,000 square-foot center, which features conference rooms, private exam spaces, counseling offices, a lab for blood and urine analysis and a phlebotomy lab. 

The center’s additional modern features—a nurses’ station, phlebotomy room and a lab for blood and urine analysis—are also a part of the efforts to provide comprehensive care, Mr. Levine said. He added that more than 60 highly trained staff members will work side-by-side in the Colonial Health Center.

Looking ahead, Mr. Levine said that the Division of Student Affairs hopes to expand university-wide outreach and education efforts and enhance mental health support groups and academic success programs.

He hopes the space will lead to better ways to serve the community and support students through additional services, expanded hours, and even new programs such as Pet Therapy.

“The Colonial Health Center is one more step toward building a healthier GW—and in this new space, we have a location that’s central to the heart of what matters most: serving the array of community health needs for our diverse student community,” Mr. Levine said.