UTD launches formalized pre-weekend programs

Biomedical engineering freshman Jillian Penney (left) and criminology freshman Kaia Duckworth made s’mores at Friday After Class on Nov. 2. Photo by Anna Phensakmueang | Mercury Staff.

Several UTD departments have partnered to organize a recurring event where students can relax and de-stress on Fridays.

Since the start of the fall semester, University Recreation, University Housing and the Student Wellness Center have been hosting an event called Friday After Class. On the first Friday of every month, students can go to the Rec Center West Courtyard to lounge on the hammocks or participate in planned programs to enjoy free time before their weekends begin.

“(An) important part of our wellness is finding that relaxation,” said Chris Gormley, assistant director of competitive sports. “We thought that Friday afternoon is a great time for that after a long week of test and exams.”

Frankie Branham, University Recreation’s coordinator of fitness, conceived the idea for Friday After Class. Branham said she first found out about a program called Friday Afternoon Club when she and her sister visited Colorado. She said they believed it to be specific to the hotel where they were staying, but after exploring different towns the following day, they saw that many other restaurants were advertising it as well.

“It turned out that the concept of Friday Afternoon Club is when you just kick back and you start your happy hour a little bit earlier than usual, and it’s just a very, very chill vibe,” Branham said. “At that point, I thought, ‘Okay, we need to create that kind of a chill, healthy happy hour-type thing for our students at UTD.’”

Branham said when she returned to campus in August, she first shared her ideas with her peers at University Recreation, to University Housing and then to the SWC, who were all excited to collaborate. “Everybody was excited about the concept,” Branham said. “Because we’re all excited and because we’re all creative and enjoy what we do in our individual department, it has not been difficult to come up with ideas of things to do.”

University Housing provides the space for the event, as well as various yard games. University Recreation provides hammocks and helps plan activities. The SWC provides students with healthy snack options. The initiative also includes Chartwells, which has attended every Friday After Class event, to provide a cooking demonstration at the kitchen in Residence Hall West.

The SWC administers the American College Health Association’s survey every two years. Sara Asberry, a registered dietitian at the SWC, said that in college student populations, the biggest health concern is stress, with the stress level at UTD far above the average compared to that of other universities.

“We know that college is a stressful time, but we look at specifically the personalities of UTD students, and we notice that it’s even more of a concern. We have really academically-focused, high-achieving, amazing students and we also have students from all over the world, and that can create stress,” Asberry said. “We want to provide more opportunities for students to get together and have fun and take a break, and we try to encourage students to do that more often.”

The monthly program will resume after winter break, on the first Friday of February. Similar to the ones that took place in the fall semester, the events in the spring will include music, food, yard games and cooking demonstrations as well as other programmed activities.

“We’d love for more students to join. It’s the end of the week, so let’s just exhale and have some fun,” Asberry said. “If we could just create a space for more students to come de-stress for a little bit, we would love that.”

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