We've got you covered

The Columbia Chronicle

We've got you covered

The Columbia Chronicle

We've got you covered

The Columbia Chronicle

Get exclusive Chronicle news delivered to your inbox!
* indicates required

Chronicle Countdown
Countdown to Manifest and Graduation
Congratulations to the Class of 2024!

Newly added sensory space gives students a place to reset with fewer distractions

Cierra Lemott
The Sensory Room, located in the back of the Reflection Space on the fourth floor of the Student Center, has open space for meditation, on Sept. 21, 2023. The space includes a pallet to lie on, a lamp and pillows for students to use.

The Student Center now has a sensory space with special lighting, pillows and fidgets for students who need a quiet place away from the noise and distractions of campus.

The new dedicated space, located on the fourth floor within the Reflection Room at the Student Center, was funded through a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) grant.

“When you go into the reflection space, which is [a] really cool space to begin with, there is a glass door at the back of that space. Going through that glass door is this sensory space,” said Jeanne Kelly, director of Services for Students with Disabilities.

Though the sensory space was created with neurodiverse students in mind, all students have access to the space.

“It’s important to be inclusive of all students on campus. Being in a city, I feel like Columbia is extra overstimulating to some folks,” said Lauren Nazarian, director of the Student Center. “College in and of itself can be tricky, as well as students who may be on the spectrum. Having a space to reset is really important and there’s not a lot of those spaces around our campus until now.”

The project was spearhead by Grace Kessler Overbeke, assistant professor of Theatre. She and two other faculty members were awarded a DEI programming grant in 2022 to support interdisciplinary collaborative public programming across the college.

As part of the grant, Overbeke, Assistant Professor Melissa Gamble in the Fashion Studies Department and Professor Jackie Spinner in Communication organized a panel discussion in March on how to make classes more accessible to autistic and other neurodiverse students.

“Self-soothing is really critical to learning and even just functioning that has nothing to do with education, but just being comfortable,” Overbeke said, adding that the room is more of a corner right now. “It’s still very much a work in progress.”

Brannon Hancock, a sophomore Comedy Writing and Performance major, said that this room is “absolutely” a good addition to the Columbia space.

“Making spaces available for people who need them is always a good thing,” Hancock said. “A place that is calm and quiet helps me a lot dealing with my traumas, the things that I’ve gone through. Knowing that there’s a place on campus if I’m ever on campus and I can’t get home quickly that will allow me to deal with that is fantastic.”

Nazarian said all members of the campus community can use the space.

“It’s not just students who need this stuff,” she said. “As a staff member, too, I can be overwhelmed or stressed with everything going on. It might be nice on my lunch break to maybe walk in and just reset and have a space to calm down.”

More to Discover
About the Contributor