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Making space for reflection and faith

Robin Chenoweth
March 07, 2019

College opens third meditation room for students

A “quiet room” can be many things. To some, it’s a space for silent reflection, a spot to let go and re-center. To others, it’s a haven in which to pray with dignity.

Last year, when Bushra Ismail wanted to pray, the master's of counselor education student might find herself kneeling in stairwells or trying to find a vacant classroom. What was supposed to be a time of spiritual awareness was stressful, because she didn’t know if someone would walk through and interrupt.

But the College of Education and Human Ecology recently opened a quiet room in the Physical Activity and Education Services building, where Ismail attends classes twice a week. It’s the third room of its kind in the college, and one of 10 set aside for interfaith student prayer and reflection across Ohio State University’s Columbus campus. (Newark and Marion campuses each have a meditation room as well.)

Having three rooms dedicated to prayer and meditation on campus underscores the college’s commitment to diversity and wellness, said Noelle Arnold, associate professor of educational administration and associate dean of equity and diversity.

A meditation room with a table, chair and flowers in Campbell Hall.
An anonymous donor gave funds to open this prayer and meditation room in Campbell Hall in 2017.

“We know the importance of reflection, quiet and meditation to well-being,” she said. “These are practices that encourage us to be our best and most compassionate selves.”

“In our college, these spaces allow all to incorporate and express those practices in all their myriad forms.”

The latest quiet room was refurbished after Ismail told Colette Dollarhide, professor of counselor education, about students’ difficulty finding privacy to pray. The room — which has white walls, a chair and footstool, a locking door and sink — had been a lactation room. It now serves both purposes.

“This space is incredibly important for me as a student because it allows me to practice my faith fully and not be restricted,” said Ismail, who is president of the student group, Counselors for Social Justice. Dollarhide is the advisor for the group.

The college opened its first meditation and reflection room in 191 Arps Hall in March 2017, following an attack on campus that left students feeling anxious. The college held roundtable discussions about making all students, faculty and staff feel safe and welcome. The idea of creating a space for spiritual expression was born. An anonymous donor gave funds for a second room — 291 Campbell Hall — that November.

The concept meshes with the values the college embraces.

“We must remember that we educate the whole student: heart, mind, body,” Dollarhide said. “We need to be aware that all persons learn best when their whole self is in the learning environment, which means we must be aware of the whole person in our classes.”

Ismail uses the room every day she is in the PAES building, often both before and after class. While people of all faiths are welcome there, the room is especially appreciated by Muslim students, she said.

“Other faith traditions have easily accessible prayer spaces — Hillel on campus, multiple churches within walking distance — whereas the Muslim population does not. The inclusion of more quiet spaces that include elements that allow Muslims to pray there is a step towards inclusion and equality,” she said.

EHE Meditation, Reflection and Quiet Rooms

  • Meditation and Reflection Room, 191 Arps Hall (beside the health screening room)
  • Meditation and Reflection Room, 291 Campbell Hall
  • Quiet Room, A225 PAES Building

Rooms across campus

  • Interfaith Prayer and Reflection Room, 3020C Ohio Union (contains two ablution rooms)
  • Interfaith Prayer Room, 246 Atwell Hall
  • Wellness Room, 050 and 060 Eighteenth Avenue Library
  • Meditation Room, 008 Meiling Hall (medical students only)
  • Quiet Room, 251 Electro Science Laboratory
  • Quiet Room, 178 Knowlton Hall
  • Quiet Room, 223D Gerlach Hall

Rooms on regional campuses

  • Meditation and Reflection Room, 132 Morrill Hall, Marion Campus
  • Meditation Room, 209 John and Christine Warner Library and Student Center, Newark Campus
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