Watkins Health Services (WHS) provides comprehensive medical care and outreach programs to KU students. Dedicated professionals on staff support the student’s learning experience through the delivery of high quality affordable healthcare services and innovative programs that promote the health of the student, University and community.
In 2013, the Health Education Resource Office at WHS contacted Loving Paws Animal Assisted Therapy Program to partner with our Stress Busting Study Break (SBSB) events within Anschutz and Watson Libraries. SBSB events are held multiple times in each library prior to and during finals week to provide students with tips and tools for stress management. These tips and tools include, but are not limited to: bottled water for hydration (donated by Coca-Cola grant); snack bars for refueling (donated by KU Dining Services); stress relief balls; and materials on ways to manage stress, how to deal with exam stress, and the importance of quality sleep. Adding therapy dogs to these events promoted additional stress management tips and tools by encouraging study breaks and allowing students to engage with the dogs. Library staff have been very supportive and great partners of these events.
Watkins Health Services (WHS) became a client of the Strategic Campaigns Class (Journalism 640) in Spring 2014. Students in the class recommended expanding the therapy dog program to the residence halls. As a result, Pause 4 Pups was launched in Fall 2014. Twice monthly during the semester, therapy dogs visit a different residence hall from 8-9 pm on Wednesday nights. Housing staff have also been very supportive and great partners of these events.
Both programs have been a huge success with students. We have many students that follow the dogs from week to week to the various locations. In academic year 2015, there were more than 4,800 student contacts during the SBSB events in the libraries and more than 1,400 at Pause 4 Pups events in the residence halls. The therapy dogs have made a huge impact on thousands of KU students.
Research shows that therapy dogs have a positive impact on college students when dealing with stress, anxiety, homesickness, relationship difficulties and more. According to the National College Health Assessment Spring 2015, stress and anxiety are the #1 and #2 (respectively) academic impediments for KU students. With that in mind, WHS would love to expand the use of therapy dogs on campus to positively impact more KU students.