WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Oct. 12, 2020 — West Liberty University’s international students benefitted from a diversity grant received recently that is giving comfort to campus.
The comfort is in the form of a dedicated room for prayer and meditation, located in the Rollie Williams International Center, located in historic Shotwell Hall.
The funds came from a diversity grant awarded from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC) and additional money provided by the Roland “Rollie” Williams Fund.
“It has been the vision of the International Center to improve our small prayer room that we’ve had in operation for international students for several years. We are so happy that these funds have allowed us to update and create a new and improved space in our center,” explained Mia Szabo, director of International Enrollment Services.
“The room began as a way to honor the customs and cultures represented on campus with an appropriate space to meditate and pray. We were able to brainstorm with the diversity committee and our students to come up with specifics,” she added. “We’ve furnished this small room with a variety of cushions, pray mats, posters, books and other items to make it comfortable and attractive and we invite all members of the West Liberty campus community to visit and use it.”
International Student Advisor Ryan Glanville coordinates much of International Programs and Recruiting.
“The room is used by a handful of students this semester but it is used often and we encourage any student or staff member who needs a comfortable spot to pause and meditate to visit. I think it’s very important now with the additional stress brought on by the pandemic. All students need mindfulness support in this manner,” said Glanville.
Umesh Nepali is an example of a student who makes good use of the new space.
“It is a place I visit often when I need to meditate. I appreciate its availability to students,” Nepali said. A junior Medical Laboratory Science student, Nepali is Hindu and plans on returning to his native country of Nepal after graduation.
At this time, his country’s borders are closed due to COVID-19, making this space even more important in dealing with stress and anxiety.
The small room includes a window, allowing a bit of the outdoors and a tree to provide a background. Additional nature themes are provided by the wall that is curtained with a photographic image of a forest.
“Our hope is that this prayer and meditation room idea will grow across campus and move forward to create more spaces set aside for peaceful thought and mindfulness behavior,” Szabo said. Open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the room also is available by request during weekends or evenings.
Glanville serves on the WLU Campus and Community Diversity Committee, which was created in 2009. The committee seeks to create cultural self-awareness, promote domestic diversity and develop global awareness.
WLU has 49 international students enrolled this fall, despite the difficulties created by a pandemic. Of these 49 students, seven are studying remotely and the rest are on campus.
“Our students are grateful that we have been able to update the prayer and meditation room and we thank the Diversity Committee and the WLU Foundation for providing the funding that made it possible,” Szabo said.
Countries represented this year include: Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, India, Ireland (Republic of Ireland), Italy, Japan, Mexico, Mongolian People’s Republic, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Spain, Thailand, UK -The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
For more information on the Rollie Williams International Center, please call Szabo at 304.336.8270 or Glanville at 304.336.8382.