© 2018 by The Behrend Beacon.

  • Black Twitter Icon

Bring more animal themed events to campus

4-23-2019

AnaBella Lassiter, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Penn State Behrend hosts some pretty exciting events throughout the academic year. In the past, we have had concerts, comedians, build-a-bear nights, Midnight Bingo, and a plethora of other activities that help get students out of their dorms and away from the stress and anxiety that comes with being a full-time college student. However, these events are simply escapes. Once they end, students walk back into their dorms and the weight that they forgot about returns, and sometimes feels even heavier than it was before they left.

 

It’s time that our events not only give students an escape from their frustration but also help them deal with their stress and anxiety. What I am trying to say is animals. Penn State Behrend needs to bring more animals onto campus and host more animal-themed events.

 

I was able to sit down and speak with Dr. Lum, a psychology professor here on campus, and I learned that her dog, Google, does incredible work not only with search and rescue operations but with people. Lum regularly takes Google to visit elderly care centers. What she claims is that such visits with animals are quite beneficial. She is right, of course.

 

For example, in a study done at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, researchers recorded the feelings of students before and after they interacted with dogs. Out of all of the students, 54% of them went into the study feeling stressed, 29% recorded being tired, while the rest reported a wide range of feelings from anxiety to unmotivated. Despite this diverse range of feelings, though, after spending time with the dogs, 98% of the students reported a positive change in their feelings.

 

Lund states, “The final theme noted by the students related to the dogs reminding the participants of home or a pet. There seemed to be some comfort garnered by the familiarity of interacting with the dogs”.

 

This study stands to show how students do benefit from animal interaction. Think about it: when you are feeling down, it is really hard to focus on homework or essay writing or studying. Be it family, friends or grades that is so prominent and heavy within your thoughts, you end up being less productive, feeling less productive, and completing work that lacks effort and therefore quality. However, when a student is in a better mood, their productivity levels increase and the overall quality of their work is better.

 

With this being said, it truly would be in Behrend’s best interest to host animal-themed events for students. Animals increase the release of oxytocin, dopamine, and even lower blood pressure. They also remind students of their house pets, animals who tend to be considered family. Being in a nostalgic environment is beneficial, too. It can increase a student’s resiliency, sense of identity, and can motivate them to reach their goals.

 

Now, these events do not have to happen often. I personally think that students would benefit most from an event in the beginning of the semester, right before or during midterms, and then once before finals— essentially three times a semester. I think that these are the times in which most students feel the most stress and anxiety, and therefore, would benefit the most from animals.

 

Not to mention other campuses already do things like this. Gannon and Mercyhurst both host Dog Days and even Edinboro, as recently reported, is renovating a dorm building for students to bring their pets. Additionally, we have resources in Erie to pull off events like this. With the Anna Shelter, the Humane Society, Therapy Dogs International, and Therapy Dogs United, there are plenty of opportunities to bring animals onto campus.

 

Again, the main reason for this kind of event being students’ stress and anxiety. As found by Harvard’s Medical School, this generation’s levels of stress and the amount of mental issues are higher than any other generation in the past. It is important that we not only embrace these realities but we adopt ways in which we can make stressful weeks at college easier to swallow for our students. What better way to make academic coursework easier to deal with than by playing with an animal?