Recent studies by the American Psychological Association show that stress levels on college campuses are at an all-time high. Although the emotional ramifications of stress are vast, the physical effects of stress can be just as uncomfortable. Exams and finals have a way of making muscles tighter, nails shorter and faces bumpier. While the average college student’s budget does not allow for expensive treatments, students can turn to Florida Gulf Coast University’s on-campus Spa Lab for affordable relief.
The Sugden Resort and Hospitality building is an extension of the College of Business, although it looks and functions like a real resort. The building houses many unique classroom settings that can only be found in the most specialized hospitality schools including a full culinary kitchen, a wine tasting laboratory and event spaces in the forms of ballrooms and suites.
“These are all typical classrooms for those types of programs,” said Mary Wisnom, the spa management coordinator and adviser. “But the Spa Lab itself is unique. We were the first university in North America to open our doors to a program facility like this.”
FGCU’s Resort and Hospitality Management program became available to students 2003. The Spa Lab was added in 2011 and has been offering body treatments to students ever since. Customers can receive massages, nail treatments, facials, body wraps and polishes, waxing, and hydrotherapy services.
Wisnom is currently in the process of hiring a hair stylist for their fall opening date on Sept. 9. Although the Spa Lab is run and maintained by paid FGCU student interns, those performing the actual treatment services are licensed technicians and therapists from the surrounding community.
“We have four of the best treatment providers in the area,” Wisnom said. “They may work at another resort or day spa but they come to campus one or two days a week to run the lab. This year our staff ranges from massage therapists, skincare specialists, cosmetologists who can do nails and hair, and then those who can do massages and waxing.”
Senior communication major Hannah Whyms has used the Spa Lab services before when she needed physical stress relief.
“I had a lot of tension in my back,” Whyms said. “I had tightness in my shoulders and felt really tense because it was finals week. I got a 50-minute massage and it was fantastic. The masseuse was very friendly and she worked at the Pink Shell resort in Naples when she wasn’t at FGCU. It almost didn’t feel like I was at school because the service and the atmosphere was so nice.”
According to Wisnom, an experience like Whyms’ is the norm.
“What we provide is really a resort-style spa experience,” Wisnom said. “Anyone who comes in for a service is provided with a plush robe and slippers. They are encouraged to relax in our lounge where we have snacks and flavored waters for them. If you book a service, you can go into the hydrotherapy space all day long. So if you come in for a 3 o’clock hair appointment, you can come in at 12 o’clock and relax in the whirlpool, steam room and sauna before or after your service.”
Hydrotherapy is free for anyone with an appointment, but customers can also buy an all-day $5 pass if they would prefer to only use these facilities. The Spa Lab itself has two dry-treatments rooms that are typically used for facials, massages and waxing. There is also a wet treatment room with a Vichy shower, which is a horizontal shower that lays over the bed and allows the technician to make the wrap and scrub services unique.
“You can actually receive a water massage from the shower,” Wisnom said. “We also use it to rinse products from body treatments since there are usually a series of products used in a certain order. It allows us to rinse the guest before we put the next product on, which keeps the guest happy because they don’t have to get up and get off of the table to rinse off and then come back.”
The Spa Lab is a part of the Service Learning community, so they do accept student volunteers. The volunteers can check guests in, give tours of the spa, do laundry, clean the facility, do inventory, and any other task that needs completing at a given time.
Students or faculty looking to book an appointment with the Spa Lab may do so by calling 239-590-1295 or emailing [email protected] They may also book an appointment in person in Sugden Hall, Suite 201, during its hours of operation. The Spa Lab is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. this semester. Appointments are publicly available and are not limited to students or staff at FGCU. Prices vary from $5 to $80 and can be found at RHMspalab.fgcu.edu.
Wisnom urges students and faculty who would like to use the Spa Lab not to waste time before making an appointment.
“Prices are very reasonable,” Wisnom said. “They’re actually set quite low to ensure that there is good traffic flow and we can attract more students into the space. And we are busy! In addition to the general customers who come in for the services, the spa management students also receive these services as part of their course requirement. It’s kind of a nice perk, isn’t it? So between the students who are in for course credit and the customers, faculty, staff and students on campus, we get really busy.”