The Center for Student Well-Being will invite the range of breeds and sizes as a part of their Paws and Relax program, varying from palm-size chihuahuas, 150-pound American Mastiffs and smiling llamas.
On the library lawn, April 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Center for Student Well-Being will provide dogs and other animals during exam prep time to help students cope with the added stress by allowing them to pet and interact with the animals. The dogs are brought from Project PUP, which is an association in St. Petersburg that has certified therapy dogs.
Christine Haywood, a coordinator for Paws and Relax, said several hundred students attended the event last year. She said USF started doing the event because of various studies that indicated petting animals calm people and has a positive effect on well-being.
At the end of February, dogs were brought on campus during midterms as a trial because it is a high-stress week as well. Jennifer DiPrete, director of the Center for Student Well-Being, said the event is put on for students to manage stress appropriately.
“We try to be purposeful when we do implement the Paws and Relax program,” DiPrete said. “It is important that it is during midterms and finals — during times where students may be experiencing higher levels of stress than usual.”
The partnership with Project PUP was established about four years ago when the event first started. It was important to find therapy animals, according to Haywood, because they can handle a lot of people around them. Haywood said the dogs primarily work in nursing homes and hospitals so the volunteers love to come to campus because of the change of energy.
“There was some pretty thorough research that was done on the front end to make sure both the owners and the animals were properly credentialed, and the reference and background checks were approved,” DiPrete said.
Peer educators from Responsible Education and Action for Campus Health (REACH) will also be involved to provide educational material for students to use throughout exam week. According to the Center for Student Well-Being website, members of REACH strive to promote holistic wellness through educational presentations and campus events, informing USF students on wellness resources, ways to live a healthy lifestyle and how to take care of yourself.
Haywood said there is expected to be about 10 dogs and three llamas. The llamas are therapy-certified and associated with project PUP. According to Haywood, the llamas are docile because of their trained ability to take pictures with students.
“When we look at what USF students have responded to in the National College Health assessment regarding top health impediments, there is anxiety, stress and lack of sleep that lead the list, so when we put together our programming it’s to address these health issues that students have identified that can be barriers to them succeeding academically,” DiPrete said.