The School of Law hosts a series of wellness programs because law students get stressed too.

The programs, which include everything from Zumba classes to Duke Lemur Center tours, are designed to get students out of the law building and relieve the day-to-day pressures of being a law student. These programs are part of a larger push for wellness, by the graduate and professional schools, as well as the Duke Student Wellness Center.

“Sometimes when people get to law school, they think they can’t do anything other than study,” said Jason Belk, assistant dean for student affairs at the law school. “There’s a lot of work here, but we want to make sure that people do something else other than stay in the classroom."

Belk pointed out that many students in law school tend to drop habits which previously helped them cope with stress, such as exercising or playing an instrument. Students need to have something outside of school or work to help them handle pressure, he added.

The series of wellness programs at the School of Law covers a wide range of activities and topics. Previous events have included yoga classes, basketball games with faculty, events in Durham and talks by speakers. Programs often involve faculty, and some of the programs have been developed with student involvement.

“We recognize that it wouldn’t be helpful to have a whole bunch of speakers coming in and lecturing about wellness and balance,” Belk said. “We try to model it so we get students doing things, sometimes with faculty members, that are not academic or even law related just to get them out into the community or exercising or things like that.”

Attendance at these events has varied.

Gordon Sommers, a second year law student, said that only one other person attended a yoga class he went to.

Events such as the Lemur Center and Durham food tours, however, generally attract more interest said Sarah Battersby, student affairs coordinator at the School of Law. Some even have a waitlist, she added.

Sommers said that he enjoyed the yoga class he attended, and felt that it provided a break from studying even though there were not many others participating. More broadly, however, he felt that the existence of such programs helped to convey the message that the law school cares about its students.

“Law students are pretty busy, so they’re always a bit hesitant to commit to things,” Sommers said. “On the other hand, it’s nice that they have that kind of stuff available.”

The law school’s wellness programs are part of a larger push in the graduate and professional schools to emphasize student wellness, said Brittany O’Malley, program coordinator at the Duke Student Wellness Center. Graduate and professional students face many of the same problems with stress as undergraduates, but much less attention is paid to graduate students, she added.

“It often ends up being that the students that we end up seeing are at a crisis point, because they haven’t really had that proactive care for themselves,” O’Malley said. “Self-care or lack thereof is a very common issue in graduate or professional schools.”

As a result, the Wellness Center is expanding its programs into the graduate and professional schools. The Law School Wellness series, for example, was set up with help from the Wellness Center.

In addition, the Center is collecting individualized wellness data on each of the graduate and professional schools to design wellness programs that better fit the needs of graduate students, O'Malley said.

“Duke’s pretty cutting edge, I’d say, in terms of focusing [wellness] on graduate and professional students,” O’Malley said. “You can’t ignore graduate and professional students who are more than half of Duke’s population. You definitely can’t ignore the impact that they have on the university.”