The Whittier College Student Counseling Center was designed to be a space of refuge, where students can talk to others and decompress. However, being far away from the heart of campus, the Center tends to be overlooked, leading many to miss out on the resources that are available to them. This grabbed the attention of Class of 2018 alumni Andy Bertelsen and Tim Hillman, and they made it their mission to bring more awareness to the Counseling Center. This motivation led them to start a movement for a mural being painted on the building, with hopes that it would highlight the building in a way that would welcome and attract more people.
The mural can be seen painted on the outside of the Counseling Center, depicting a scene of wildlife and a plethora of vibrant colors. The artist behind this mural is Dennis McGonagle, an alumnus of Whittier College who graduated in 1993. Bertelsen reached out to McGonagle to see if he would be willing to paint the Counseling Center mural, and McGonagel agreed.
When asked about the inspiration of the mural, McGonagle said, “[Bertelsen] wanted a mural on the Counseling Center that showed roots as a metaphor for fresh growth, for renewal, the nurturing of the soil. I liked his idea and wanted to show the interconnectedness of human beings with each other and everything in the universe.” With the help of Tyler Kinnaman, McGonagle’s assistant who has worked alongside him on numerous projects, and a number of volunteers — whose names are painted on the mural — their mission was accomplished. Hillman, one of the students who began this drive for a mural, was proud to say, “It livens up the counseling center and gives it a much more welcoming feel.”
According to the Counseling Center, the mural has received only positive feedback. Director of the Student Counseling Center and Co-Chair of the Wellness Coalition, Dr. Rebecca Romberger said, “Thus far the response to the mural has been very positive.” It is the hope and goal of the Counseling Center that this mural will attract attention, as well as increase an artistic presence on campus.
Although the mural is an attempt to help bring more awareness to the Counseling Center and the resources that it offers, it is only the beginning of a renovation plan that is set up for the building. “The mural is just one part of a project that is planned for the space around the Counseling Center. The second phase will be to offer each club, group, sport, society, and organization on campus a space to represent themselves on the approaching wall . . . our goal is to portray the vast array of activities, groups and interests in our Whittier College community,” said Romberger. “The third phase of the project is to create a comfortable space by updating/refreshing some of the outdoor furniture and adding plants, etc.” The Counseling Center is not finished with their efforts in improving their building. Like the inspiration behind the mural, there is growth that is continuing to happen at the Counseling Center, all with their own intention of making a welcoming space for students.
This mural is an invitation to the student body to enter and experience all that the building has to offer. The Counseling Center is there to provide Poets with individual and couples therapy, psychiatric services, grief counseling, referrals, and mental health workshops.
Of course, a project of this size was not done by just two people. Rather, it was the combined effort of many individuals who have invested their time and energy in the Counseling Center mural. The Wellness Coalition and Counseling Center would like to thank the Dean of Students office, First-Year program council, the Office of Residential Life, the Inter-Society Council, and the Associated Students of Whittier College Senate for their support of this project.
For more information, please contact the Whittier College Counseling Center at firstname.lastname@example.org and watch for the next steps as the Counseling Center continues to develop their space.
In celebration of the new mural, the Counseling Center is planning an “unveiling” ceremony where McGonagle will be in attendance to discuss his art. The date and time have yet to be announced, but the Quaker Campus will continue to report on these developments.