This Autumn Quarter two of our Associate Teaching Professors, Maureen “Mo” West and Sunita Iyer, are teaching a course titled “Mental Health & Student Life” to students who are in their very first quarter and first year of their college experience. This course is exploring how mindfulness, self-awareness, and meditation are important skills to develop for young people as they navigate the stressors of academics, work, social life, and the transition to college. Additionally, these are important life skills for students to have as they meet challenges with anxiety, depression, and mental health and are learning how to manage these challenges on their own.
Mo and Sunita are looking at this course as an experience, rather than simply an academic exercise. Each week the students are given different meditations to try out, ways to reflect upon their practice with each other and in individual “journal” assignments. Additionally, this class is supported by the work and book of Dr. Eric Loucks at Brown University, “The Mindful College Student,” which the students are using for their week-to-week Book Club meetings. This book gives them practical ideas on how to apply mindfulness, self-awareness, and meditation to their lives as young people and students who are navigating so many pressures from family, academics, finances, social media, and more.
One unique feature of the class this year is that it is a COIL Course, taught in partnership with faculty at the University of Minho in Braga, Portugal. Their students are also in their first year, specifically enrolled as pre-medical students. Thus, our students and theirs get to share the experience of being in the first year of their education together, but in different countries and different contexts. The students in Braga are also reading the same book by Dr. Loucks, and in our class sessions when nearly all 100 students get together, they have the opportunity to share their reflections, challenges, obstacles, and successes with implementing mindfulness and meditation into their lives. It’s been an exciting experiment and collaboration that has come with a lot of surprises as well! And what we have been the most thrilled and impressed with is the willingness of and depth to which all of the students engage with each other in their Book Club groups, across the world, and in their written reflections.
It feels hopeful to imagine that each of these students will leave this class and Autumn Quarter a little more aware of and resourced to tend to their well-being and mental health as they move through their education, adulthood, and lives.