By Aaron Bergeson, Faculty Developer and Instructional Designer
It’s no secret to anyone currently working in higher education that one of the most concerning issues in student life is personal wellness.
Many of the students who attend Valencia come from Generation Z (also known as iGen), born between 1995-2012. Research points to this generation being the most susceptible to depressive symptoms. In response to this trend, Valencia counselors have taken on an active strategy in supporting student wellness through initiatives like The Green Bag Campaign and the West Care & Concern Initiative, in addition to supporting faculty development courses like Recognizing and Supporting Students in Distress.
On the Winter Park Campus, Marcia Roman, counselor, is using a curriculum called Koru Mindfulness and Meditation to support students. She’s even working on a high-impact practices plan to extend these exercises to faculty and staff. Marcia says that some of the main reasons students visit her are when they are in crisis, pain or are struggling with their racing minds and attention spans.
As a counselor, Marcia was interested in helping students handle stress and anxiety and increase resilience, thereby supporting their academic endeavors. To that end, she became a certified Koru instructor.
Koru is a mindfulness and meditation curriculum developed by two psychiatrists at Duke University. Skills and guided meditations are taught and, when practiced, help build the mindfulness muscle, which fosters students’ abilities to steady the mind, reduce stress, improve sleep, strengthen focus and increase compassion. A randomized control trial conducted by Duke’s Center for Integrative Medicine showed significant gains in these areas among the emerging adult population (aged approximately 18-29). Examples of these guided meditations can be found on the Center for Koru Mindfulness website.
“As a counselor, I teach the curriculum as a free, no-credit, four-session course over a four-week period. Faculty across the country, and even internationally, are being trained and are using Koru in their classroom courses,” she said.
Marcia says that Koru is different from other mindfulness training programs in that it is specifically geared to the developmental needs of the emerging adult population. Koru class sessions run about 60-75 minutes and include a check-in, didactic, skill practice and a guided meditation. Skills taught include diaphragmatic/belly breathing, dynamic breathing, Gatha (a meditation poem), eating meditation, walking meditation, labeling thoughts and labeling feelings, the latter of which helps students develop meta-cognitive skills.
“Eventually, I see the courses being open to students, faculty and staff — all in the same class if they choose,” Marcia said. “Insofar as faculty and staff practice and experience the benefits to body, mind and spirit, I see that as strengthening the environment we offer to students, and each other.”
Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.