Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies minor offers multidisciplinary experiences for all students

Students in a classroom writing on a large poster board on the wall
Students in HFS 452 Mindfulness in Children and Youth engage in a mindful drawing exercise with associate professor Susan D’Amato, Ph.D.

Falk College is a natural fit to house the Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies minor, as the program’s courses complement the work of Falk students, many of whom plan to enter professions where they will be working directly with children and families. “Mindfulness-based practices are being increasingly incorporated into therapy, education, health promotion, medical settings, nutrition, and sports, which means that students can infuse them into their careers,” says Rachel Razza, Ph.D., associate professor and graduate director In the Department of Human Development and Family Science. In addition, Dr. Razza suggests students directly benefit from learning mindfulness and coping skills as a form of self-care and to help overcome challenges in their careers, such as stress or secondary trauma.

Tyler Smith ’20, a senior Human Development and Family Science major, decided to minor in Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies because of her future career working with children. Smith accepted a full-time teaching position at a public charter school in Colorado after graduation. “I am going to have to connect with children,” Smith says. “This minor shifted me towards this vision that it would be awesome if kids learned these coping skills early-on so they could be their own source of groundedness.”

As coordinator for the mindfulness minor, Dr. Razza oversees curriculum revisions and advising of students. She reported the minor was recently revised to intentionally be broader in terms of disciplines for the Fall 2020 semester and beyond. “I think that it is important to recognize that there are many different forms of mindfulness, not just mindfulness meditation where we are sitting still and silent,” Dr. Razza says. “I encourage students to explore mindfulness through different mediums, such as art and music, as these are inherently mindful areas.”

With guidance from Dr. Razza, students are able to find mindfulness in other courses, such as creative writing, holistic healing, and Buddhism courses. music, “She would ask us what we are interested in, she would take us to different departments. She made it seem very real and reasonable to have a mindfulness minor,” Smith says.

Many of the courses in the mindfulness minor include a contemplative practice component, which can be particularly helpful for managing the stressors associated with being a student. Dr. Razza explained, “Students may gain skills that will promote their wellbeing, such as increased self-regulation and self-compassion, and combat against anxiety and depression.”

Dr. Razza hopes that the mindfulness minor continues to draw students from Falk and across the University, as she believes the multidisciplinary experiences in these courses are critical to the education and wellbeing of SU students. She sees this minor also serving as a mechanism to promote student research in the area of mindfulness and their use of campus resources, such as the Barnes Wellness initiatives and the MindSpa.