A number of graduate and undergraduate students took part in a 10-week workplace mindfulness course this semester.
The course, which included a 90-minute session per week and a two-hour capstone session at the end, was offered to students engaged in co-op work terms, internships or field placements for their respective programs in the School of Social Work, the Faculty of Education, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Faculty of Business Administration and the Faculty of Science’s Department of Psychology.
Empathy and compassion
According to Dr. Janna Rosales, lead investigator for the project, mindfulness training cultivates attention and present-moment awareness free from judgment. Mindfulness has also been linked to increased empathy and compassion towards oneself and others.
“In the past number of years, mindfulness training programs have been adopted by many workplaces to support employee well-being, focus and clarity, among other things,” Dr. Rosales said.
Dr. Rosales has been interested in the uses of mindfulness practices in education for some time.
“I discovered that contemplative education was a movement that was building across North American campuses.”
She co-founded the Faculty Learning Community for Contemplative Education at Memorial in 2009, which is a multidisciplinary, cross-campus monthly gathering for faculty and staff interested in how mindfulness and mediation can contribute to their teaching or to their professional development or to student learning.
“Through my connections, I discovered that contemplative education was a movement that was building across North American campuses,” she said.
“I’d tried a few mindfulness exercises in my engineering class with facilitator Andrew Safer to help students hone skills essential to their professional development, such as noticing, listening and questioning. I also did some reading and research around mindfulness in engineering, and on workplace mindfulness more generally. When I became the Chair for Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, one of my goals was to make a workplace mindfulness experience available to students in co-op programs.”
Prominent organizations such as Google, Nike and Intel are champions of workplace mindfulness.
In 2015 Memorial piloted a successful workplace mindfulness program for employees, and recently adopted The Okanagan Charter, which signifies the university’s commitment to support a vision to transform the health and sustainability of its current and future societies, strengthen communities and contribute to the well-being of people, places and the planet.
Dr. Rosales says the mindfulness program ties in well with Memorial’s greater awareness on student well-being.
She says she is also looking at ways that mindfulness practices can help support reflection, which is particularly important for students doing work placements, as part of their learning experience.
“We have many students who participate in work placements as part of their education, so we thought this kind of training might make a significant contribution to students’ professional development in terms of honing their abilities to pay attention, to think clearly and to reflect, not to mention supporting their well-being both at work and in their studies,” she said.
“The students were highly engaged with the mindfulness practices and the material that was presented.”
Andrew Safer of Safer Mindfulness facilitated the program, which included meditation and other mindfulness practices, a presentation on a weekly theme, such as The Business Case for Mindfulness and Building Respectful Relationships, and reflections from participants.
“The students were highly engaged with the mindfulness practices and the material that was presented,” said Mr. Safer.
“They began applying what they learned in their workplaces very quickly, whether it was pausing instead of reacting or recognizing their interior monologue and bringing their attention back to the present.”
Funded by Memorial University’s Teaching and Learning Framework, the Workplace Mindfulness initiative is led by Dr. Rosales, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, and Dr. Kara Arnold, Faculty of Business Administration.
The next course will begin on May 9, with a final course to follow in the fall 2017 semester. Courses are open to any Memorial student completing a work placement during the time of the course offerings.
Registration is open for both programs and interested individuals should contact Dr. Rosales via email.