hand holding a small tool to make a sound in a bowl, signifying the end of a mindfulness practice

After mindfulness class, students report less stress, better concentration

When first-year student Jordyn Roel selected classes for the fall semester, a one-credit course called "Mindfulness as a College Success Tool" caught her eye.

Roel, who is studying biomedical sciences, had tried meditation and journaling practices on her own and enrolled in the class to learn more about improving her mental health and living in the present.

Now at the midpoint of the semester, Roel said she is less stressed compared to her peers because of the course taught by Karen Gipson.

"As a new college student, living away from home and dealing with high-stress situations would have put me in a very dark corner a while ago, but I am proud of the progress I have made," Roel said. "I am grateful for both the good and bad situations in life and feel more confident living on my own, separated from family."

student seated with eyes closed and wearing a face mask, practicing mindfulness
Jordyn Roel is pictured in a mindfulness class taught by Karen Gipson.
Image Credit: Valerie Hendrickson

Gipson, professor of physics and integrative studies, has practiced mindfulness for more than four decades and said the techniques helped her recover from a stroke 11 years ago. She is a certified teacher in Koru Mindfulness, a curriculum designed to teach mindfulness to college students and emerging adults. Heather Wallace, associate professor of public health, is also a certified Koru teacher.

This is the third time Gipson has taught the eight-week course but the first time students have met in-person. Gipson opens each class period with an anchoring technique to help students be in the present moment. Mindful listening techniques and check-ins are common practices during class.

"Nearly every student has reported that this class has helped them to overcome feelings of stress and improve their concentration," Gipson said. "It helps with their stress management and their interpersonal relationships."

Karen Gipson, seated, points to the white board. She is wearing a face mask in class.
Karen Gipson, professor of physics and integrative studies, teaches 'Mindfulness as a College Success Tool.'
Valerie Hendrickson
student in front of laptop asks a question in class; three other students look on
The Koru Mindfulness curriculum is used; it was developed at Duke University.
Valerie Hendrickson

Wallace and other faculty members incorporate elements of mindfulness in their classes. Wallace said public health students can learn the Koru skills she teaches at the department's regular Public Health Society meetings.

"This course offers a rich and meaningful opportunity for students to reflect and enhance their academic learning and curiosity and their personal growth and development as adults," Wallace said.

Gipson plans to apply for campus grants to hopefully attract more faculty to be trained to teach the Koru method. Koru was developed at Duke University; studies of the practice found Koru to have significant benefits on sleep, perceived stress, mindfulness, and self-compassion.

"It's deeply rewarding to teach this method of mindfulness to students. I see almost immediate results," she said.

Roel said prior to the class she thought the point of meditation was to silence the mind, and she would become frustrated when her mind would wander. "On the first day of this class, I learned there is no such thing as quieting the mind, our brains were made to think," Roel said.

Outside of class, Roel now devotes 10-15 minutes a day to meditation. And throughout the whole day, she said, "I am keeping in mind my gratitude for each given moment."