New campus initiative brings mindfulness to UNCW

Hannah McDonnell, Staff Writer

Mindful UNCW is a new campus-wide initiative designed to increase mindfulness practices among students, faculty and staff. This initiative was designed to connect other campus organizations and anyone else who is interested in learning, practicing and researching mindfulness at UNCW.

“Mindfulness is about caring about yourself and trying to bring some calm and centered-ness into your life and it’s also an opportunity to connect with people in an intentional, meaningful way,” Beverly Foulks, a coordinator of Mindful UNCW said. “With mindfulness, it’s about coming together and just breathing, trying to bring attention to the present moment, not worrying about what’s happening in terms of the future.”

There are four primary goals of this particular initiative; to build a community of students, faculty and staff engaged in the practice of mindfulness; increase knowledge of mindfulness and its technique; create a network of scholars interested in incorporating this practice into their research; and bring awareness of existing campus and community organizations related to mindfulness to faculty, staff and students.

This initiative will come in three pieces. The first part concerns learning about mindfulness inside or outside the classroom. For faculty, Mindful UNCW offers Contemplative Conversations to learn about mindfulness. And for students, Midday Mindfulness every Monday at 12 via Zoom.

Jacquelyn Lee, an associate professor at UNCW and one of the Mindful UNCW coordinators said, “the second bucket of activities is around practice and so we offer Midday Mindfulness on Mondays,” she said. “The third bucket of activities focuses around research, so trying to promote scholarships around mindfulness so scholars get the opportunity to talk about their research.”

Because stress levels are particularly high, it is important for students and staff to reach out to these types of organizations and see if mindfulness is a helpful way to de-stress and focus on the moment. It is hard when you’re dealing with the stress of everything that is going on around us right now, and so Mindful UNCW is trying to create a safe space to center yourself and have this kind of practice to support you.

“One thing that makes mindfulness different than other therapeutic techniques is that it is accessible in the moment; I don’t have to wait until my therapist is available to see me, I can do some mindfulness practices right now when I need it,” Anne Pemberton, one of the coordinators for Mindful UNCW explains.

There are many different models and techniques that you can do to help with mental health, but they all sort of start with noticing what’s happening. Mindfulness is essentially the foundation that provides us the means to make conscious choices.

Other universities and colleges offer mindfulness programs and other campus-wide initiatives like this one that UNCW is starting. The coordinators for Mindful UNCW reached out to colleagues at other universities in North Carolina like Elon University with campus-funded mindfulness organizations in order to help envision a way that they could bring it to UNCW. 

Another branch of what Mindful UNCW is working on is to incorporate safe spaces with different intentions for everybody all across campus. For example, there is going to be a space in one of the new residential halls devoted to mindfulness and yoga, just so students can have a place to go in addition to going to the Student Recreation Center or somewhere else on campus. The coordinators are also brainstorming about bringing a similar type of space into the Randall Library.

Ultimately, the initiative is about the overall meaning and intentionality in all of these spaces and programs that they are creating. They are hoping to support people to be present wherever they are on campus; in the classroom, outside of the classroom, in recreational spaces, and in other learning spaces. 

UNCW is implementing this initiative so students, faculty and staff will be able to sign up for the activity that best suits their personal needs and schedule. Midday Mindfulness will take place over Zoom every Monday at 12 p.m. until the end of the semester. Other mindfulness activities like Contemplative Conversations for faculty and staff are also available for anyone interested.

“We are looking forward to continuing to build a community that connects people physically and emotionally,” Lee said.