This semester, Student Wellness at Yale will expand its Koru Mindfulness program — a seminar series that aims to teach students basic skills of meditation and mindfulness — to three additional colleges, thereby expanding the program to a quarter of the Yale College community.
The noncredit course, which was developed by psychiatrists at Duke University and is taught at Yale by Health Educator Tracy George, teaches meditation and mindfulness skills. It was first offered to Yale undergraduates last fall, but exclusively to Jonathan Edwards College students. Students and administrators have praised the course for its teaching of stress management and improvement of mental well-being. Branford, Silliman and Morse will offer the course free of charge to their students and will purchase the course’s required text on behalf of each participant. The course will be offered at Silliman starting next week, and will be offered at Morse and Branford beginning in February.
The course was first taught to graduate students at Yale in July 2015 in partnership with the McDougal Center for Graduate Student Life. It spread to Yale College when Joseph Spooner, dean of Jonathan Edwards College, offered the residential college as the pilot location for the training of undergraduates. The program’s expansion this semester comes in the wake of high demand from JE students in the fall.
“From the moment I met JE Dean Jody Spooner, he has always been very enthusiastic about supporting the health and wellness of Yale students,” George said. “In both my [Graduate and Professional] and College pilots, there was so much interest that I had to open two sections of the course for each population.”
Branford College Master Elizabeth Bradley expressed enthusiasm for the positive effect the lessons will have on the stress levels and outlook of participating students. She said the course will have further impact beyond its four-week duration because students will be able to continue practicing on their own.
Branford Dean Sarah Insley echoed these sentiments, saying that it will be helpful to students, given that life at Yale can be overwhelmingly busy for some.
“Our lives at Yale can sometimes be overwhelming in terms of busyness, and we hope that the course will be an accessible way for participants to practice strategies that will help them to maintain a sustainable rhythm, both for their time at Yale and beyond,” she said.
George said that although she is currently the only qualified Koru instructor on campus, the Wellness Project has supplied funding for the instructor training of Jennifer Mendelsohn, associate director of graduate student life.
She emphasized the extent to which recent research has demonstrated the capabilities of Koru Mindfulness to positively impact its students in the long term. She added that although Yale students deal with a lot of stress on a regular basis, many do not yet have the skills to manage what comes their way.
“From the amazing transformations I have seen in students after just a couple weeks of practicing, I am positive that Koru provides a type of stress relief many students are seeking, and it helps build a more compassionate community overall,” George said.
According to the National Institutes of Health, research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Correction, Jan. 21: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the course will be offered at Silliman, Branford and Ezra Stiles. In fact, it will be offered at Silliman, Branford and Morse.