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Monash University to incorporate mindfulness into core curriculum

MONASH University has recognised the importance of mindfulness for students’ wellbeing and aims to be the first university in the world to implement mindfuless into its core curriculum in 2015. Megan Toomey reports.

The Menzies Building in Monash University’s Clayton Campus. Image supplied.

Monash University  is currently working towards embedding mindfulness into the mandatory core curriculum for all students, and aims to be the first mindful university in the world by 2015.

“The case was made that the students’ wellbeing needed to be supported, as well as the stress and demands of study life. Mindfulness is an important skill for the professional life to focus, to communicate and to enhance learning,” said Dr Craig Hassed, a senior lecturer, general practitioner and mindfulness consultant at Monash University’s Department of General Practice.

Dr Hassed has been working with the university to expand upon its mindfulness programs, which currently include programs focused on academic success, stress release, brain management, and those who want to become trainers or educators of mindfulness themselves.

Two of their programs – Mindfulness for Academic Success and the Stress Release Program – are now used by other tertiary institutions both domestically and internationally as models for their own mindfulness programs.

“I was heading up the personal and professional development subjects in the first year of the medical course, so I was invited to develop the course for student wellbeing as well, which I framed around mindfulness,” Dr Hassed said.

“There are still a number of courses that don’t have mindfulness as core curriculum, though students all have access to elected programs at this point. It’s a matter of resources and time to be able to do that. You have to have people within the faculty to be able to understand and support the development,” he added.

“I was very impressed when I arrived at Monash last year to see that mindfulness has been embedded as core curriculum in the medicine degree for over 15 years, and that a number of other elective programs are now successfully running on many of the Monash campuses,” said Professor Darrell Evans, Vice-Provost of Learning and Teaching at Monash University.

Mindfulness courses have been available to staff and students since 1992 although on a relatively restricted basis. In 2002, a new curriculum was introduced, and six-week mindfulness courses became compulsory for medical students.

Since then, mindfulness programs have also been implemented in nursing, physiotherapy, dietetics, and occupational therapy, and will soon be introduced to the MBA, pharmacy, psychology, business, economics, arts, law and IT courses.

These courses will be required subjects within the curriculum, with structured programs ranging from three to six weeks, in addition to presentations and lectures. The material for the courses will be assessed through exams or through the submission of reflective journals and exercises as hurdle requirements.

Professor Evans said he is very much in support of his colleagues’ vision to implement mindfulness by 2015.

“I would say that we are well on our way to achieving this. I believe that it is critical that we provide our students with mindfulness skills not only for their preparation in entering the global workforce but also for supporting their learning journey whilst at Monash,” he said.

“The big vision is to create a more conscious and mindful society,” said Dr Hassed.

“The interim goals are to use mindfulness to support the wellbeing of students and their ability to communicate effectively and manage their stress well, and have them bring that into their professional work upon graduation,” he added.

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