College of Education and Health Professions Students Explore Mind-Body Connection

Students in "The Mind-Body Connection" Dean's Seminar practicing yoga during a class session.
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Students in "The Mind-Body Connection" Dean's Seminar practicing yoga during a class session.

Students in the College of Education and Health Professions' spring 2024 Dean's Seminar "The Mind-Body Connection" stepped into an engaging exploration of the crucial relationship between one's mind and body.

Erin Howie Hickey, associate professor of exercise science, and Hung Pham, director of the Center for Children and Youth, helped guide students through the course as they discovered how engaging the entire body benefits thinking and learning through experiential exercises, discussions and readings. 

"Our goal for this course was for students to see how our mental and physical processes are often linked in powerful and surprising ways," Pham said. "Physical wellness and performance often have a big mental component, and likewise, mental processes like learning and cognition are deeply influenced by our bodies, senses and surrounding environment."

Many course activities were geared towards arts integration as a form of connection and its implications on different concentrations within the college, like exercise science, education and physical wellness.

Early in the semester, students ditched their desks for yoga mats and partnered up for an introductory swing dancing lesson led by Pham. These hands-on lessons illustrated how the mind and body can come together to benefit both physical and mental health.

"This class was so unique because not only were we learning about the material through lessons, but we got to practice through the activities," said junior Mallory Karpenko. "Being able to actually experience our lessons really helped us learn the content."

Each student was tasked with designing a poster for their final project. Students' posters focused on ways activities like sports, mindfulness and dance can benefit the mind-body connection. Posters were judged by a team of College of Education and Health Professions colleagues, and four students received awards for their work.

Junior Haley Turman used her poster titled "Social Engagement and Cognitive Aging: Investigating the Link" to illustrate how interpersonal relationships impact mental and physical well-being and the negative implications loneliness can have on mental and physical health.

"The topic of the class allowed us all to make our own inferences about what we wanted to get out of it," Thurman said. "The fact that we were able to take it in so many unique directions made it more beneficial to us individually."

The Dean's Seminar was created as part of the College of Education and Health Professions' WE CARE strategic plan. Each semester, the seminar focuses on a different complex societal challenge at the intersection of education and health.

In next semester's Dean's Seminar "Nature and You: Adventure, Growth and Well-Being," the outdoors will serve as an alternate classroom as students explore the relationship between nature, outdoor recreation, and health and wellness.

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