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Mindfulness: A simple practice that can make a big difference

DePaul offers a range of mindfulness resources for students, faculty and staff

Mindfulness word cloud
For many at DePaul, mindfulness is a daily practice. It can have a big effect on a person’s ability to show up for themselves and others.

According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness is “awareness of one’s internal states and surroundings. It can help people avoid destructive or automatic habits and responses by learning to observe their thoughts, emotions and other present-moment experiences without judging or reacting to them.”

Tyler Wurst, director of the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness at DePaul, says mindful thinking can be applied to any activity from driving, going through emails or attending social events.

“A lot of it comes down to using the five senses that can help you stay focused on the task you’re trying to complete,” he says.

DePaul has many resources for balancing academia and wellness. From mindfulness meditation groups to classroom closing rituals, students, faculty and staff offer many ways to embrace mindfulness skills as a coping tool.

Mindfulness and DePaul students

Elissa Foster, professor of communication studies in the College of Communication, integrates mindfulness into classes with the help of her faculty learning community supported by DePaul’s Center for Teaching and Learning.
“I check in with students at the beginning of every class,” Foster says. “It’s a way for students to say how they are feeling, what they’re thinking or something that’s on their mind.”

She has students sit for two minutes in silence, being present and releasing anxieties in the moment and ends her classes with a “closing ritual.” She also teaches a five-week workshop course about stress reduction, self-care and mindfulness. Though she acknowledges some students may find these practices unfamiliar, Foster believes they will improve students’ ability to learn.

“It’s all tied up in this notion of recognizing what you’re feeling in the moment and giving yourself grace,” she says.

In a similar light, faculty members Grace Lemmon and Goran Kuljanin in the Driehaus College of Business started a student-focused mindfulness collaborative. Their Mindful Mindset Working Group meets virtually once a month during the school year and helps students develop practical mindfulness skills. Their group is currently welcoming new members, and interested students can reach out to Lemmon at for more information.

Lemmon, who has a passion for mindfulness research, says there are three core skills to build a mindful mindset: self-awareness helps identify present emotions and sensations, self-regulation helps respond to these feelings and self-transcendence frames how these responses align with our values.

“Students can use mindfulness to strengthen their ability to see themselves and their situation realistically, taking committed action toward living in a goal-aligned way,” Lemmon says. “Students can be so lost in their world and habit-driven that they miss out on enriching interactions of meeting other students. That rich and lively connection with others is lost, and I would like to bring that more into DePaul.”

Nancy Easton, assistant director of community-based services for DePaul’s University Counseling and Psychological Services, and Orson Morrison, associate director for clinical services, incorporate mindful activities into their office space too. They color mandalas, make stress jars and create other artwork within their team. They are also planning more on-campus counseling activities for students, focusing on mindfulness as a coping mechanism for mental health.

“Our ability to offer mindfulness meditation can help students realize they don’t have to think of themselves as having a disorder,” Easton says. “Positive psychology and positive mental health focus on strengths, and there’s a lot of room to do that at DePaul.”

Supporting the mental wellness of students of color is also important to Morrison, who runs a Black men’s therapy group at DePaul.

“It helps us pay attention to what we need in relation to some of the struggles and challenges associated with being a student of color,” Morrison says. “With that awareness, you can do things in a more intentional way, like deciding to get involved in advocacy or activism.”

All UCAPS group counseling options are listed on their website.

Mindfulness and DePaul faculty and staff

Mental wellness and stress reduction are also important for faculty and staff. Helen Damon-Moore, associate director of the Irwin W. Steans Center, facilitates a 30-minute mindfulness meditation group for faculty and staff at noon on Fridays. The group is sponsored by the DePaul Health Committee, Health Promotion and Wellness, Mission and Ministry and University Counseling and Psychological Services. Interested participants can reach out to Damon-Moore directly at

Damon-Moore has published on service learning and mindfulness (forthcoming) and has seen her courses give rise to mindful student activism. Daniel Ogunlokun, a health sciences major in the College of Science and Health and former student in Damon-Moore’s community service studies course, was so inspired by the practice of mindfulness that he’s working with Steans Center community partner Mona Antwan, founder of Chicago’s Mindfulness Leader, to create a student chapter at DePaul.

“Mindfulness isn’t just a practice, it’s a lifestyle. This lifestyle has the power to transform lives, just as it transformed mine as an individual and a McCormick intern. I hope to bring that to other DePaul students,” Ogunlokun recently told audience members at the annual Service Speaks conference.

Emily Diaz is a student assistant for internal communications in University Communications.