• Jacques Lerouge

Impacting Student Wellbeing

Updated: Jan 26

Bakken Center Offers Support to Students During Covid-19 Pandemic


Since March 2020, students at the University of Minnesota have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. During a time that many have identified as stressful, overwhelming, or even hopeless, students have turned to the academic courses offered by the University’s Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing. To learn more about the tools that the Center is providing our students, I checked in with 14 undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students. Our conversations started with a basic question: How are you? Julia Albrecht, a Master of Arts in Integrative Health & Wellbeing Coaching student acknowledges that this year has been unlike any other. “I am giving myself space to ride the wave and be present with what is,” she says. “So some days I'm really great, I feel awesome, and then other days it feels as if the world's gonna end.”

Loryann Fradejas

This sentiment was shared by many other students. “Even just asking ‘how are you’ is a roller coaster,” says Loryann Fradejas, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Integrative Health and Healing track, student who comments on the absurdity this year adds to a usually benign question. But what did it mean to be well in 2020? There are common threads throughout all 14 stories. Students who often have heavy workloads or parent - in addition to their coursework - are overwhelmed. There’s fatigue from endless hours spent on video calls. Extended isolation has elicited feelings of rawness and exhaustion. However, Center students choose to remain optimistic, and have found ways to focus on resilience and wellbeing. Students are supporting each other through personal connections like text chains and virtual homework hours. There is a resounding dedication to equity and improving the wellbeing of our whole community.

“I've just been trying to pay attention to how I'm feeling, acknowledging that, and choosing how I react.” Angelica Wilson says, who is a traveling nurse pursuing her DNP, IHH this year. “My classes that I've taken with the Center have given me the tools to be able to do that.”

Dr. Douglas Kennedy

Dr. Douglas Kennedy and Dr. Miriam Cameron were cited by several students as outstanding teachers for their students’ wellbeing. When asked how she makes a difference for students, Dr. Cameron said, “Kind, informed, fair teachers can make a life-long difference in their students’ wellbeing. Because Dr. Tenzin Namdul and I are passionate about Tibetan medicine, we wrote the new CSPH 5315 textbook, Tibetan Medicine and You, with a blessing by the Dalai Lama, in easy-to-understand English that students can apply in everyday life.” “As teachers, we hold space and model behaviors for our students.” says Dr. Kennedy, a mindfulness instructor and researcher at the Center. “It is partly about creating a space where students can be open and feel supported in discussing how they are navigating the current challenges. Another part is about establishing a consistent, caring, and stable environment. In my experience, our presence in the classroom (whether virtual or in-person) makes a huge difference in how students engage.” “We understand that even in ‘normal’ times, students experience stress and anxiety,” says Center Director Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer. “That’s why we have developed the Wellbeing Enhances Learning Model to improve engagement and learning.” The Bakken Center is deeply committed to educating students who will become future wellbeing leaders not only in healthcare but in many other sectors, too. Below, our students share more about how the Bakken Center has impacted their wellbeing. Student Spotlights

Alexis Cieluch is a senior finance major at the Carlson School of Management. "My Tibetan Medicine class and the Hatha Yoga class have given me the language to start a mindfulness practice, and strengthened my ability to disengage from stress by using a mindful attitude."

Angelica Wilson is in the Doctor of Nursing Practice, Integrative Health and Healing track. “I would really recommend a class at the Center to any student. Instead of necessarily thinking of it as another class, it's more like a resource to get you through all the other stuff that you're dealing with during this time.”

Angie Carroll is in the Master of Arts in Integrative Health & Wellbeing Coaching program. “A class that I had in spring was CSPH 5102 - Art of Healing: Self as Healer when the pandemic started. My teacher did a great job of giving us space to connect with each other during the first lockdown.”

Alyson Hornby is a senior nutrition major at the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences. "Staying present is really important. Meditation is a great tool, even if it's for two minutes a day to bring your attention back to what is currently happening." ● David Wrobleski is a dual Doctorate of Nursing Practice student in the Integrative Health and Healing and Psych Mental Health tracks. “A lot of the techniques that I've learned through my courses through the Center do come back to me both professionally with ‘how can I apply this to someone else?’, but also personally like doing 4-7-8 breathing before I had a simulation in psych mental health yesterday.” ● Edie Barrett is a Masters Candidate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “I really appreciate the faculty that have been stunning at the Center in supporting my wellbeing. I had a lot of anxiety about trying online classes, but the classes are so well thought out and structured. The intention and the integrity that I say about Miriam Cameron and Tenzin Namdul - they are walking the path that they are teaching. Jean Larson is an amazing faculty with healing and nature classes. I am profoundly grateful to The Earl E. Bakken Center for the caliber of education I’m receiving.” ● Gabriela Sierra Bedon is a senior dual major in Finance and Art. “I think the Bakken Center is such a hidden gem, I wish I had taken these classes earlier on in my undergrad. I feel like of all my other professors, these have been the ones who really care about how you're doing and care about creating community in the classroom. ● Julia Albrecht is in the Master of Arts in Integrative Health & Wellbeing Coaching program. “The Center itself and how much support it's provided me in every class is so great. Then, on top of that is their free offerings. This summer I did Stress Busters every week and it was amazing.” ● Kael Jensen is in the Master of Arts in Integrative Health & Wellbeing Coaching program. “Everyone is responding differently to this year, and now is the time when reactivity comes up not only with the pandemic but also with system changes in our government. Being really open and gentle with one another is important right now.” ● Loryann Fradejas is in the Doctor of Nursing Practice, Integrative Health and Healing track. “I'm a nurse. I have a tendency to give until I burn out, which is the reason why I'm in the IHH program. I was fascinated by a program that led to a nursing doctorate focusing not only on the care and healing we give our patients but the care and healing we give to ourselves.”

Maggie Hofmann is in the Doctor of Nursing Practice, Integrative Health and Healing track. “As a young adult, I remember feeling like I didn't want to ask for help and especially as a health professional you feel like ‘I'm the nurse, I should be caring for people.’ It's hard to acknowledge when maybe you also need help so don't be afraid to reach out.” ● Ryan Grist is in the Master of Arts in Integrative Health & Wellbeing Coaching program. “One of the core things about being healthy this year is emotional intelligence. This is a time of immense change, disruption, stress and overwhelm. Being healthy in 2020 is learning to befriend emotions and find new strategies to regulate them when everything is challenging and changing.” ● Urszula Winkiewicz is in the Doctor of Nursing Practice, Integrative Health and Healing track. “I am grateful for the Bakken Center because every single class has taught me such beautiful lessons on how I can help myself. I think that for me getting that control and power back is so important when it comes to my own health.”


Alyssa Wildenauer is in the Master of Arts in Integrative Health & Wellbeing Coaching program. “We're assigned an outside health coach, but I'm really, really glad that's the case because that's been one of the biggest supports to my wellness. There's really essential work that we need to do if we're going to prepare to be coaches.


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