January 09, 2018, BY Beth Kaszuba

Counselor Chris Connacher talks to students.
Counselor Chris Connacher, with Bucknell's Counseling & Student Development Center, leads a Classroom Collaborations session. Photo by Emily Paine, Division of Communications

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, the 18 students in psychology Professor Mick Smyer's first-year foundation seminar, Designing Your Bucknell, all closed their eyes and began to breathe deeply in a slow, steady rhythm.

They hadn't dozed off. On the contrary, they were practicing a form of alertness known as mindfulness, as part of the Classroom Collaborations program organized by the Bucknell Counseling & Student Development Center (CSDC).

The initiative, launched in August, brings CSDC staff into classrooms at the invitation of professors, who may want to provide students with meaningful content on a day when class might otherwise be canceled because the professor is ill, for example. Or instructors may wish to supplement course material related to mental health and wellness.

So far, professors in the departments of psychology, education and music have taken advantage of the new program. But CSDC director Kelly Kettlewell said collaborations "can fit into any classroom."

The CSDC offers a menu of topics that visiting counselors can discuss with students, including stress management, hints for handling perfectionism and tips for building healthy relationships.

Counselor Chris Connacher, chairman of the CSDC committee that runs the program, said staff also work with faculty to develop presentations on specialized topics related to mental health and wellness. For example, Connacher has led workshops for student vocalists to help them deal with performance anxiety.

Tools to Manage College Life
Harry Simons '21 said the Classroom Collaborations mindfulness program made him more aware of the importance of being conscious of the present moment.

"Topics like stress management and handling difficult experiences are important to Bucknell students, because we're encouraged to do a lot," Simons said. "Many of us enroll in challenging classes, participate in clubs, take leadership positions and still need to find time to relax. Having a lot on your plate can cause stress and force you to make difficult decisions, and it's important to be ready to deal with these things."

Chandler Houldin '20 participated in a session as part of education Professor Allison Lockard's course on counseling techniques. Houldin agreed that learning to manage pressure is crucial for Bucknell students.

"It's important for students to have reminders about stress management, given the challenges that arise from being so busy," he said. "Student health and wellness are things that Bucknell truly cares about, and it's evident when we're given an opportunity to hear about mindfulness in an academic setting."

Making Counselors Accessible
Kettlewell said the Classroom Collaborations program also allows CSDC staff to reach out to students who might not seek services otherwise.

"Collaborations provide us with an opportunity to share information about prevention and coping that may enable students to overcome difficulties without the need to seek our services," she said. "The program also gives students a chance to see our clinicians in a different role, and hopefully helps them view us as multifaceted human beings. This is important, as we wish to be resources for the entire campus, not just those who seek counseling."

Connacher added that the CSDC hopes to expand Classroom Collaborations.

"We've had feedback asking us to go into classrooms more often," he said. "And we've had multiple students come to the CSDC whose first contact with us was through the program. It's a great opportunity for us to meet students in a different setting."