Mindfulness Group Aims to Abate Student Stress

“In the past, as a child, we used to breathe better. We didn’t worry about the future. We stayed in the present—playing and enjoying life. So, maybe it’s time to go back.” – Cai Carvalhaes

We’re halfway through the semester, and this time of the year can often be stressful for students. Luckily, there’s a way to defuse some of that tension and anxiety through UALR’s “Mindfulness Group.”

Cai Carvalhaes with UALR Counseling Services demonstrates a mindfulness exercise.
Cai Carvalhaes with UALR Counseling Services demonstrates a mindfulness exercise.
What is “mindfulness,” you might ask. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

Cai Carvalhaes, a clinical social worker intern with UALR Counseling Services, leads the Mindfulness Group once a week. She says mindfulness is the ability to live in the present moment, and practicing mindfulness is useful for those who frequently experience stress and anxiety. In her group, she teaches exercises that focus on breathing and body movements. You are guided to concentrate on certain parts of your body—from head to feet— and become aware of what you’re feeling. When this awareness is achieved, she says, you’re able to release your emotions and feel more in control of the challenges that life presents you.

Carvalhaes, who is also a yoga instructor, began to feel anxious and experience panic attacks about eight years ago. Knowing she needed to do something about it, but not wanting to take medicine, she began to study mindfulness.

The idea of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School as a means to complement traditional treatments for a number of ailments ranging from anxiety to cancer.

Carvalhaes combines her experience with yoga and mindfulness in her teachings for the group.

Carvalhaes began the Mindfulness Group at UALR in January 2016, and says the student feedback has been positive so far. She uses psychometric scales to measure a student’s level of stress before and after the exercises. The results show that after the group meets, most students show a reduced level of stress and anxiety. Carvalhaes recognizes that students may develop symptoms of stress even after going through the mindfulness exercises, but regular practice can help reduce these symptoms over time.

“It’s necessary to practice,” she said. “If you don’t practice you won’t feel the effects. It takes a while sometimes, but anyone can do it.”

Carvalhaes said she tells her students to breathe in and out while they relax their minds, and the participants often feel better while in this state, even though they may not understand why.

“In the past, as a child, we used to breathe better. We didn’t worry about the future. We stayed in the present—playing and enjoying life. So, maybe it’s time to go back,” Carvalhaes said.

The UALR Mindfulness Group meets at noon every Wednesday in the Donaghey Student Center room 201T. It’s open to all UALR students, faculty, and staff.

Can’t make it to campus? Cai demonstrates one mindfulness exercise you can practice at home:

Watch the video below for more from our interview with Cai:

UALR Bookstore

At Your Fingertips: UALR Bookstore


At the beginning of every semester, there’s always one thing that students have to do – buy books. Luckily, the UALR Bookstore has everything students need, from books and supplies to university apparel.

The UALR Bookstore is owned and operated by Barnes & Noble and has been active on campus for 20 years. Bookstore manager Brenda Thomas has been working at the campus bookstore for 15 of those years, and she said that the UALR Bookstore’s purpose is to take care of a student’s book-related needs—whether that student be on or off campus.

Textbook search toolAs more online degree programs and courses become available, more students are ordering their textbooks online as well. UALR students can easily find and order their books through the user-friendly search tool at ualr.bncollege.com by selecting “Textbooks> Find Textbooks” and searching for books based on department and class.

“We have quite a few students who take online classes,” Thomas said. “They place their orders, and then we get their orders shipped to them.”

Thomas said the ability to ship books to students at a fixed shipping rate of $7.50 – no matter how many books are purchased – is a plus for students taking classes online and even for those who aren’t. In fact, the bookstore does more shipping than it does pick-up orders, according to Thomas, and orders within the state of Arkansas are shipped within 24 hours.

“I think it’s growing more because you have a lot of students that just place an order online, even if they live on University [Avenue], because it’s a convenience.”

In addition to being able to purchase books online, students may also rent their books online through the UALR Bookstore. The store will ship the rented book to the student, and when student is done with the book, they can return the book in store or simply print out a shipping label and ship it back through the mail for no additional charge.

Thomas said she tries to keep the bookstore content fresh—whether that’s through participating in events like Grad Fest or having giveaways.

“Every semester, we like to bring in something that we didn’t have before,” Thomas said. “That way, when they come in here they always see something new.”

You can browse the UALR Bookstore’s offerings and promotions at ualr.bncollege.com.

Veteran Student Success

At Your Fingertips: Veteran Student Success


The Office of Veterans Affairs has made it its mission to help military veterans and their eligible dependents achieve academic success at UALR. Accredited by the Veterans Administration, the UALR Veterans Affairs office assists military students and dependents with the enrollment process and files the necessary paperwork to ensure that they receive their educational benefits.

Kathy Oliverio, the director of Veteran Student Success at UALR, said that the UALR Veterans Affairs office essentially works with the student veteran to make sure their tuition is paid.

“Our Veterans Affairs office is the go-to place for anyone who is on the VA educational benefits. Any veteran will go there, and it will be the starting point for them to get their educational benefits to start, and then to continue, and to be certified,” Oliverio said. “In essence, they’re the money folks. They’re the people who allow our veterans to actually have their education paid for.”

The UALR Veterans Affairs office also serves as an ambassador between the veteran student and UALR administration, offering support in special situations that may require individual adjustments.

Oliverio — a veteran herself, having served 20 years in the United States Air Force — said that she works closely with veteran students in her role as well.

“I look out for the veteran on the academic side of the house. I make sure that the veteran, once they get to UALR, and sometimes even prior to, that they graduate, that they stay in school, that they get any help that they need — whether it’s tutoring or guidance as far as what classes they take,” she said. “I advise veteran students. Sometimes, they just like to talk to another veteran.”

Oliverio noted that the needs of the online veteran student are no different than those who attend the physical campus in Little Rock, and the university is committed to helping its veteran students no matter where they complete their studies. “A lot of our online students are active-duty, Air Force military,” Oliverio said. The online classes benefit active-duty military, because there are occasions when a student will be unable to complete face-to-face classes due to military obligations.

In fact, UALR currently has active-duty military students in Korea, the United Kingdom, and scattered throughout the U.S., according to Oliverio.

“Online is perfect for them,” Oliverio said. “No matter where they go in the world, they can access everything they need to do.”

For more information about the services UALR offers its military students, please visit the Veteran Student Success site at ualr.edu/military.

‘Reinventing the Classroom’

Harvard Professor Discusses Experimental Course Design in Clinton School Lecture

Harvard Professor Harry Lewis speaks Jan. 12 at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock.
Harvard Professor Harry Lewis speaks Jan. 12 at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock.
“The Internet is changing education. What are universities going to do about it?”
Harry Lewis, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, posed this question in his Jan. 12 lecture, “Reinventing the Classroom, Rethinking Education,” at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

Lewis’s lecture focused on the advent of the Internet and its effect on typical lecture halls at universities across the United States.

Lewis asserted that access to the Internet has lessened the need for teachers, because more frequently people are using the Internet as their primary resource for learning. This practice negates the “hydraulic model” for education, which describes how an instructor takes information from its source and transmits it to his or her students, Lewis said.

More universities are using digital media, such as video lectures and tutorials, to educate students, according to Lewis. He said that while he agrees digital media and the Internet are valuable tools for education, there’s still a need for social interaction among students. Lewis wanted to increase student presence and engagement during lectures. So, instead of doing what a typical professor might do, such as removing the video curriculum or issuing pop quizzes, he took a different approach and altered the way his classroom environment works.

Lewis developed a class called CS 20, “Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science.” Unlike other computer science courses at Harvard, where students gather in a lecture hall to listen to their professors, the environment in CS 20 allows students to spend their time in class solving problems together, thus creating a more engaging format learning environment, Lewis said. The digital media provides the lecture, and the students use classroom to discuss and apply the course topics.

Lewis admits that the course is experimental, but the results have been positive. This is true, at least, from the students’ point-of-view. Lewis read a few examples of the anonymous feedback he’s received so far. In general, the students seemed to really enjoy the environment and the problem-solving activities. Lewis said that even the negative responses were somewhat positive; one example he gave was from a student who did not like Lewis’s instruction but enjoyed the classroom environment and the teaching assistants.

Lewis says that lectures aren’t going anywhere, but the positive feedback he’s received is a result of an environment that encourages creativity, skepticism, and teamwork. Coming from a person whose high-profile students include Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, it could be an experiment worth trying.

To watch Lewis’s Clinton School lecture, visit clintonschoolspeakers.com/.

Sources:

http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/09/reinventing-the-classroom

http://clintonschool.uasys.edu/events/reinventing-the-classroom-rethinking-education-harry-lewis/

http://clintonschoolspeakers.com/

Top 5 Tips to Prepare for Finals

woman studyingPreparing for final exams can be stressful for any student, but it doesn’t have to be. These practical study tips will help you get through even the toughest exams calmly and confidently every time.

Choose a time and place

In today’s world, distractions are easy to come by. If you want to make the most of your study time, first you need to schedule some time for studying. You’ll want to choose a time when you’re most alert and least distracted. If this is in the morning, try waking up an hour earlier to study before school or work. If it’s in the evening, make sure to pick a time when you’re not too tired or have other responsibilities to worry about.

Once you’ve determined the best time to study, find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted, such as a home office, library or coffee shop. If silence is too distracting to you, try listening to white noise (like a fan) or soothing instrumental music. Avoid TV and social media websites, and silence and put away your cell phone.

Start early

Most of the anxiety you might feel in the days before finals is often a result of procrastination. If you dedicate an hour every day to review your course materials throughout the semester and start studying for finals several days in advance, you’ll feel much more confident come test time.
Keep track of your old tests and quizzes and use them as your study guides, as those topics will likely reappear on your final exams.

Break it up

Cramming a lot of subjects into several hours at a time will overload your brain and cause fatigue, which will make it difficult for you to to retain and recall important information during your tests. If you start studying early, you’ll have time to break up your study sessions into manageable chunks.
Work on one subject for 45 minutes to an hour, then take a short break. Allow your mind to recover during your breaks — grab a healthy snack, do light exercises, or rest your eyes and listen to music. However, try not to watch TV or surf the Internet during this time. Not only will this overstimulate your mind, but it may make it more difficult for you to start studying again.

Use study methods that work for you

People learn in different ways, and therefore should study in a way that works best with their learning style. Visual learners may benefit more from using color-coded flash cards, rewriting notes, or drawing pictures to illustrate ideas, while auditory learners may prefer listening to recordings of their lectures and reciting word associations. Take this short quiz to find out your learning style and related study tactics. Once you find the study method that works for you, test preparation will be a lot easier.

Healthy body=healthy mind

After all the time you’ve spent preparing for your exams, you don’t want to let physical factors like fatigue or illness keep you from doing your best.
• Go to bed early and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, especially on the nights before your exams.
• Try to exercise for 30 minutes a day, and maintain physical activity while you study. Even light cardio and calisthenics will keep your blood circulating, delivering important nutrients to your brain.
• Eat balanced meals and take vitamins, if you can. Don’t skip breakfast! Avoid alcohol and “junk foods.”

What study tactics work best for you? Share your ideas in the comments!

Study tips for this article were contributed by Alyssa C. and Jeffrey Townley in the UALR Writing Center; Leah Jackson with the UALR TRIO Program; Aaron Jones with the Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy; Rachel Hook and Charles Bryant of UALR eLearning.