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Wenger explores mindfulness and writing in September 30 Faculty Research Forum

ISSUED: 18 September 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Applying mindfulness techniques to writing is the topic of Shepherd University’s first Faculty Research Forum for the year. Dr. Christy Wenger, assistant professor English and director of writing and rhetoric, will discuss her recently published book, “Yoga Minds, Writing Bodies: Contemplative Writing Pedagogy,” on Wednesday, September 30, at 2 p.m. in the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Wenger’s lecture will explore how she incorporates contemplative education into her writing classes. Wenger has students participate in contemplative activities like yoga, meditation, and tai chi in an effort to provide a more holistic education and to get students to recognize the importance of the body in the writing process. Wenger has also teamed up her English 101 classes with the First-Year Experience yoga classes.

“Combining the two classes gives the students continuity between an entryway course into their college career and a gateway course into their career as college writers,” Wenger said. “They’re learning cognitive as well as noncognitive skills that will help them succeed in college and in life.”

Wenger said students are usually surprised when she asks them to do things like yoga and meditation. But she finds that introducing them to various techniques of mindfulness helps students approach their writing with a more positive attitude. It also helps them deal with the pressures of college in general.

“I have had a lot of students who love it,” she said. “So many students have come to me and told me ultimately it was the most important thing they learned that year. I’ve had students tell me it helped with their depression and anxiety.”

Wenger points out these are factors that ultimately contribute to the success or failure of all students.

“Yoga Minds, Writing Bodies: Contemplative Writing Pedagogy” is based on Wenger’s doctoral dissertation, which examines the changes in attitude, behavior, and metacognition that take place when students participate in mindfulness activities.

“I’m interested in whether they are better able to express what they’re learning, how that’s important, and how they’re changing as they incorporate these techniques,” Wenger said. “My research shows me that students who develop a habit of mindfulness and practice it through things like yoga and meditation are able to develop in a cognitively much faster way and show more self-awareness of what it is they’re learning and how they’re learning it.  In doing so they’re linking their body and their brain back together which becomes a real liberating move for them.”

Wenger said she has experienced this phenomenon herself. As a graduate student in a Ph.D. program for writing, she employed yoga and meditation to reduce stress.

“Ultimately that led to this flowering of research in contemplative education and yoga philosophy and then bringing those practices in a real and practical way into my classrooms,” Wenger said.

Listen to the interview with Dr. Christy Wenger HERE.

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