Michelle Szabo’s New Course Develops Emotional Wellness
You meditate in class??
This Winter 2023 term, FHASS Professor Michelle Szabo is thrilled to be launching the first iteration of a new trauma-informed, social and emotional wellness course in FHASS called The Wisdom of Connection: Wellness, Community Healing and Social Justice in Practice.
This course is an upper-year breadth elective offered in a hybrid flipped format. Students spend one hour a week learning concepts and theories of emotional and social wellness through online modules and discussions (e.g. mindfulness, self-compassion, conflict resolution, emotional allyship*). Then, they spend two hours in the classroom each week playing/experimenting with wellness practices, and building trust and community with each other. The course also employs student Peer Supporters as paid assistants.
Michelle explains: “At a time when mental health and social justice challenges are at crisis levels, I’m excited that we are among a very small number of postsecondary institutions in Canada offering an opportunity for students to build their emotional intelligence and peer support networks while earning post-secondary credit. Normally, skills- and community-building workshops on these topics are offered in extra-curricular spaces. This means that wellness can easily fall by the wayside as students juggle the multiple demands of postsecondary life. I’m also deeply appreciative that we were able to secure funding to hire student Peer Supporters, who have been trained in mental health first aid, and can support their peers in the classroom in times of trigger or other emotional need.”
Feedback after the first few weeks has been promising! Students have commented, for example, on the uniqueness of the assignments and classroom activities, and on the usefulness of developing emotional tools “we should all have learned in elementary school”.
*Michelle: “I’ve coined the term “emotional allyship” to refer to practices that allies can use to respond in supportive ways when folks from equity-deserving groups express pain (e.g. anger, sadness etc.) relating to oppressive systems and relationships. I see emotional allyship as an alternative to generally unhelpful but commonly documented responses from privileged groups in these situations such as defensiveness, denial and hostility. The idea is that emotional allyship be used in addition to other forms of allyship, such as agitating for systemic change.”