New Course Helps Students Practice Mindfulness to Ease Stress, Improve Communication

Saint Joseph’s communication and media studies department introduces a new upper-level, experiential communications course to help students ease anxiety.


by Katie Cirucci '22

In 2020, studies found that over 80% of college students were experiencing increased levels of stress and anxiety. One way mental health experts suggest reducing this tension is through the practice of mindfulness. 

But what does it actually mean to be mindful? 

This question is being explored in a new, upper-level experiential course called Mindfulness Communication led by Aimée Knight, Ph.D., associate professor of communication and media studies. 

Knight came to Saint Joseph’s in 2009 where she swiftly began working to develop the communication studies major and expand the department. Through Mindfulness Communication, Knight hopes students will develop skills they need to overcome their mental health struggles.

I really wanted to understand how to incorporate some of these mindfulness skills into the act of communicatingI really believe that understanding can help students.

Aimée Knight, Ph.D.

 “I really wanted to understand how to incorporate some of these mindfulness skills into the act of communicating,” explains Knight. “I really believe that understanding can help students.”

This discussion-based course encourages students to “try on” different methods of staying mindful, like staying present and deep listening. These skills will enhance their ability to communicate effectively with peers in the classroom, workplace and at home. 

The students in Mindfulness Communication will ultimately create content that showcases different styles of meditation for public consumption. 

“These videos could be a meditation on mindful eating or walking,” says Knight. “It could be something very specific about working through emotion or a certain thought. Maybe they’ll create a playlist or record a mantra to listen to after they've had a fight with someone or when they wake up in the morning.”

Knight’s goal is to have the students experience all different kinds of meditation in an effort to convey that mindfulness doesn't look one specific way. 

“It is so important for college students to have a class where we can focus on mindfulness-based stress reduction,” says Anna Kalafatis ’22, a communications major enrolled in the course. “Students feel so stressed and overwhelmed these days. Having a designated time each week to be able to work on my mindfulness practice has helped me feel more focused.” 

Meditation in class promotes healthy awareness within oneself that can be then translated to personal and professional relationships. 

“There are so many different ways we can incorporate embodied awareness into our lives,” Kalafatis explains.  

In preparation for the course, Knight was trained in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). One of the goals of her training was to explore what it meant to mindfully communicate.

“Mindfulness awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” explains Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of MBSR. “We do this in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

Knight felt meditation and the act of being present wove Kabat-Zinn’s idea of mindfulness in with the concept of communicating.

Mindful Communication is the perfect start to my week,” says Gabriella Guzzardo ’23, a communication studies major enrolled in the course. “It’s the first class of the day for me on Monday and always helps me to feel refreshed, calm and ready to continue my day. Dr. Knight has introduced lots of different meditation practices that I use to cope with stress on a daily basis.” 

When students aren’t meditating, Knight utilizes a mindfulness bell that will ring at random points throughout class time to remind and encourage everyone to stay present, in the moment. 

“If you're here, be here mindfully,” says Knight. “Even if you're checking your cell phone or you have to leave — take good care of yourself. For the 50 minutes that we're here together, we're practicing mindfulness.”

This holistic approach to communication refreshes students and is one way to become more introspective and emotionally intelligent

“We’re taking a look at our own minds and how we process things, which is really important for students,” says Knight. “It took me a long time to understand how my mind and emotions work; what a valuable skill to learn when you're 20 versus 40.”