‘This will help … people to develop a stronger sense of self’

New Honors College certificate educates students about mindfulness, social intelligence



Two WSU alumni created the idea for the Mindfulness-Based Emotional and Social Intelligence Certificate, which is offered for honors college students.

JENNA GEELAN, Evergreen reporter and columnist

For the WSU Honors College students questioning the meaning of life, the college now offers a certificate program called the Mindfulness-Based Emotional and Social Intelligence Certificate.

Honors College Dean Grant Norton said the new certification is granted to those in the Honors College with the completion of certain courses, which discuss mindfulness and social intelligence within students’ daily lives.

WSU alumni Jon and Gretchen Jones started the conversation surrounding how to fund a mindfulness certificate in August 2018, which led to the creation of the program, Norton said. 

“The focus of this certificate is to show that students have gained a left of expertise in particular topics such as mindfulness, self-compassion and stress management,” Norton said.

This undergraduate certification is unlike any other in the country, he said.

Lydia Gerber, clinical associate professor of the WSU Honors College, said before the certificate was established, the Honors College offered classes about mindfulness that she taught. She is now the director of the program.

The process of making the program official started in March. It is projected to provide the first graduating class in spring 2021, Norton said.

Students can pick different courses to satisfy the certificate requirements, such as Honors 280 and Honors 290, he said. Honors 280, which is titled “The Good Life,” is taught by David Shier, associate dean of the WSU Honors College. The class addresses the question of how philosophers define a good life.

“In my mind, this will help with stress management, and the development of good, functioning relationships with others and helps us as people to develop a stronger sense of self,” Gerber said.

Honors 390, which Gerber teaches, is titled “Global Issues in Art and Humanities.” Gerber’s section goes through the science behind why mindfulness is effective, whether it reduces stress, cures diseases or addresses issues of mental health, Norton said.

Gerber said this certification is useful to all honors students regardless of the career path.

“Having this certificate shown on a student’s transcript will help them not only in their personal lives, but possibly help them in the hiring process for position of responsibility,” she said.

Andrew Thomas, Honors College senior broadcast news major, completed Honors 290 in Fall 2019.

The course is based around different recurring questions, such as defining a meaningful life and the best practices to do so, he said.

“This course is subjective, which creates a lot of great dialogue,” Thomas said.

He said he has enjoyed his time in the Honors College because of the smaller classes, closer relationships with professors and networking with equally-driven students.

“I think it is a rare combination to find a state school, but you get it in almost every honors course at WSU,” Thomas said. “It’s a great opportunity for those who take advantage of it.”

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Jon and Gretchen Jones’ names.