Written by An-Angela Ngoc Van

On Saturday, March 16th, Dr. Douglas Ziedonis and the Mindful Leadership Project Team (Nicholas Colmenares, Daniela Elena Costea, Elisha Ho, Anderson Penha, An-Angela Ngoc Van, and Sanahan Vijayakumar) facilitated the first Mindful Leadership Retreat for graduate students at UC San Diego. The team was formed by graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and visiting scholars participating in UC San Diego Extension’s Leadership and Teamwork certificate program, which requires the execution of a campus-based project. Dr. Ziedonis, having successfully implemented a year-long program for clinicians at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, provided guidance to the team as they developed a shorter two-day program oriented towards graduate students. Combining their disciplinary knowledge of leadership with the fundamental principles and practices of mindfulness, the team sought to help participants become more conscientious leaders in today’s world.

The Mindful Leadership Program consisted of a one-day retreat and a short follow-up session. The retreat curriculum contained sessions on mindfulness, leadership, and mindful leadership and balanced didactic content with opportunities for interaction. In between informational portions of the retreat, participants engaged in an instructed yoga session, a leadership-based group activity, and a guided meditation. The programming concluded with a session led by Arch Fuston, a renowned life coach and consultant. Mr. Fuston’s session, titled “How to Stress, Better,” focused on changing the perception of stress as a source of anxiety and instead utilizing it as a productive force. At the end of the retreat, participants enjoyed lunch with one another. Two weeks after the retreat, participants met again at the follow-up session to discuss their newfound experiences with mindfulness as well as provide feedback for the retreat. Overall, the reception of the Mindful Leadership Program was very positive. Upon evaluation of the surveys given during the retreat, after the retreat, and at the follow-up session, it appears that participants found the content to be valuable in both their personal and professional lives and are making active efforts to incorporate mindfulness on a day-to-day basis. In the long-term, mindfulness and mindful leadership can truly help participants become more adept at managing crises, make intentional decisions, and connect with people in a clear and compassionate matter. The project team hopes that this program will make way for the implementation of a formal program at UC San Diego.

The Mindful Leadership Program was made possible through generous contributions by Darlene Hammon, Program Manager for UC San Diego Extension, and Blanca Meléndrez, Executive Director for the Center for Community Health.  We also thank Dr. Maryam Gholami for her assistance in the initial development of the program.


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