Annenberg sponsors new wellness course

As a part of a university-wide Mindful USC initiative, the Annenberg Digital Lounge will sponsor a “Digital Detox” in its new Mindfulness + Creativity Lab.

The seven-week course, open to Annenberg students, faculty and staff, will serve as an introduction to incorporating mindfulness into all aspects of life. The Annenberg Digital Lounge, which offers instruction on digital programming, hopes to also foster creativity by encouraging students and faculty to turn off devices and be mindful.

“A ubiquitous problem for students at this university is that they are constantly connected. You can see it and feel it. We have a responsibility to say ‘take some time off,’” said Courtney Miller, creative director of the Digital Lounge. “Wallis Annenberg Hall, even with its massive media wall and overwhelming digital connectivity, is an interesting place for this conversation on mindfulness to take place.”

While in the past, Annenberg has invested significant resources to inspire students’ creativity through exposure to an abundance of digital media content from news sources and interactive content, this program seeks to achieve the same means by using an opposite tactic.

According to Miller, the course is designed to improve participants’ emotional intelligence, reduce stress and promote mindful interactions. Miller collaborated with Professor Allen Weiss of the Marshall School of Business to create the Digital Detox program. Weiss, an expert in marketing, also serves as a mindfulness meditation teacher at InsightLA, as well as the co-chair of the Mindful USC initiative. Weiss views the Mindfulness + Creativity Lab as a way to integrate his outside expertise in the meditation field into his engagement of students at the university.

“Mindfulness has been shown by a great deal of careful research to lower anxiety, ruminating thoughts, stress and all the other mental and emotional problems that get in the way of people performing well and being creative. This is what Mindful USC is all about,” Weiss said in a statement. “What I’ll be doing with the Mindfulness + Creativity Lab is teaching mindfulness [geared] towards people who are doing creative work — helping them remove the blocks to creativity through mindfulness.”

The program directors hope that Mindfulness + Creativity Lab will host more programs similar to the Digital Detox in the future, and hopefully expand to other academic colleges within the university. The Annenberg Digital Lounge has already partnered with a student group from the Roski School of Art and Design and hopes to partner with KXSC and the Thornton School of Music.

Miller was first inspired to promote mindfulness while teaching digital journalism as a part of the University of Virginia’s “semester at sea” program. During the four years that Miller spent living and interacting with students on the semester-long trip, she realized that disconnecting from technology could improve innovation and creativity. Miller now leads a team of a dozen graduate students that run a help desk for students in the Annenberg Digital Lounge.

The Annenberg Digital Lounge’s Digital Detox program comes in the face of Dean Ernest J. Wilson III’s efforts to improve digital literacy, as well as Annenberg’s partnership with Adobe Systems, which made the Adobe Creative Cloud available for free to the school’s students, faculty and staff.

The Paul Richardson Student Help desk will be staffed by a team of graduate students from a variety of academic disciplines, including the School of Cinematic Arts, the School of Architecture and Roski. The team acts as media support specialists and audio, video and web support to students via informal learning sessions.

The Digital Detox program is set to begin on Wednesday, Jan. 28. Individuals who are interested in participating in the course are encouraged to register the Annenberg Digital Lounge website. The program will take place in the Digital Lounge’s newly launched work space, located on the third floor of Wallis Annenberg Hall.