This month’s Thriving Faculty feature is Maureen Medved, Associate Professor in UBC’s Creative Writing Program.
Thriving Faculty is a monthly column that highlights UBC faculty who exemplify the integration of health and wellbeing into their classrooms, research, departments and communities.
What are central challenges you face in your role as Faculty?
The central challenge is a work/life balance. In the Creative Writing Program, I always have a lot to do and a lot of it is very interesting, so it’s easy to get drawn into exciting new initiatives and to justify putting those before everything else, including health.
Recently, I discovered I perform better at work, that I’m more creative, and have more to offer my colleagues and students if I invest in my health and well-being. I make time each day for the basics – exercise, sleep, meditation, food, friends, and family. These are no longer afterthoughts, but a critical part of my day. And now I have more than enough time to accomplish work related tasks and research – and still have the energy at the end of each day to spend with my partner and our young daughter.
Based on your experiences, please describe the relationship between student mental health & wellbeing and learning?
I believe in an integrated approach to learning and living. I don’t believe you can compartmentalize the creative research from the creative person or that it’s healthy to shove who you are in a drawer because right now you’re a worker or a student or a creative person. I believe I need to have acceptance, understanding, respect, and appreciation of the differences of where people are at along their unique journeys, and the contributions those differences can make to our community. Most people will have some kind of medical issue at some point in their lives. Each of us is here because we have a commitment to learning, but we also have unique gifts and something to contribute to the greater whole, and that includes our fallibilities and vulnerabilities. I believe compassion is key to healing, not just the individual, but also our community. I don’t believe we can live in the light all the time, and I believe our experiences with illness deepen our experience of living and give us more to contribute to those around us.
Do you implement any strategies to support student mental health and wellbeing in the classroom/lab?
Our students are working on highly complex creative projects. I have admiration and respect for them and their courage for putting themselves out there and their unique processes. I believe each person carries within the seed of knowledge and creativity. I take the approach of discovering the strength and uniqueness of each and I try to celebrate differences and take a compassionate and curious approach to student work. I want them to feel respected, heard, acknowledged, and treated as full participants in their own learning.
Please describe the role of your own mental health and wellbeing in your teaching, research and service to the community?
Through mindfulness training, I am learning to develop skills of acceptance, compassion, and awareness that I try to apply to all my work, which include listening and conflict resolution. This process has taught me to accept my differences as well as those of others. Now I am less busy being busy and more observant, aware and present.
What strategies do you use in your own life that help you thrive as Faculty?
A daily commitment to meditation, exercise, diet, mindfulness, present moment awareness.
Are there any specific initiatives and/or research you are involved in that promote health, mental health and wellbeing?
A lot of my research involves an attention to human fallibility. My goal is to take people at the edge of difficult choices, and the consequences of those choices, and to try to find that glint of light that can lead to a compassionate resolution. I believe that acceptance and compassion give us a moment-by-moment opportunity to make a contribution to the greater community.
Are there any resources on campus that you have found to be helpful for promoting wellbeing for either yourself or your students?
I studied mindfulness prior to UBC, but thoroughly enjoyed the Mindfulness Challenge and the six-week Mindfulness@Work, which deepened my practice.
In your role as faculty, please describe your experience balancing work-life commitments? Is there a metaphor that depicts this relationship?
I believe balanced living, mindfulness, and compassion are the essence of a good work life, and a good life. We can’t shine all the time. Life is filled with deep suffering, periods of reflection, as well as times of high productivity and joy. Rather than pretend everything is always okay, I believe we need to embrace all of who we are in each moment. We need the deep cuts and shadows of our experiences to carve out the facets that will allow the light to shine.
Maureen Medved is an Associate Professor in UBC’s Creative Writing Program. Maureen’s novel, The Tracey Fragments, was published by House of Anansi Press. Over the years, Maureen’s writing as well as adaptations of her work have been published in literary journals, magazines and produced for stage and screen. Maureen’s screen adaptation of Tracey, opened the Panorama program of the 57th annual Berlin International Film Festival and won the Manfred Salzgeber Prize, selected by jury for a film “that broadens the boundaries of cinema today.” The film has gone on to feature at a number of international film festivals, screened at MOMA and has also garnered other nominations and awards, including a Genie Award nomination for Adapted Screenplay.
In 2008, a French language version of her book won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation, awarded to C& L Chabalier. In 2009, she received the Artistic Achievement Award from Women in Film and Television (Vancouver). She is a film reviewer and an Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia, and as part of her research, Maureen currently explores creative writing in new media. Maureen has just completed her second novel and is working on a third novel and other literary writing projects.