Mindfulness & Wide-Awakeness in Higher Education

Sarah E. Montgomery, University of Northern Iowa

Published 2023

How can we support our college students cultivating wide-awakeness, or a way of paying attention and being fully present to oneself and the world? How might we use mindfulness practices to help ourselves and our students become more wide awake, realize our interconnectedness, see what is possible, and transform our lives and the world around us? Educational philosopher Maxine Greene called for the need to intentionally promote wide-awakeness, which includes deepening our awareness, asking critical questions, recognizing that alternatives exist, and finding the agency to make changes personally and collectively.

Mindfulness & Wide-Awakeness in Higher Education draws upon Greene’s work to explore the voices and experiences of college students who engaged in mindfulness practices during every class session in a cohort over an academic year and others who participated in a mindfulness group that met weekly for a year. The book explores how students used mindfulness to support their academic success, create a culture of connectedness, promote increased empathy, and fuel their sense of agency regarding social interactions and teaching the practices to others. In particular, the voices of students of color who chose to participate in the weekly mindfulness group are elevated and honored.

A culminating chapter provides numerous examples of the mindfulness practices taught throughout the two-year study, serving as an accessible guide for higher education professionals interested in doing this work who would like ideas for where to begin or how to further develop their teaching and student support services. Overall, the book provides rich insights and practical approaches for how higher education faculty and staff can work together with students so we can all become more wide-awake to what is possible in our hearts, in our classrooms, on our campuses, and beyond.


"Mindfulness & Wide-Awakeness in Higher Education came into my life at the right time. The privileging of the voices of students of color and the collection of accessible mindfulness practices makes this a great tool for teacher educators across the country. If you are looking for a way to support your students’ mental health, academics, empathy, and agency, you will find all that and more in this book." — Denisha Jones, Sarah Lawrence College

"This book contributes to mindfulness and contemplative practices in higher education with transformative learning and democratic education frameworks. It is an invitation to bring our whole authentic selves as faculty and students into the classrooms to be “wide awake” and see each other as human beings, not merely as our roles." — Bengü Ergüner-Tekinalp, Drake University

"If you care deeply about the tangible outcomes of higher education for students and the degree to which those experiences awaken their curiosity about people, place, and planet, Mindfulness and Wide-Awakeness in Higher Education should be a must on your reading list. Sarah Montgomery provides an excellent framework to illustrate the power of teaching mindfulness and what is possible when we make time and space for woke teaching and learning." — Paulette Patterson Dilworth, The University of Alabama at Birmingham

Acknowledgements. Foreword, Laura I. Rendón. CHAPTER 1: Introduction. CHAPTER 2: Skepticism. CHAPTER 3: Academic Impact. CHAPTER 4: Community and Connection. CHAPTER 5: Courage and Agency. CHAPTER 6: Mindfulness Practices for Higher Education. A: Survey for Students in Year-Long Classes. B: Interview Protocol for Students in Mindfulness Group. About the Author.