Well-Being VLC

Students on a well-being retreat at Mason's Point of View  International Retreat and Research Center
Students on a well-being retreat at Mason's Point of View International Retreat and Research Center

The Center for the Advancement of Well-Being supports the Well-Being VLC, an inclusive virtual community where students are encouraged to explore well-being topics through reflective learning and shared experiences. This holistic experience includes traditional academic study, experiential learning, personal practices, and opportunities for students to learn about themselves and how they relate to others.

Learn more in this article and this video.

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This "whole person" education equips students to make important decisions such as choosing a major and career path. Topics include positive psychology, mindfulness, compassion, meaning, life purpose, and self-awareness are approached through experiential learning and discussions. Stress is a significant challenge for most college students. Accordingly, the Well-Being VLC devotes significant time each week exploring techniques for managing stress along with increasing mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

Virtual Learning Communities (VLCs) provide a supportive, educational, and exciting experience for students and allow them to make friends who share their passions and interests. With a variety of VLCs to choose from and teams of dedicated staff here to create a positive and supportive experience for the students, VLCs make it easier to find connection to the Mason community.

Each individual VLC is partnership between at least two campus offices to create a collaborative and holistic environment for the students engaging in that community.

What is a VLC?

A Virtual Learning Community is a group of students from both on and off campus who share common interests and come together in an online format in order to explore those passion areas more deeply. In a virtual setting, the VLC functions a lot like a residence hall floor or building in that students all in the same VLC group have easy access to each other and it makes the larger Mason community feel smaller.

Each VLC has a dedicated team comprised of faculty members, professional staff, and student staff who are invested in the student experience and are passionate about the topic area. In addition, VLCs have a connected course around the topic area which allows students to not only interact outside of the classroom but in the classroom as well.

VLCs will have fun and engaging activities that students will enjoy based on the interest of their specific community and will have access to opportunities and elevated experiences, even in a virtual setting.

Benefits of a VLC include:

  • A virtual social lounge and home, curated for students to be fun, engaging, and supportive
  • Connection with other students, both academically and socially
  • Access to academic resources and support from tutors, campus resources, and faculty
  • Connected courses are taken with like-minded individuals designed to engage their passion and help them learn outside of the classroom
  • Mentoring from upper-level students in many of our VLCs who have experience in the VLC topic.
  • Events and virtual programming tailored to the VLC by content experts connected to that VLC

In the end, VLCs bring connection to students. It doesn’t matter where you are — you will find friends, mentors, and support here!

Eligibility

The VLC experience is open to all students including both residential and non-residential students. While the experience is open to all class years, preference will be given to first-year students and upper-level students who were already accepted into an LLC for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Questions, Comments, Concerns?

The Virtual Learning Communities’ Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page has answers for you! And the official website is a great resource.

For any additional questions related to Virtual Learning Communities, please contact llc@gmu.edu.

Overview of the Guiding Principles

The Well-Being VLC program is grounded in and supports the development of the following principles:

Strengths-based: Focusing on strengths rather than deficits is an integral part of the Well-Being VLC. From the first days of the start of a semester together, it is important that each of us make the choice to regard each person in the community as a growing and evolving individual, with unique strengths and challenges. As we engage in practices that expand our mindful awareness, we choose to focus on valuing and building on strengths, capacities, resilience, talents, and inherent worth. Making the choice to view ourselves and each person in the community from a strengths-based perspective enhances positivity, efficacy, increases hope and optimism, cultivates well-being, and develops creative problem solving skills.

Mindfulness-focused: Developing basic mindful awareness skills involves deliberately paying attention in the present moment, to whatever is unfolding, with a non-judgmental approach that includes curiosity, kindness, and acceptance. Without mindfulness, situations involving psychological or physical distress can sometimes deteriorate rapidly. With mindfulness and with other self-management practices, students are better equipped to respond skillfully rather than react unskillfully to the complexity and immediacy of their lives.

The Well-Being VLC not only teaches students about mindfulness theory, practices, and skills, but also provides opportunities for students to peer teach, and express what they are learning in a hands-on environment. Students often have the chance to present their research, interpretations, opinions, revelations, and ideas to the community and foster a conversational and guided discussion.

Values-guided: The Well-Being VLC supports students in actively and continually clarifying their personal values in addition to the embodiment of mindfulness, compassion, creativity, self-efficacy, and community resilience. Sharing their values, experiences, knowledge, and healthy coping skills is an important aspect of peer support in the Well-Being VLC program.

Self-directed: Well-being is a process that must be directed by the individual student, who defines her or his own goals and designs a unique path towards those goals in the context of college life. The most empowered students assume personal responsibility for their own self-care, practice healthy coping strategies, seek appropriate support, and utilize campus resources.

Responsibility: We must all assume responsibility for our own self-care and journey of adult development. Being a member in the Well-Being VLC supports students in working to understand and give meaning to their experiences and supports them in identifying coping strategies and integrative processes to promote personal well-being and community flourishing.

Respect: A key principle of well-being is respecting and appreciating the highest good within each person, including protecting everyone’s rights to safety and eliminating discrimination and stigma. Self-acceptance and tolerance of others who have different beliefs ensures full participation and inclusion in the Well-Being VLC, and more so, within the broader campus community.

The Well-Being VLC community offers a nurturing and encouraging environment for students who may be struggling with confidence and identity. The community traditionally and naturally creates a strict non-judgment environment in which students feel comfortable exploring new aspects of identity and make connections with an exceptionally compassionate group of individuals.

Holistic: Well-being encompasses a person’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and campus culture and community.  Students’ well-being is linked to housing, financial stability, family support, social networks, community participation, spirituality, mental and physical health, and academic courses. Because of this holistic approach to well-being, students are in a constant state of experimentation, reflection, and development.

Individualized and Person-Centered: Each person’s vision of well-being is unique, based on their unique individual needs, preferences, experiences, and cultural background. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to well-being or mindful living. What well-being and mindful living mean is subject to many interpretations rooted in value judgments that vary across cultures, among individuals, and may change depending on stages of development across the lifespan.