Get to know our program director for the school psychology PPS program.
“At the end of it they just really resonated with an idea that would proactively help students build a skill they need whether they were having behavior problems or not. It was exciting for teachers to know it would help every student build self-regulation.”
The practice of mindfulness might be more accepted and utilized in today’s culture, but Dr. Laura Mueller was ahead of the game in this area beginning almost 20 years ago. As an adjunct professor in educational psychology at Alliant International University, she finds it gratifying to see mindfulness finally getting the recognition and acceptance it deserves.
Laura recently started her new role as program director for the school psychology PPS program at Alliant, but she is also an alumna of their master’s in school psychology and doctorate in educational psychology programs. It was during her master’s program that she began studying mindfulness thanks to the actress, Goldie Hawn. Laura attended a school psychology conference where Goldie Hawn discussed the concept of mindfulness and it just clicked for her. Laura immediately wanted to learn more about it and how it could be incorporated into her work. Laura was excited when she found out that Goldie Hawn eventually developed a curriculum for preschool through 8th grade to teach students and educators about mindfulness and created a nonprofit company, MindUP.
Poway Unified School District asked Laura to create and run a behavior support team for the district in collaboration with a board-certified behavior analyst. This included setting up a referral process to provide support to students who were experiencing significant behavioral challenges that reduced their ability to access their education.
During this same period, one of the school principals allowed her to lead the teachers in a meditation exercise and explain the science behind mindfulness to show them how it, along with the MindUP workbooks, could be used in their classes. “At the end of it they just really resonated with an idea that would proactively help students build a skill they need whether they were having behavior problems or not. It was exciting for teachers to know it would help every student build self-regulation.”
Laura completed her doctoral project on non-suicidal self-injury, and this continues to be an important mental health focus in Laura's career and research. She feels that mindfulness practices provides enormous benefits to kids who are at risk for this kind of behavior. “I have continued to collaborate and teach on self-injury and to me mindfulness wraps right into it. Mindfulness is a research-based way to self-regulate and self-injury is a maladaptive way to self-regulate so it all dovetails together.” Laura has presented her work on this topic for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the San Diego County Office of Education. She often speaks to school nurses, teachers, and psychologists about self-injury and the strategies they can use to help students. She has also created a website that gives educators some step-by-step protocols on what to do in these situations.
Blending her life and her work aligns with the Alliant mission to pair theory with real-world practice. Having studied at Alliant, Laura continues to bring her personal and professional experience to her students. “I found great joy in the program. I loved how it fit for me then as a working professional, and how it still fits for our candidates today who need to earn their masters and or doctorate while meeting work and family obligations.”
Elizabeth Quinn is an independent writer and producer whose work spans theatre, podcast, film, and television mediums. She brings over...