Ulco Visser

Ulco Visser

$1.2 million gift helps UBCO educators promote mindfulness

Donation by Colorado philanthropist helps Kelowna campus launch new program

  • Nov. 6, 2013 6:00 p.m.

A Colorado educator and philanthropist has donated intellectual property valued at $1.2-million to the Faculty of Education at UBC Okanagan campus.

SMARTinEducation (SMART) is a program in mindfulness – the intentional cultivation of moment-by-moment focused attention and awareness – for educators. Research into the neurobiology of mindfulness suggests that sustained mindfulness practice can provide significant potential benefits for both teachers and students.

“Educators today face many challenges every day in managing the dynamics of life in the classroom,” said UBCO Faculty of Education dean Lynn Bosetti.

“Healthy and happy teachers create learning opportunities for students to flourish,” said Bosetti. “The faculty of education is honoured to receive this gift which affords the opportunity to have a positive impact on the well-being of educators in Canada.”

Based on components of the behavioural medicine program, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), SMART is designed specifically for educators to optimize their performance and increase well-being to make them more effective in the classroom.

“Ensuring the well-being of an educator is the immediate effect of the program; the long-term effects are on students and ultimately society,” said Ulco Visser, president of the Colorado-based Impact Foundation and creator of SMART.

Visser decided SMART required an exceptional post-secondary institution to increase the capacity of the program, in terms of infrastructure and research excellence. Visser says he was amazed at the innovative attitudes towards education expressed by UBCO’s Faculty of Education.

Visser says he found something that “you can’t find in education, here – in the U.S. – or, in other parts of the world.”

Educators fully support the SMART program and are eager to incorporate its lessons and values into their research.

“The faculty is fully committed to the long-term success of SMART,” says Bonnie Thorne, director of Mindfulness Programs and Outreach. “We have created an outstanding opportunity with the current demand for an evidence-based mindfulness program.”

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