UT Students Practice Mindfulness at Poetry on the Pond
Oct 13, 2023

UT Students Practice Mindfulness at Poetry on the Pond

Reporting Texas TV

AUSTIN, Texas – Hundreds of students listened to poets read their work outside near the University of Texas at Austin’s turtle pond.

Poetry on the Pond is a collaboration between the Wellness Ambassadors Program and Humanitas Student Well-Being Collective at the university, to provide students a break from their studies and time to be present with their peers. It began in Fall 2021, and now takes place each semester.

The fifth edition of Poetry on the Pond on Sept. 27 drew a record crowd of nearly 300 students, who enjoyed catered snacks, green and white picnic blankets and a community celebrating self expression through the written word.

“College has such an emphasis on a grind culture and really getting a lot of things done,” said Skyler Kawalek, a senior Liberal Arts student.

“Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and really think about yourself in the moment.”

Students gather near the University of Texas at Austin turtle pond for the Poetry on the Pond wellness event on Sept. 27, 2023. (Lane Rice/Reporting Texas TV)

For students like Vannida Kol, a senior who will graduate in December, it was an opportunity to celebrate her academic career and her Cambodian culture.

“Poetry for me is a way to still talk to family that I don’t have access to, whether there is a language barrier or we have been separated by life and death,” Kol said. “It’s a way to rediscover my history and my relationships to the ones I love.”

Attendees listened to poetry readings for more than an hour as the sun set. Organizers only allowed College of Liberal Arts (COLA) majors to read poems at the podium, but students from other colleges were welcome to attend.

“That’s the whole point of humanitas,” Student Wellness Coordinator Maggie Wilhite said. “We are here to create a culture of well-being, kindness and empathy in the College of Liberal Arts and in the student community.”

Kawalek said student life can become stressful and overwhelming on a campus as vast as UT Austin. The Humanitas Collective recognizes this pressure and facilitates belonging, connection and community among liberal arts students.

“Events like this really help all of us to find our smaller niche within the university,” Kawalek said.  “I’ve met a lot of my friends through the wellness ambassadors program through COLA.”

The Collective’s next big event is a Fall Carnival on Oct. 26, north of the UT Tower.

Weekly wellness labs are also hosted on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Glickman Conference Center. They are open to all students who need a break from their studies, and explore topics such as coping with test anxiety, making social connections, and practicing self-compassion.

“At the wellness labs we talk about how things are going, what’s challenging and what’s going well,” Wilhite said. “And we also bring in campus resources, so students can learn about how to help themselves and stay balanced with their holistic selves.”