Testimonies from Mindfulness & Leadership Students

Karla Parbon and Michael Hazel
Karla Parbon, a graduate of the DPLS program, sits with professor Mike Hazel

April 07, 2024
Kate Vanskike (’22 M.A.) | Gonzaga Magazine Spring 2024

Karla Parbon and Laura Miner, two graduates of the Doctoral Program in Leadership Development (DPLS), share insights about Mike Hazel’s course, Mindfulness and Leadership.

What do you do and what led you to the DPLS program?

Parbon: After completing my masters, I always knew I wanted to continue my education and pursue a PhD. As a mother and wife, the probability to attend a program away from home was very unlikely, so I researched programs that had limited in-person requirements. Being a professor in the Dance Department, attending the Gonzaga Doctoral program made sense and I was particularly interested in the interdisciplinary approach of this program.

Miner: Effective leadership begins with self-leadership—essentially who you are shapes how you lead. When self-leadership capacities are cultivated, overall leadership outcomes improve. I’m a leadership development coach who empowers leaders and transforms organizations through the science of self-leadership. I work with my clients to bridge the gap between their current capacities and their desired outcomes.

This is not just my career, it’s my passion. As such, continually developing myself to better support my clients is an important part of my equation. This is what led me to Gonzaga. I was searching for a leadership program that would empower me to deepen my knowledge and test my theories. Gonzaga provided the perfect environment for doing just that.

What sparked your interest in the Mindfulness & Leadership course?

Parbon: EVERYTHING! I have been teaching somatic practices for dancers for over 16 years as well as teaching yoga and meditation/mindfulness practices for many years. I was curious about how Dr. Hazel incorporated the various philosophies of meditation and mindfulness with intellectual inquiry and he did not disappoint!

Miner: There were two drivers that led me to enroll in this course. For starters, mindfulness and meditation have long been part of my personal routine, though inconsistency sometimes plagued my practice. When enrollment for this course opened, my practice was in a lull and I was seeking and craving consistency. I suspected this course might be the exact catalyst I needed to get back on track and *SPOILER ALERT*, it was!

Secondly, my focus and attention on self-leadership combined with the personal experiences I’ve had with mindfulness filled me with a deep curiosity surrounding the potential benefits a mindfulness practice could hold for leaders. When I read the course syllabus, I felt confident this would provide a pathway for exploring mindfulness in leadership in general, and self-leadership specifically. Another *SPOILER ALERT*, both were true and I got far more than I anticipated.

Please share a bit about your own practice of mindfulness – did you come to the course as a newbie, or had you already developed a practice?

Parbon: To add on to my response above, I have always gravitated towards the spiritual side of being human. I firmly believe that we embody a marriage of body, mind, spirit and soul. My body has always been the way I process and communicate the experiences of my life’s journey. What discoveries or growth that happens in my ‘higher self’ can then be processed and either embraced or released in the movement of my body. I also went through the SEEL program at Gonzaga that uses the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius, which was such a life transforming process of becoming more grounded in my Christian faith and how I live in community with others.

What from the course had the biggest impact on you, or why might you recommend this experience to someone else?

Parbon: This course gave us intellects the permission to slow down, stop overthinking and just experience. Our cohort was a beautiful combination of beings at various levels of practicing mindfulness which presented an opportunity for all of us to learn and grow from one another!

Miner: There were two elements that significantly impacted me. Personally, I liken this course to being a mindfulness buffet. You get to sample a little bit of everything and then go back and fill your plate with the dishes you liked most. The variety we explored reignited my excitement surrounding mindfulness and brought me the consistency I was craving. In addition, because of the array of tools and techniques offered, you leave with a well-stocked toolkit that is prepared for any situation you may encounter. Professionally and academically, it gave me an opportunity to specifically research the intersection of mindfulness and self-leadership theory, which led me to an interesting study highlighting their mutually reinforcing benefits. From here, I uncovered additional resources which I was able to integrate into my client work. In other words, this course had real world implications that brought both personal and professional benefits.

If you were trying to encourage someone to begin a mindfulness/meditation practice, what simple advice might you share?

Parbon: Start with the most universal and essential element of being human... your breath. Just taking time to breathe deeply with honest intention to embrace what yoga describes as your pranayama or ‘life force’. Or... come take a yoga class from me sometime!

Miner: In the wise words of Nike, Just Do It. Implementing a mindfulness routine can happen in as few as 5-minutes a day, and the benefits continue to grow and compound over time. It’s truly a gift that keeps on giving. Plus, in line with the Jesuit tradition of educating the whole person—body, mind, and soul—mindfulness is a powerful technique for bringing all three into alignment. Interestingly, it’s those times when my practice wanes that I’m reminded how important it is to maintain. With it, I flourish; without it, I start to flounder.

Read more from our Mindfulness feature.