Avila University Mindfulness Lab

Our lab came into existence in 2007 thanks to a generous grant from the Menorah Legacy Foundation of Kansas City. Since that time, we’ve been busy searching for the active ingredients in both Eastern and Western approaches to mindfulness practices, thanks to additional grants from the George H. Nettleton Foundation and the Missouri Medical Association Alliance.

A Brief History

  • 2007-2008: Menorah Legacy Foundation of Kansas City funded construction of The Mindfulness Room in Foyle Hall on the Avila University campus. In the fall, psychologist Delany Dean developed an 8-week Mindfulness-based Wellness course that married Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) with health practices, a course taken by 34 Avila employees and graduate and undergraduate students. When MBSR-trained Dr. Dean left the university in the Spring, Maria Hunt began the search for “the active ingredients” in MBSR while adding empirically-based positive psychology practices. Twenty-four Avila employees and students completed the 1.2 version of the Mindful Wellness course. Lab members consisted of Avila University faculty and staff: Dave Armstrong, Martha Blackman, Amy Bucher, Delany Dean, Carol Frevert, Maria Hunt, and Lindee Peterson-Wilson.
  • 2008-2009: With continued funding from the Menorah Legacy Foundation, the Mindful Wellness course was brought to an independent-living community of 15 senior adults 10 residents and staff in an assisted-living facility. The course was also taught at Turning Point to roughly 60 individuals who lived with or took care of someone with chronic illness or a significant medical condition. Lab members included Avila alumni and members of the Kansas City community: Regina Adams, Nancy Bean, Jeanette Brockman, Shirlene Hess, Joann Hinnerichs, Mariko Prigel, Yulonda Swanson-Moten, and Deb Wood-Fowler.
  • 2009-2010: With final funding from the Menorah Legacy Foundation, the course was redesigned and taught to a group of 94 high school students enrolled in a Freshman Seminar in the inner city. The 2008-2009 year’s lab members were the first group of mindfulness instructors to be certified.
  • 2010-2011: This was a building year with internal funding from Avila University, who freed Maria Hunt’s time to establish a biometric lab that could measure variables such as heart rate variability. Lab members included Avila undergraduate students Anthony Kinnard and graduate students Jason Pan and Samira Zaman. The second group of mindfulness instructors graduated! The course was taught to an additional 14 Avila employees and students.
  • 2011-2012: With new biometric equipment provided thanks to a grant from the George H. Nettleton Foundation, a Focus & Fitness 55+ (i.e., mindfulness and physical exercise) course was designed and taught to a group of 103 sedentary and low-income adults aged 55 and older. Lab members included undergraduate student, Elise Cretel, and graduate students Linda Deese and Lesli Hill. Alumna and new Mindfulness Instructor, Samira Zaman served as Lab Director.
  • 2012-2013: This was another building year as Avila University freed Maria Hunt’s time to investigate whether we might develop a course that we could market in the corporate world. An LLC, Momentivity, was born as the lab developed and assessed the efficacy of an on-site and online version. Lab members included undergraduates Elise Cretel and Shawnalee Criss and graduate students, Lesli Hill, Julie Romano, Robin Todd, and Maria Wright. The course was taught to a group of 24 members of the Kansas City community. Lesli Hill became a Mindfulness Instructor and developed a special version of the course for women with chronic pelvic pain as part of her Master’s Thesis.

Avila-Trained Mindful Wellness Instructors

  1. Regina Adams, MEd
  2. Dave Armstrong, MA
  3. Mary Bartnik, LPC
  4. Nancy Bean, LCSW
  5. Jeannette Brockman, MBA
  6. Kevin Burns, CPT
  7. Shirlene Hess, LPC
  8. Lesli Hill, MS 
  9. Joann Hinnerichs, DC
  10. Ralph Hunt, MD
  11. Nyakio Kaniu, LPC
  12. Jason Pan, LPC
  13. Mariko Prigel, LPC
  14. Linda Robinson, CPT
  15. Yulonda Swanson-Moten, MFT
  16. Robin Todd, MS 
  17. Rachel Willoughby, LPC
  18. Deb Wood-Fowler, CPT
  19. Maria Wright, LPC
  20. Susan Wulff, LPC
  21. Samira Zaman, LPC

Publications and Presentations:

  • Hunt, M., Bowlin, S., Zaman, S., Patel, J., & Bassett, S. (2013, March). Heart Health of low-income older adults in a mindfulness and physical health intervention. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society, Miami, FL.
  • Hunt, M., Pressman, S., Khan, C. & Burks, L. (2012, May). Limited evidence of a mindfulness intervention affecting anxiety in a population of high-risk, low SES adolescents. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, Chicago, IL.
  • Hunt, M. (2011, April). Mindful wellness. Paper session presented atthe annual meeting of the Missouri Medical Association in Kansas City, MO.
  • Hunt, M. (2010, August). The effects of integrating mindfulness training into a first year seminar for high school students. Postersession presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chicago IL.
  • Hunt, M. (2009, June). The effects of mindfulness interventions on well-being and personal goals. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the World Congress of Positive Psychology, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Dean, D., Butterbaugh, I., & Hunt, M. (2008, August). Mindfulness-based wellness: A pilot program on a university campus. Postersession presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.


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