2020 Barrett Honors College graduate Aldwin Galang promotes mindfulness in honors thesis and workshops

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May 20, 2020

For some time, Aldwin Galang had been interested in using the practice of mindfulness to promote self-care and resiliency among students at Arizona State University. So much so, that he focused his thesis at Barrett, the Honors College on it. 

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring, Galang was able to put his honors thesis into practice.

Last week, Galang graduated ASU with a bachelor’s degree in Community Health from the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and honors from Barrett Honors College. He was the recipient of several scholarships, including the Lincoln Undergraduate Scholarship, the Mary and Jack Chapman Scholarship and the Phyllis Sanderson Scholarship. He also received scholarships from Barrett Honors College, the College of Nursing, and Phi Theta Kappa. 

His honors thesis honed in on equitable mindfulness, the practice of self-care and resiliency-building through a diverse lens that takes into account each person’s unique background, values and beliefs. He created a program called BPRSNT (Be Present) around mindfulness concepts that includes an interactive website with a blog, resources, and tools, such as a personal journal to document innovative ideas and interests.

“The main goal of Be Present is to disseminate information about the importance of being a resilient student in a thriving and fast-paced community by practicing self-care, specifically by developing a positive mindset and mindful living,” Galang said. 

As the pandemic took hold, forcing students to leave campus and finish the semester in online classes, Galang began offering mindfulness workshops based on his thesis research. The workshops, held weekly via Zoom conferencing, provided a way for honors students to connect with each other, practice mindfulness, combat stress and isolation, and find ways to overcome challenges.

Galang knew well of what he taught in the Be Present workshops. He was born and raised in the Philippines and migrated to Anaheim, California in 2015. He transferred to ASU two years ago. 

“When I transferred to ASU during fall 2018, I felt overwhelmed with so much information thrown at me almost every single day, whether through my academics or personal and social life,” he said. 

He began to realize that he wasn’t alone in these feelings, as he learned that other students experienced stress, anxiety, and mental health concerns.

Galang began participating in programs offered by the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience at ASU. He practiced various mindfulness interventions, from breathing techniques to Vinyasa yoga, and other activities that helped him focus and develop an appreciation for himself and the world around him. 

Through his own experiences, Galang found inspiration for an honors thesis he believed could be life-changing for himself and his fellow students.

“During these unprecedented times, students face an enormous disruption to their lives and are likely to be experiencing stress, worry, anxiety and fear,” Galang said. 

“Students may no longer have that sense of structure and stimulation that is provided by the (educational) environment, and now they have less opportunity to be with their friends and get that social support that is essential for good mental well-being. Through the concept of equitable mindfulness and practicing it, students can cope, prevent these negative thoughts and feelings, and reframe things into a positive mindset.”


We asked Galang to reflect on his experiences at ASU. Here are his thoughts.


What was a highlight, an interesting moment or accomplishment in your ASU career?

There are so many highlights and interesting moments during my time at ASU. Representing and advocating for the students is one of the highlights I will cherish for the rest of my life. Being the Senator for Edson College and the Director of Student Outreach within Undergraduate Student Government Downtown gave me a wonderful platform to hear students’ voices and their opinions and bring those to the administration. Another highlight was welcoming prospective and incoming students at ASU by being a Gold Guide also known as Student Orientation Leader, giving tours as a Devil’s Advocate, a member of START, and an Honors Devil. Lastly, having the opportunity to participate in ASU 101-Nursing was definitely among my favorite highlights at ASU. 


What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Through volunteer opportunities, I was able to see and feel the beauty of humanity. My loving, kindness and compassion for other people and my love for science made me realize that working as a community health educator will give me an opportunity and platform to make a difference and to impact someone’s life and contribute to the community.


What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

I’ve learned that resilience isn’t a skill, but it’s something that a person can build and develop by having a growth mindset and practicing mindfulness in their daily life. 


Why did you choose ASU?

I believe ASU is the right school for me and I chose ASU for three reasons. 

First, the opportunities for internships, programs, services, and the learning environment are astonishing. Stepping into an institution that is so full of opportunities is incredibly motivating and pushed me to broaden my knowledge and keep moving forward. 

Second, the school’s spirit, pride, and tradition is beyond AMAZING! Before starting my first semester at ASU, I was walking around Santa Monica Pier wearing ASU gear and somebody shouted, “Go Devils” and I immediately felt the school’s spirit, pride, and tradition is impeccable.

Lastly, the ASU community itself is inspiring to make the world a better place. When I did my first tour at ASU I felt that I was part of the community already… a community that cares for one another.


Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU and what was that lesson?

Samantha Calvin in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation is such an inspiration to a lot of students. She taught me that nothing is impossible if you have perseverance and willingness to reach for the stars. 


What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

Do not take things for granted. Cherish and indulge every single moment you have in your life as a student because truly life is beautiful.


What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

My favorite place at campus has to be the ASU Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience located in the Arizona Center at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. I feel grounded and calm every time I go to the center.


What are your plans after graduation? 

I will be volunteering with the Peace Corps as a Health Educator. 


If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

I would use the money to tackle the problems and stigma associated with mental health. I would build a center or a clinic to help individuals improve their mental health, especially in vulnerable communities. I would also use the money to do research on interventions to help people diagnosed with mental illnesses.

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