Parkway North guidance counselor Erin Schulte is working on her doctoral dissertation at UMSL. She’s combined her passion for character education and interest in fitness to bring yoga to students. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Students at Parkway North High School in west St. Louis County are gaining more than guidance from their counselor this school year. They found the right mix of academic, emotional and physical stimulation through yoga.

Parkway North guidance counselor Erin Schulte combined her passion for character education and interest in fitness to bring yoga to the students. It’s also the topic of her dissertation as an educational psychology doctoral student at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. A certified yoga instructor, she led the class and tracked data on the happiness of the participating students.

Schulte’s research led to her being named the 2013 Victor A. Battistich Memorial Graduate Award recipient last month from the Center for Character and Citizenship in the UMSL College of Education. The award was created in honor of a former UMSL professor who died in June 2008, and recipients receive a plaque and a $500 award. She also received the inaugural Adolph and Carol Frank Character Scholarship from the college.

“I was unbelievably honored to receive this award,” said Schulte, who earned a master’s degree in school counseling from UMSL in 2008. “I had Dr. Battistich as a teacher during my master’s degree. I saw first hand what an intelligent and passionate professor he was. I also can see how the other professors that I admire and look up to have such an enormous amount of respect for him and the work that he did – to receive something like this in honor of such a remarkable person was very special to me. I am so honored that people that knew and respected him think that my work in some small way can mirror the work that he did.”

Pictured (from left) are: Carole Basile, Erin Schulte and Marvin Marvin Berkowitz

UMSL doctoral student Erin Schulte received the 2013 Victor A. Battistich Memorial Graduate Award last month from the Center for Character and Citizenship at UMSL. Pictured (from left) are College of Education Dean Carole Basile, Schulte and Marvin Berkowitz, the Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor of Education at UMSL. (Click image to enlarge.) (Photo by August Jennewein)

UMSL Daily talked with Schulte about her research and her future.

What are you hoping your students gain from the experience of your yoga class?

I am hoping my students were able to find a way to calm themselves and to relax when they get stressed. I am also hoping they got lessons of persistence and self-confidence out of the experience. We expect a lot out of students these days, and I’m not sure our society has given them ample healthy tools to deal with all of it. I hope that they see that even though life gets stressful for everyone sometimes, they can and should take time for themselves. I hope it helped them physically, to see what their bodies are capable of doing. And I hope it helps them mentally, knowing that taking time to breathe and controlling your breath in difficult scenarios can help you to think more clearly. Mostly, I want them to have this as another tool to carry with them for whatever comes their way. I want them to have something to use when traditional medical or therapeutic options are not available or appropriate for them.

What are you gaining from this experience?

Doing a dissertation about yoga has really helped me to see how the practice of yoga is applicable in various situations. I will get stressed out with the process and doubt myself on occasion. I have used lessons that I have been taught in my yoga classes to keep going. I have also learned that the status quo is not always the best way to go. My adviser, Marvin Berkowitz, the Sanford N. McDonnell Endowed Professor of Education at UMSL, really pushed me to choose a topic that I would love. Honestly, at the beginning of this process it made me mad because I just wanted to get writing and get finished. He pushed me to choose this topic and I am so glad he made me stretch myself. In that part of the process I learned about patience and not being afraid to do something a little different if it’s what gets you going. I have also learned that this process, like many things in life, is about growing. I had to, and will continue to, face up to a whole lot of things I wasn’t so sure about in order to grow and learn. Berkowitz told me somewhere along the line in this process, “If you are comfortable, then you are not growing.” I try to keep that in my mind when I am approaching some part of this process, or my life, that I am unsure of. Honestly, the bigger-picture lessons of doing a dissertation and practicing yoga have been the greatest take aways for me thus far. The really nice thing for me is that they pair so well together.

What would you like to do next?

I have no idea. I am very happy where I am at the moment. I was able to get a promotion in my school district in part because of the knowledge I have with character education. I am so pleased that a large part of my new job is making sure our entire district has a plan for helping kids to be good people. I cannot think of anything better to devote myself to than this. I do hope to keep teaching yoga and doing research with it. I think that opportunities arise for people who are passionate and work hard. I will continue to work at this and see what opportunities come my way.

The UMSL Experience

Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton