Meet Student Affairs: Five questions with Andrea Kimura

Living in a pandemic can be stressful and cause anxiety, but Student Health & Well-Being’s health educator can help.

From the desk of Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for student affairs

Andrea Kimura has served Mizzou students as a health educator since 2013, first in the Student Health Center and, since 2019, in the Wellness Resource Center.

Let’s get to know Andrea!

Bill Stackman: Why do you do what you do?

I was the first generation, of my immediate family, to graduate from college and then go onto pursue my master’s degree in education. While my family was supportive of me in many ways, they lacked knowledge about the innerworkings of college. I really struggled because I did not know about resources and how to be successful at college; it was so different than high school. Helping a student tap into campus or community resources then flourish, and not needlessly struggle the way I did, is why I love this work. If I can support a student grow and thrive to become their best possible self, that is fantastic!

BS: What’s your favorite part of the job?

AK: A couple the things I really love at the moment is the free noontime meditation we offer to the Mizzou community at noon every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and the free yoga classes every Monday, Thursday and Friday. They’re both completely free. You don’t need any experience with meditation or yoga, or any special equipment. I love giving people the chance to experience different kinds of meditation and yoga so they can get the flavor of it.

Picture of Andrea Kimura leading yoga at Traditions Plaza
Student Affairs staff member, Andrea Kimura, leads a yoga class at Traditions Plaza in 2018.

BS What benefits does meditation hold for students?

AK: In vipassana meditation, the kind of meditation I’m certified in, we focus on breathing. It’s so simple people say, “There’s got to be more to it.”

The reason we focus on the breath is because it slows the mind down. When we sit and pay attention to what’s happening in our bodies, we notice where our bodies are holding tension. Maybe our shoulders are tense or our jaws are clenched. Then with relaxation breathing, we can release the tension.

The analogy I like to use is to imagine the mind like a glitter globe that’s been shaken up. Focusing on the breath allows us to relax the body, still the mind, and let the glitter sink to the bottom of the globe. Then what’s important can rise to the surface so you can be more deliberate about what you focus on and give your energy to.

BS: What’s the science behind meditation?

AK: People who meditate as little as 10 minutes a day begin seeing lower stress levels and better ability to concentrate in just a few days.

When we meditate, we turn off the sympathetic nervous system — the fight-flight-freeze response, which was triggered by the amygdala, — and turn on the parasympathetic system in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for compassion, creativity, connection and relaxation.

Meditation actively engages the prefrontal cortex. That’s why you get good ideas in the shower or wake up with solutions to you problems after a good night’s sleep because you are in a state of relaxation.

BS: What is your best advice for Mizzou students to be successful?

AK: Find balance … Balance between studying and connecting with friends, sleeping and being involved in the many campus activities, exploring new foods and feeding your body nutritious food, helping others and knowing when to ask for help for yourself, developing new relationships while still staying connected to those back home who supported you. Balance is dynamic and ever changing depending upon the season of life.

Editor’s note: “Meet Student Affairs,” is a regular series in which I introduce a member of the Student Affairs community.