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Kent State Partners with Urban Zen Foundation for Nursing Wellness Education

Posted Jan. 31, 2011

The notion of a partnership between Kent State University and fashion mogul Donna Karan isn't hard to imagine, since Kent State's School of Fashion Design and Merchandising is recognized as one of the top fashion schools in the country. But it may come as a surprise that a recent collaboration between Kent State and Karan has nothing to do with fashion but instead involves the university's College of Nursing.

lead #3 UrbanZen inside
Ed Dailey instructs a class.
Kent State and Karan's Urban Zen Foundation are working together on a program focused on nursing wellness and self-care. The goal is to address issues such as nursing burnout and job-related stress.

"Nurses are on the front lines of patient care and we realized that we needed to introduce our students to modalities that can reduce stress," says Tracey Motter, senior undergraduate program director for the College of Nursing.

Karan founded the Urban Zen Foundation to advocate combining Eastern and alternative healing therapies with Western medicine. In 2009, the foundation launched the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program (UZIT) to advance a more holistic approach to health care. The UZIT program includes training in yoga, essential oil therapy, Reiki, nutrition and contemplative caregiving.

The collaboration began as a pilot project last September. Approximately 30 students in Kent State's accelerated nursing program participated in the first Care for the Caregiver program in the Fall 2010 semester. They met for an in-person class on a monthly basis, taught by UZIT's Ed Dailey, RN, RNPA, E-RYT 500. Students also participated in weekly webinars and tracked their progress though regular journaling.

"The many stresses nurses face open them up to fatigue and potential burnout," says Laura Dzurec, dean of Kent State's College of Nursing. "This effort attempts to help nurses take care of themselves and advance quality care for patients."

The Kent State partnership is Urban Zen Foundation's first collaboration with a university nursing program in the country.

The pilot program also may help break down resistance to alternative approaches to self-care. "This collaboration is a good fit because, as one of the largest nursing schools in the country, we have an opportunity to impact a lot of students," Motter says. "Being located in the Midwest, we may be able to influence perceptions about alternative therapies."

As is often the case, this collaboration came about as a result of personal connections. Earl Jones, Kent State alumnus of the Class of 1970, mentioned to Kent State University President Lester A. Lefton that he might be able to reach out to Karan and establish a relationship with its School of Fashion Design and Merchandising. A meeting was then set up between Karan and representatives from the university.

Gene Finn, Kent State's vice president for Institutional Advancement, learned about the Urban Zen Foundation at this first meeting with Karan. Finn asked David Pratt, director of advancement for the College of Nursing, to prepare a summary of what Kent State was doing with alternative medicine and therapies.

In June 2010, a small group of Kent State representatives met with Karan at her Greenwich Village loft. "Donna was extremely interested with what we were doing," Pratt explains. "She felt it was a great fit for her foundation." The meeting led to the establishment of the self-care program at Kent State for the fall 2010 semester.

Eventually, the hope is that the care for the caregiver program could be offered to all students at the college. "It is important for nurses to understand all healthcare modalities that their patients may be using," Motter says. "We also want to look at who else in the community is doing work in this area and investigate if we might collaborate with them."

Dzurec feels the timing is right for the program. "These types of therapies have been around long enough to be a part of the mainstream," she says. "There has been a paradigm shift."

For more information about Kent State's College of Nursing, visit For more information about the Urban Zen Foundation, visit

By Bob Burford