Photo Courtesy of Jessica Srikantia

Mason professor talks about the importance of well-being and unique practices in her classes


Editor’s note: This interview, originally conducted on April 14, 2023, was edited for length and clarity. 

Dr. Jessica Srikantia has taught at Mason for fifteen years. Currently, she teaches Coaching and Organization Development and Creating Well-Being. In 2021, she was recognized by Mason Core students for excellence in teaching. Her use of embodied practices such as the use of the singing bowl has made her classes unique. Srikantia shares her experience at Mason and the importance of well-being.

What brought you to GMU?

“I came initially to teach in the Organization Development & Knowledge Management program. There was really a synergy of values that attracted me including rehumanizing our organizations, finding ways to heal all of our relationships and be in alignment within ourselves   as well as with each other and with our larger ecosystems. And the opportunity to do that collaboratively with other colleagues and student groups and to be co-creating that all together.” 

Why do you believe the subjects you teach are important to learn?

“Well-being is a core area for all of us and I believe that the most important thing we can each do is learn how to be compassionate with ourselves and take good care of ourselves because it’s from that place that we are then able to extend that to others.”

Why do you incorporate practices like the singing bowl into your classes?

“l incorporate some embodied practices because overuse of the mind is actually a common source of disease in our current society and culture. These practices help us reconnect directly with what we experience in present moment reality versus keeping us stuck in the head with its endless narratives and interpretations about whatever is happening in our experience. This also helps us practice separating our direct experience from our stories and judgments about our experience, a foundational skill for creating well-being for ourselves and others.”

How did you decide to go into your fields?

“I’ve been through many different disciplines and different practice areas, but I think the common theme in all of them has been healing and aligning our relationships with ourselves, each other and our relationships with all of life.” 

What do you love most about being a professor?

“I most love the opportunity to work with the students and the students. You all are the future. This is a really challenging time for everybody and I think in some ways especially for the young people because they are entering a world that in many ways has failed and yet there is also tremendous opportunity and possibility to create something new. They have this amazing opportunity and yet a lot of the things that have been passed down to them no longer work, at least not the ways they were told. That creates a lot of challenge on the one hand and a lot of possibility. [Having] the chance to work with young people who are navigating that and finding themselves, finding their truths, finding their passions, finding their unique voice to sing. That I find really exciting.” 

How did your time as a college student affect the way that you teach now?

“I definitely had some life changing classes in college. The most life changing classes I had in college were the ones that showed me the lenses that I had been looking through that I did not  even know I was wearing on my face. At that time, I did not see my own lenses and I had some classes that really showed that to me. Showed me how important it is to understand myself and my assumptions in order to be able to understand somebody else and see somebody through clearer eyes.“

What do you hope each student gets out of your classes?

“The thing I most hope for all of them is that they come to truly know themselves, know their own heart, and to trust themselves and to listen to themselves. And from that place to learn how to listen to others and become compassionate with others so that we can co-create a world in which everybody’s needs get met. So shifting from this paradigm of who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s good, who’s bad to how can everybody’s needs get met and how can we thrive together.“

Do you have a favorite memory from GMU?

“I think seeing some of the creative productions like different art expositions and poster expositions and performance expositions by students has been really inspiring. Also, creativity and ways of expressing themselves and the passion the students have for making a better world. Those are the things I find especially moving.”

What is one thing you wish your students knew about you?

“I wish they all knew that I, too, have struggled. I’m showing them just what I can from my perspective, what’s helped in my journey that I’ve walked, that I’ve lived. They can use that for their own sense of hope and whatever helps them in their journey. Then [with that], also be free to find the ways that they may be walking a different path.”