SMC Students become bosses of their brain

Alexandra Baez Rentas | Staff Writer |

Kate Henry ’25 and Nika Mitchel ’25 discuss Kimberly Quinns work on aiding anxiety with licensed counselor Erin Altermatt during the Mindcraft class on Monday. PHOTOS BY NORAH BECKWITH

Erin Altermatt, a mental health counselor at St. Michael’s College is leading a six week course called Mindcraft in the Vermont Room every Monday from Feb. 12 – March 25 from 12:15-1:15 p.m. The course is designed to help students “become the boss of your brain.” 

Mindcraft University was created by Kimberly Quinn, a cognitive psychologist and alumni of St. Michael’s College. She is currently a professor at Champlain College in Burlington While teaching at Champlain College, she noticed  students were becoming more anxious and depressed, and experienced more negative self-talk than ever. Her response was to create a course called Mindcraft where you can become “the boss of your brain.”  

“Mindcraft will help people understand how their minds work and why we think, feel, and do things,” Quinn said.. “Understanding the workings of the mind can empower people to take charge of their lives, make better decisions, and experience greater happiness and fulfillment.” 

Quinn has been teaching the Mindcraft course for the past seven years at Champlain College. After receiving so much positive feedback  she recently decided to create Mindcraft University online. She has visited various institutions and organizations to give talks about different well-being related subjects. “If your well-being is not okay, then nothing matters,” Quinn said. She wants to spread positivity, especially to Gen Z, because they are the ones that she has seen affected the most. They tend to struggle because most of them don’t know and see their value, Quinn said. “Clear all the junk from your head, love your life because without well-being, nothing else matters,”.

Erin Altermatt is a mental health counselor at Bergeron Wellness Center who runs the Mindcraft program on Mondays in the Vermont Room in Alliot.

Erin Altermatt, a mental health counselor at St.Michael’s College is guiding the course every Monday in the Vermont Room. Altermatt and Quinn are both alumni of St.Michael’s, where they were part of the Cross Country team together. After a recent conversation about well-being, they realized that Mindcraft should be taught at St.Michael’s. Altermatt decided to implement it as a six-week workshop.

“Anxiety is one of the leading challenges for college students and working at Bergeron Wellness we see a lot of students struggle with anxiety,” Altermatt said. “I wanted to bring an offering that I thought would help give more information, more skills, and a way for students to come together and normalize that anxiety.”  For now, the course is in its pilot stage, but long-term Altermatt strives to implement it as a general 4-credit course for all students.

“I think that as college students, we are all so stressed out all the time,” said Kathryn Henry ’25, a student taking the Mindcraft course. “The expectation is that we’re supposed to just figure it out on our own, how to balance coursework, friendships, a job, and all other obligations.The class is not about eliminating stress and worry, but learning about small practice,” Henry said.

One of the small practices that Quinn recommends in her first module, “Mindfulness in Everyday life,” is the take five. It is a breathing exercise with your hands that helps you calm down and breathe. “I see this class as building your happiness toolbox; some strategies I will definitely use, like the take five,” said Henry.   

The Mindcraft University course contains six different modules; Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Gratitude is the Master Key to Happiness, Managing the Monkey Mind, Highway to Hell, Optimism as a lifestyle and The Advantages of Happiness. Each module contains 9-16 videos which guide you through each topic and explain the importance of each topic, in addition to a learner activity which asks students a set of questions about the video that they just watched. There are also multiple module check-ins throughout the course. 

Quinn believes that schools should start implementing well-being courses such as Mindcraft in their course requirements. “First years could take a well-being course the summer before coming into college, even seniors and athletes would benefit from taking a course like this,” Quinn said. 

Students that have taken the course agree  it should be implemented as a credit-bearing course at St.Michael’s. “ I would argue that it would be greatly beneficial for all students to experience [Mindcraft University], regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues,” said Nika Mitchel, ’25, a student taking the Mindcraft course. “I think that as college students, there is such high stress that the coping skills and perspectives learned in this class apply to all.” 

The classes will continue to run on Mondays until March 25. Any student is welcome to show up with their lunch if needed.