By Maha Ansari

During their years at university, students acquire a wealth of specialized knowledge related to their programs of study. However, according to Kim Hellemans, there is one, critical area in which many could use more instruction: basic life skills.

The Carleton University professor has developed a solution for this, in the form of mini lessons she has dubbed ‘Life Skills with Kim.’ Hellemans has incorporated these lessons into the CUOL-based course Introduction to Mental Health and Disease.

“Throughout the semester, there are times in the lectures when I feel that I have a little bit of extra time,” says Hellemans, “[so] I tell the class that we’re going to take a few minutes do a ‘Life Skills with Kim’ moment.”

These moments shed light on subjects such as applying for graduate school, contacting professors and writing professional emails.

The inspiration behind Hellemans’ life lessons is multifaceted. She says the lessons allow her to address inquiries she has repeatedly encountered throughout her career.

“I figured, why not kill multiple birds with one stone and offer these moments in class?”

 Hellemans was also motivated by her desire to help students achieve success beyond the academic realm.

“[In regard to] our role as professors, yes, we teach our students knowledge, but we also teach them how to be citizens of the world,” she says.

Hellemans uses a web-based polling tool called “Poll Everywhere” to collect live feedback during her life skills lessons. Using their cell phones and laptops, students respond to questions and submit their own.

The feedback on ‘Life Skills with Kim’ has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Hellemans says. Her lessons serve the dual role of educating students and reminding them that their professors can help them in areas beyond coursework.

“It shows them that there are people on campus that are there to help them, support them, and guide them through their career paths.”

Hellemans will go on sabbatical beginning in July, but she has already begun making plans for her return to teaching.

She says she hopes to include more guidance on building resilience during future ‘Life Skills with Kim’ moments.

“It’s always important to keep in mind that some of the most successful people are not people who haven’t failed,” says Hellemans. “They’ve probably failed more often.

It’s just about building yourself back up.”