Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (Ph.D)



First Advisor

Granville Ganter

Second Advisor

Steven Alvarez

Third Advisor

Derek Owens


This dissertation argues that the college writing curriculum – and indeed any educational program---would benefit from an emphasis on human wellness and the arts. Wellness consists of one’s emotional, social, spiritual, physical, intellectual, and vocational well-being. Additionally, students’ environmental circumstances, like home life, finances, diet, exercise, and work obligations play a huge role in balancing personal health, especially in marginalized communities. Since one’s physiological and psychological connection impacts one’s identity and health, improving writing in the classroom requires holistic and creative approaches for rewiring individual thinking. I draw from positive psychology, where concepts like complex optimism and positive emotions nurture the groundwork for forming resilience and increasing one’s range of thought responses, and from neuroscientific application, where brain plasticity opens the ability to restructure thinking. I place an emphasis on creative thinking with concepts such as “flow,” where one’s interests guide learning and growth, and explore arts-based research methodologies by illustrating art and project examples for the expansion of embodying new avenues to learning. After surveying 20th century education and composition theorists who emphasize creativity and play, I evaluate the critical writing stages of invention and reflection which shapes the writing process. Along the way, I highlight the memoirs of Jesmyn Ward’s, Men We Reaped and Jimmy Santiago Baca’s, A Place to Stand to demonstrate various components of wellness and composition strategies such as developing character strengths, positive emotions, and interests, examining mindful self-perception, as well as embracing arts-based research projects, and practicing metacognitive reflective writing. I then turn my attention to ideas from the educational theorist, Margaret Naumburg, whose two professional careers reinvented education, art, healing, and innovation. Wellness is unarguably a growing need for colleges where the dropout rate continues to escalate up from 40 percent and where one in two students face mental issues in their lifetimes which peaks during college. As wellness theorists Margaret Schneider Jamner and Daniel Stokols’ research shows, reducing toxicity in physical settings like colleges through preventative measures greatly impacts lifelong health. Cultivating one’s health through connecting with arts-based research practices positively influences present and future health, motivation, self-efficacy, creativity, and happiness.