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Faculty Contribution: Mindful Lives that Matter: Contemplative Student Development in the Classroom and Beyond

Dr. Ulrike Wiethaus, Wake Forest University

“In the place of stillness, rises potential. From the place of potential, emerges possibility. Where there is possibility, there is choice. And where there is choice, there is freedom!” —Gabrielle Goddard

The motto of Pro Humanitate invites reflection about whether we truly are who we say we want to be. Can we understand humanity if we do not nurture awareness and understanding about ourselves? Can the goal of deep well-being for all of humanity and our natural environment be achieved without an appreciation for the creativity and strength that arises through a sharing of stillness, spaciousness, and silence? How can we best prepare a student body of emerging leaders for a fast-paced and often stressful and competitive global world, in which young women and men aspire to lead by personal example and model to others the power of compassion, generosity, and acceptance?

Exploring the Pro Humanitate potential of mindful living in the classroom and beyond is a transformative experiential strategy that links the strength of a liberal arts paradigm with Wake Forest University’s new emphasis on wellness and expanding neuroscientific knowledge about the positive impact of meditation and mindfulness on resiliency, creativity, and building compassionate communities.

A mindful Wake Forest University campus is emerging softly and gently. Mindfulness and contemplative practices have generated scientific and liberal arts research, shaped class content, and led to creative endeavors in interdisciplinary formats. A growing group of faculty and the Chaplain’s office are leading regular meditation sessions. More than a dozen faculty across disciplines are integrating contemplative pedagogy into their classrooms. Yoga classes have become a regular part of the Miller Center’s schedule, and the nascent Cherokee Garden invites walking meditation in a richly bio-diverse setting.  Contemplation in action models are emerging through programs such as the Religion and Public Engagement initiative in the Department of Religion.

At the end of four years at Wake Forest University, students will be more than they thought be possible at the first day of classes. Together, we can support this process of personal growth, community action, and self-discovery in the spirit of Pro Humanitate by leveraging the wisdom of ancient practices adapted to a twenty-first century campus environment.

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