The Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education

 

Overview

The Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) is a multidisciplinary academic association with an international membership of over 650 educators, administrators, staff, students, researchers and other professionals committed to the transformation of higher education through the recovery and development of the contemplative dimensions of teaching, learning and knowing.

The ACMHE promotes the emergence of a broad culture of contemplation in the academy, connects a broad network of academic professionals with online resources, and stimulates scholarship and research concerning contemplative pedagogy, methodology and epistemology within and across disciplines through initiatives and events including the annual ACMHE conference.

The ACMHE is an initiative of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, a 501-c(3) non-profit organization which works to integrate contemplative awareness and contemporary life in order to create a more just, compassionate, reflective, and sustainable society. For almost 20 years, the Center has fostered the inclusion of contemplative practice and inquiry in colleges and universities.

 

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ACMHE Membership Benefits

  • New Member Directory. Our revamped member directory allows you to search by name, city, state, region, academic discipline, title, institution and special interest. Want to contact a member you met at a past ACMHE conference, or find others working in your field? Our directory may help.
  • Syllabus archive. Offering examples of syllabi for courses that incorporate contemplative approaches, the syllabus archive is updated on an ongoing basis and is open for member submissions.
  • Free access to The Journal of Contemplative Inquiry, the new online peer-reviewed journal dedicated to contemplative practices and perspectives in academia. Members also have the manuscript submission fee waived.
  • Podcast series. Full episodes of the podcast series, offering lectures and conversations on contemplative practices and perspectives in higher education, are available only to ACMHE members.
  • Connection with hundreds of ACMHE members across the world. We provide multiple ways for ACMHE members to share information: through an email discussion list, listing events on our public events calendar, and contributing announcements to the member newsletter.
  • Event discounts. ACMHE members receive a $50 discount on event registration fees for selected events including the Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy, multi-day Retreats for Educators, and the ACMHE Conference, convened annually since 2009.

Member benefits are accessed through the online Member Portal.

 

Membership Dues

Dues are self-selected and range from $35 to $125 per year. The ACMHE is funded by a combination of membership dues, event fees and individual and foundation support. To join, submit the membership application.

 

Mission

The mission of the ACMHE is to advocate for contemplative practice in higher education; to encourage new forms of inquiry and imaginative thinking; and to educate active citizens who will support a more just and compassionate direction for society. The ACMHE supports members in the development of contemplative pedagogy, research methodology, epistemology and organizational designs by creating forums for the exchange of diverse perspectives on contemplative practice in higher education.  It supports the creation of a community of contemplative educators, scholars, administrators and students to develop a broad culture of contemplation in the academy.

 

Vision

Written by Arthur Zajonc, Founding Committee Chair and Former Director of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

The view on which contemporary higher education is constructed is too limited.  Its impoverished and largely reductive understanding of the world inevitably leads to partial solutions to the problems we face in such areas as education, health care, agriculture and economics.  We need an education that embraces and develops an enlarged view, one that has room in it for the exploration of meaning, purpose and values and how to serve our common human future.

Likewise, the very methods of scholarship and research are limited.  For all their power, the conventional methods of scientific research and critical scholarship need to be broadened.  The reflective, contemplative and experiential methods developed within the contemplative traditions offer a complimentary set of research methods for exploring the mind and the world.  When taken together with conventional methods, an enriched research methodology and pedagogy are available for opening up new pathways for deepening and enlarging perspectives which can lead to real and lasting solutions to the problems we confront.

In addition, the ethics we practice are too often based on a limited, cost-benefit analysis. A contemplatively oriented college or university can be a community where we learn to practice an ethics of genuine compassion, and learn to extend generosity to others beyond those closest to us. This development can be supported by contemplative practices, service-learning, and a genuine engagement within our surrounding community and its needs.

The roots of higher education in the West can be traced back to the cathedral schools and monasteries of the 12th century. Likewise, in Asia, education was inseparable from religious and spiritual life. With the Enlightenment, education made a crucial and proper shift towards the secular. Now we are faced with the challenge of creating a form of education that is at once true to the best ideals of the Enlightenment, which valued reason, experience, and human rights, and at the same time reconnecting to the ethical and spiritual foundations that support our values and deepest understandings.

We seek to integrate a secular ethics and secular spirituality to the educational endeavor, that is to say, we seek an ethics and spirituality that is not rooted in an ideology or creed but which is available equally to all. We seek to recast the traditional foundations for education into a truly integrative, transformative, and communal enterprise that cultivates the whole person in the fullest possible way.

 

History

Founded May 1, 2008

The initiative to found a professional membership association arose in 2006, to address the growing momentum of the Center’s Academic Program. After 10 years of administering fellowships and developing a community of contemplative educators, scholars, and administrators, a distinct field of study and practice was emerging. The Academic Program’s respected leadership team was uniquely positioned to introduce an association that would invite others to participate in leading and carrying the movement forward.

The story behind the formation of ACMHE began in 1996 when the Center was looking for opportunities to explore the central question: could contemplative practices change the way we think and act so that we move toward a more just, compassionate and reflective society? We knew that the academy was the place where the fundamentals of this inquiry could be explored; could the contemplative way of knowing be a complement to the rational, scientific way on which the academy is based and help us address the urgent issues of our time? Would students be more engaged with their subject matter? Would their increased attention mean deeper learning?  Would their decreased stress open their minds to new ideas, and could students and teachers develop a more compassionate understanding of the behavior and values of others?

When the President Stan Katz of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) agreed to partner with us in offering fellowships for courses that integrated contemplative practice into their teaching methods or content, we were simultaneously elated and concerned:  would anyone in the academy with sufficient knowledge and objectivity take the risk to bring meditation, yoga, or lectio divina into their courses? Three months after the competition was announced, we had received 100 applications, each accompanied by permission to teach the course and two letters of support from colleagues. The proposals were more interesting, creative, and rigorous than we had even hoped. Despite the constraints on higher education which often inhibit change, there are now more than 150 fellows in 100 colleges and universities throughout the country, including liberal arts schools, Ivy League universities, state universities, and traditionally black colleges, teaching courses that have many times become part of the standard rotation and have reached thousands of students over the years.

During this same period of time, meditation, yoga, and other contemplative practices became the subject of hundreds of studies, by institutions such as the Brain Imaging Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, MIT, Yale, and Harvard Medical School, which have demonstrated their physical and mental benefits. While the application of this growing body of evidence to the use of contemplative practice in educational settings is still in its early stages, the credibility of the Center’s leadership team and the fellows is important to establishing the appropriate use of practices for secular institutions, maintaining professional standards of academic excellence and freedom, and addressing the ethical issues which arise with integrity.

In May 2007, when the Board of Directors endorsed a proposal to pursue the formation of an association, the Center’s Academic Program had gone far beyond a fellowship program. It had identified many of the leading academics in the field and established program activities that reached new constituents and deepened relationships with the existing network. These included a website; annual week-long summer sessions; retreats for academics; national conferences; and regional and disciplinary meetings. Other organizations and individuals began to promote particular perspectives, such as using practice for conflict resolution, stress reduction, or to foster creativity, and it was evident that these efforts would benefit from coordination. The intention to found the ACMHE followed from an understanding of the value of scholarly associations to coordinate and direct the development of these curricular and co-curricular innovations.

In July 2007 the Academic Program Committee formed the Association Steering Committee. In September 2007 the Board endorsed a refined Association proposal including a mission statement, membership qualifications, and a mandate for the Steering Committee. The Program launched the Association in May 2008.