Campus Life

Thriving Together—What Does a Well-Being University Look Like?

By Beth Pullias

Imagine a university where students readily find resources on well-being inside and outside the classroom. Now imagine a university where quality relationships flourish around common interests. The Center for Consciousness and Transformation (CCT) is in the early stages of creating a campaign on what such a university at Mason would look like.

“Well-being,” as opposed to “wellness,” refers to living an enriched life with positive relationships and emotions, meaning and purpose, engagement, and physical health at the highest levels, according to the CCT website.

Congressman Tim Ryan came to campus during the Fall for the Book festival in September to talk about his book, , and meet with faculty and students. Photo courtesy of New Century College.

Congressman Tim Ryan came to campus during the Fall for the Book festival in September to talk about his book, A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit, and meet with faculty and students. Photo courtesy of New Century College.

Nance Lucas, the CCT’s executive director, envisions Mason creating opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and alumni to engage in their own well-being and growth in various areas.

“Thriving together is the central theme for our well-being university model. If we are successful, we will see a greater level of engagement with one another across the university,” says Lucas who was associate director of Mason’s New Century College for seven years before devoting her time to the center. “We hope to see a ripple effect across all aspects of the university and at all Mason locations and beyond.”

As part of the first step toward starting a well-being university, CCT is inviting individuals to take part in creating a blueprint for what well-being looks like in different areas of the university. This first well-being university learning community will consist of 15 to 17 faculty and staff members committed to advancing the well-being agenda and shaping how it will look in the years to come.

Student in the Mindful Living Living Learning Community (LLC) gather at the end of the academic year to share what they've learned. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

Students in the Mindful Living Living Learning Community gather at the end of the academic year to share what they’ve learned. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

The second step is to provide funding to those who wish to create new courses, start initiatives, conduct research, or host events that promote well-being at Mason. Those who apply for funding will be required to see their project or initiative through to the end. Modeled like the Patriot Green Fund, which allows individuals to apply for funding to make Mason more sustainable, CCT funding will go to people who want to contribute to the well-being university agenda.

The third step, which will start in fall 2013, is to have scholars-in-residence at CCT who are dedicated to shaping our well-being university. Scholars-in-residence will rotate in and out over the next several years.

“CCT will sponsor visiting scholars-in-residence with diverse backgrounds who can contribute to the agenda of a well-being university with their expertise and practical experience,” says Lucas.

Currently, CCT has various programs for students that occur both inside and outside the classroom, as well as a host of activities for faculty and staff. A Living Learning Community called Mindful Living was started in 2010 and is housed in Piedmont Hall. The students who live in this community enroll in common courses, take field trips to further their knowledge of well-being, and create their own student-led programs. The field trips, workshops, speakers, and experiential learning are provided and funded by the center.

Academy Award Nominated Director Roko Belic speaks to students at the Happy film screening hosted by the Center for Consciousness and Transformation. Photo by Creative Services.

Academy Award-nominated director Roko Belic speaks to students at the Happy film screening hosted by the Center for Consciousness and Transformation. Photo by Creative Services.

Within New Century College, where CCT is housed, a well-being competency-based requirement has been added to the curriculum as part of the integrated studies degree program. The college hopes that students who take courses with well-being components will develop insights and habits of regularly assessing one’s own quality of life, developing self-efficacy and control over one’s own life, and managing stress and anxiety.

There is also a consciousness and transformation minor with courses focused on well-being. Classes are also offered in the arts, health, psychology, ethics, and history with themes pertaining to well-being.

Outside of academics, brown-bag sessions and workshops are offered throughout the year and are open to those on and off campus. Past topics for the sessions have included exploring the science and application of well-being, the influence of music and the arts on consciousness and transformation, the intersection of social entrepreneurship and well-being, and sustainability and spirituality in action.

CCT is one of the first academic centers at Mason to include well-being in a broader academic way. Lucas says that Mason is a pioneer in using its own resources to integrate well-being in a comprehensive way throughout the entire university.

This article originally appeared on the university’s News site.

To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.

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