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The Lure of Summer Programs Attracts 2,800 to Smith

For six days in mid-August, 32 professors from the United States and Canada gathered for a residential session with scholars and teachers interested in finding ways to integrate contemplative practices—such as silent meditation or movement practices like t’ai chi chuan or yoga—into higher education. They discussed pedagogical issues, including evaluation, grading options and instructional techniques, and ways to encourage contemplative practices and traditions at colleges and universities.

“The university is well-practiced at educating the mind for critical reasoning, critical writing and critical speaking, as well as for scientific and quantitative analysis. But is this sufficient?” asks Arthur Zajonc, academic program director for the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and professor of physics at Amherst College. “In a world beset with conflicts, internal as well as external, isn’t it of equal if not greater importance to balance the sharpening of our intellects with the systematic cultivation of our hearts?”

Among the faculty members leading summer sessions on contemplative curriculum development were Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, Smith professor of anthropology; Hal Roth, professor of religious studies and East Asian studies at Brown University; and Professor Zajonc.

These educators were not alone in making good use of Smith’s facilities during the summer months when most Smith students were scattered about the world for summer jobs, vacations and internships. Faculty joined dancers, athletes, vocalists, research scientists and physicians, who occupied Smith’s teaching spaces and some residences while participating in programs and trainings on campus. Indeed, by summer’s end more than 2,800 people (not including students in the School for Social Work) had lived temporarily at Smith and sat in classrooms and attended conferences while participating in 29 programs of varying content, length and objectives.

Each summer for the past four years has seen an increase in the number of programs—and participants—on campus, says Diane Jacobs, the summer programs/events coordinator. The previous summer, the college accommodated more than two thousand people in 25 programs.—JME

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