Higher Education – Spring 2012 (pages 62-63)
Transcendental Meditation® helps students at Maharishi University of Management enhance their learning, the institution says.
All successful administrators believe firmly in the missions of their institutions, but the connection runs deeper for Dr. Craig Pearson, executive vice president of Maharishi University of Management (MUM). After graduating from Duke University in 1971 and feeling disillusioned from the tumultuous impact of the Vietnam War, Pearson discovered the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
“I saw a need for change, and I wanted to participate in that and I wanted it to be meaningful,” Pearson says. “Finally, I realized it would be a nice contribution to make to this society that I lived in if I taught TM.” After he became versed in teaching TM, Pearson discovered an opportunity to teach at MUM, and what has followed has been a learning experience that has lasted more than 30 years.
“I’ve had just an amazing range of opportunities and experiences here,” Pearson says.
Located in Fairfield, Iowa, MUM was founded on the practice of TM, brought to light from the ancient Vedic tradition by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Vedic sage who taught the practice in his native India before traveling the world with it. Not a religion or philosophy, TM is a simple, effortless technique practiced for 20 minutes at the start and end of each day that allows the mind to settle to a state of inner quiet. Those who practice TM say it can help expand consciousness and expand the mind’s capacity for learning. This is why the university’s approach is called Consciousness-BasedSM education.
“This is huge for education,” Pearson says, adding that studies have shown growth of intelligence and other measures of personal development to level off during adolescence. Practicing TM, research suggests, unfreezes that potential and allows the mind to continue growing.
Same, But Different
Aside from the beginning and end of each day, when students and faculty join in practicing TM, Pearson says MUM offers the same curriculum one would find at a top university elsewhere in the world. “If you or anybody were to come to MUM and walk around during the day, you would find a lot that’s similar to what’s going on in universities around the world,” he says. “If you were to go into a Shakespeare class, it’s the same Shakespeare.”
Where MUM differs from other universities, of course, is the 20-minute TM sessions twice a day, built into the daily schedule. Pearson says this has a profound impact on the campus culture and in the performance of its student body and the overall feeling on the campus. Pearson says TM significantly reduces stress and mental fatigue by allowing the mind effortlessly to relax and settle inward rather than focus on the outside world.
“These days, one of the things most problematic on college campuses is stress,” he says.
Through TM, students at MUM are able to expand their consciousness to a point where learning and personal growth are practically unlimited, Pearson claims. The implications for higher education are significant, he adds. “Now human development can be unfrozen, now it can continue to develop,” he says, adding that the university has found student IQs increase after enrolling. One study, for example, found IQ to increase an average of 4 points after one year and 9 points after 4 years.
The university’s application of TM in the curriculum has implications for more than student performance and stress levels, Pearson says. It also affects enrollment trends, as nearly 75 percent of MUM’s student body consists of transfer students from other institutions. Most of them discover the university on the Internet, but an increasing number are hearing about it by word of mouth.
“Since that’s our mission, students come because they’re attracted to the mission,” Pearson says. “They transfer because they’re not satisfied with where they are.”
As the concept of meditation becomes more popular through yoga classes and other fitness regimens, MUM has seen a long-term upswing in enrollment. The university’s current enrollment of about 1,100 is double what it was five years ago, and nearly triple what it was 10 years ago, according to Pearson. “Now, meditation is mainstream and the idea of meditation in education isn’t so unusual,” he adds.
To deal with the continuing growth, the university 11 years ago embarked on an ambitious campaign to reconstruct its campus. Originally built as Parson’s College before it closed in 1973, the MUM campus has torn down 45 old buildings and has invested substantially in renovating a number of others. Additionally, 60-plus new buildings have been constructed on campus. The newest building is the university’s Sustainable Living Center, which, when completed, will be unique in the world, embodying four different sustainable building philosophies and completely off the grid with respect to heating/cooling, electricity, water, and sewage. Pearson says the university’s commitment to sustainability is another attractive feature for many students, citing the campus’ all-organic, vegetarian menu.
Pearson says the university hopes to reach an enrollment of 2,000 in the years to come, with a long-term vision of approximately 8,000 students. To help achieve that goal it has established an endowment campaign with an initial goal of $50 million. Pearson says the campaign has received some very good initial support, and that those funds will be used for scholarships, faculty support, academic programs, and campus development.
Seeing the university grow has been a rewarding experience for Pearson, and he says he believes the education students receive at MUM will give them a consciousness-based approach to decision making that will be needed to solve the world’s greatest problems.
“It’s one thing to change the way we get our power or food, but our students recognize there needs to be a change in the kind of consciousness that created those types of problems, and I’m very inspired by that,” he says.
Copyright 2012 Education Executive Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
Links to the online version with only one photo: http://www.education-executive.com/index.php/higher-education/1125-maharishi-university-of-management and digital edition: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/phoenix/eduexec_2012spring/#/64 of the two-page layout containing photos of Craig Pearson, Argiro Student Center, MUM campus, and the Aladdin Food Management Services ad.
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