Developing Healthy, Contemplative Communities

Contemplative courses, mindful living experiences, and personal reflection help students become powerful and resilient agents of change. In Contemplative Communities, we approach problems, issues, and each other with curiosity and compassion to better serve our lives and communities. Coursework, clubs, and community service allow Plymouth State students to design contemplative and mindful approaches to problem-solving in personal, local, and national contexts.

Contemplative Communities is comprised of students, staff, faculty, and community members who are dedicated to purposeful living to reduce suffering and increase joy through use of contemplative practices. Through coursework and other activities, students engage in contemplative inquiry, create contemplative spaces on campus, advise an emerging student organizations, and draw input from our broader communities about how best to serve, responding nimbly to needs as they arise. The group is particularly interested in integrating coursework and community engagement, offering students real-world experience by applying contemplative approaches to problem-solving, and supporting students’ residential life so that they may develop and practice a sense of agency, resilience, and curiosity in and beyond the classroom.

We aim to create a climate for contemplation and action, for reflection and service, for mindfulness and agency. To this end, we engage in meditative and contemplative practices as well as discussions about purpose and meaning to more effectively and ethically serve our communities.

I hope to help students like me find the same enthusiasm in contemplative learning as I did. Together, we can practice self-awareness and growth, encouraging and enriching each other’s discovery!Reagan Young, PSU Student

Opportunities to get involved

From the classroom to student organizations and online, there are many opportunities for students to engage in Contemplative Communities,

  • Contemplative Action, Purposeful Expression (CAPE) student organization, contact Joe Scala
  • Living with Purpose: A first-year student discussion series to bring students into small group discussions on issues they find pressing. The experience is designed to help students increase a sense of agency, to increase resiliency, and to ensure the university recognizes the student as a whole person—with emotional and spiritual needs and questions.
  • Courses, partnerships, and community events arise throughout the year. Learn more by joining the Contemplative Communities Facebook Group.
  • Contemplative Education Group in Microsoft Outlook for PSU students, faculty, and staff.
  • All are welcome to attend Community Meetings on the first and third Mondays of each month from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in Frost Commons. We come together mindfully and compassionately to identify and serve campus and community needs and to support one another in our efforts to decrease suffering and increase joy. (Sept 18, Oct 10 & 16, Nov 6 & 20, Dec 4 & 18).
Learn about the Advisory Board members for Contemplative Communities

Brigid C. O’Donnell, Ph.D. (Faculty in Biological Sciences, TESD and HHE Clusters) is an integrative biologist who studies mayflies and wild brook trout in NH. Her approach to research and teaching focuses on linking across scales and bridging field and laboratory investigations to better understand biological phenomena. Her interests in Contemplative Communities centers on how curiosity, wonder, and creativity are the wellspring of rigorous questions/hypotheses in science, and the role of focused observations of natural phenomena in generating biological knowledge.

Victoria Forester Courtland, MA, CAGS (Graduate Student in Learning, Leadership and Community, EDSC Cluster) is a doctoral candidate in the Learning, Leadership and Community Ed.D. program at Plymouth. The current focus of her dissertation research is on the lived experience of embodied spiritual awakening and its impact on healing. Victoria works as a writer and yoga instructor and holds certifications as a professional life coach, meditation facilitator, holistic chef, and Reiki master.

Raegan Young (Undergraduate Student in Environmental Science and Policy, TESD Cluster) is a third year undergraduate student who has found articulation for her concerns and interests in contemplative pedagogy. With an enthusiasm for change, personal awareness and improvement, Raegan hopes to voice the needs of the undergraduate population who could benefit most from contemplative action. She is also actively involved with her department, as well as the Geography department, TRIO, and the Writing Center.

Ryan Donathan (Staff in Student Affairs) is a Student Success Coach. Previously he worked in Residence Life, both here at Plymouth but also during his time in graduate school. Originally from the Cleveland area of Ohio, he has bounced around northern & southern Ohio, Kentucky, and now New Hampshire. He earned a BS in Education and MS in Human Development and Leadership, focusing on College Student Personnel. He is committed to helping students help themselves through a variety of approaches to life and learning. He is a big sports fan, loves hiking & camping, craft beer, and traveling.

Sandra VanGundy (Faculty in Nursing, Health and Human Enrichment Cluster) is a holistic nurse and certified yoga instructor committed to compassionate kindness. She supports the integration of contemplative practices in the lives of PSU community members in and out of the classroom. Through this integration she aims to create a compassionate awareness. These efforts are put forth with the desire to alleviate suffering, and promote well-being with hope for a more just and peaceful world.

Kathy Tardif (Community liaison) has been a campus minister at Plymouth State since 2005. She enjoys helping students of all faiths and perspectives in answering the big spiritual questions: What gives their life meaning and purpose? How do they discover and develop their gifts for the sake of their community and the world? How do they thrive in the midst of stress and suffering? As a member of the Peace & Social Justice Studies Council, she led the effort to create a Peace Garden on campus. She was on the advisory board for the three years of the University’s Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant and is a suicide prevention trainer. And she was a founding co-advisor for the University’s Student Support Foundation. She has M.A.s in English (University of Connecticut) and Pastoral Ministry (Boston College) and a Post-Master’s Certificate in the Practice of Spirituality (Boston College).

Karolyn Kinane, Ph.D. (Faculty in English, Arts & Technology Cluster, Contemplative Communities Project Manager) has been a medievalist at Plymouth State since 2006, studying the social and historical roots of western Christianity’s spiritual cravings, experiences, and articulations. She researches and teaches on Arthurian legends, Chaucer, and Shakespeare as well as New Religious Movements, mysticism, and contemplative pedagogy. Her purpose in higher education is to cultivate awareness, compassion, and curiosity to encourage ethical action.

Find Your Degree Program

Explore majors and degree programs associated with Integrated Clusters involved with this project: