The Austin College Cunningham Lectures will offer a series of interactive sessions throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. Themed around “Contemplative Mindfulness,” the sessions, are designed to expose the community to the emerging field of contemplative studies in higher education, according to organizer Dr. Ivette Vargas-O’Bryan, Austin College professor of religious studies. Co-sponsored by the College’s Live Well program, the events are free and open to the public.
“For the last few years, ‘mindfulness” has been the buzz word for new therapies in clinical practices and expansions in scientific research on brain plasticity,” O’Bryan said. “Most visible in Buddhist traditions, although present in several other religious traditions, mindfulness has been part of ongoing international dialogues between the 14th Dalai Lama and medical and scientific experts. Recently, because of increasing issues with mental health and new learning theories at colleges and universities, academic institutions have applied mindfulness to improve student learning, problem-solving, and understanding, as well as personal connection and awareness.”
Throughout the year, experts from a variety of disciplines at Emory University, University of Texas at Austin, Austin College, and the Center for Brain Health in Dallas as well as psychologists and therapists, contemplative scientists, yoga and taiji practitioners, and Catholic friars will investigate the science behind these practices and apply “mindfulness” and reflective learning in interactive workshops.
On Tuesday, September 10, at 11:15 a.m. Dr. Carol E. Beck of Emory University will speak on “Resilience, Connection, and Compassion: Lessons from Cognitive-Based Compassion Training for Students and Educators” in Hoxie Thompson Auditorium of Sherman Hall.
Beck is the associate director of operations and communications for the Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics. She holds a master’s degree in filmmaking and has had a diverse career as both an assistant professor and a self-employed media professional working on five continents. She has studied and practiced various types of meditation, especially within the Tibetan tradition, and has facilitated meditation practice for the past 18 years. Beck has taught CBCT® to parents of autistic children through the Marcus Institute, students at Emory University, nurses, and the public. Recently she began offering CBCT® to doctors and nurse practitioners at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of Children’s Hospital of Atlanta.
On September 24, at 11:15 a.m., Dr. Stephanie Waitt, licensed professional counselor and owner of Texoma Specialty Counseling, will present “Healing Self Doubt and Body Discomfort” in Room 231 of Wright Campus Center. Attendees may bring their lunch to the lecture.
Waitt earned a Ph.D. in health psychology and has worked for more than 10 years with women, men, and adolescents to overcome eating disorders, trauma, and adversity and to improve self-esteem and find self-worth. She is a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals and has served on the DFW chapter’s board of directors. She is a member of the board for the North Texas Youth Commission and North Texas Young Professionals.
The Austin College Cunningham Lectures were established by a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Shem Cunningham of Wichita Falls so that the Austin College community might benefit from the visits of distinguished speakers. Mr. Cunningham was a 1920 graduate of Austin College.
Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives, Austin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with 46 percent of students identifying as persons of color. The residential student body of approximately 1,300 students and more than 100 expert faculty members allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. This year, the campus recognizes 100 years of co-education and has had several opportunities to recognize the history of women and accomplishments of current alumnae. Austin College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.