College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is exploring contemplation's rich legacy in religions, while researching ethical reasoning, cultural contexts, and convergences of the humanities and sciences. U.Va.’s strengths in the humanities, particularly in religious studies - one of the best programs in the world - deepens focus on contemplation by placing it in specific socio-historical, cultural, and contemporary contexts, as well as drawing upon the world's rich contemplative heritage to design new systems for use in modern contexts in conjunction with scientific research and professional contexualization. Contemplation is a perhaps uniquely powerful context for new bridges between the humanities and sciences, as well as between both and the professional schools, due to its deep grounding in both theory and practice. Humanists at U.Va. are working in new partnerships with scientists and the professional schools to bring the full power of our collective knowledge and expertises to bear upon the challenge of understanding the dynamics and utility of old and new contemplative practices in specific contexts. In this way, they can then draw upon that heritage to design systems for modern uses based on scientific research and professional contexualization.
For example, David Germano is working with Santa Clara University professor Shauna Shapiro on a project exploring the relationship between contemplation and contexts at the interface of psychology and religious studies with the support of a Mind and Life fellowship. On a more traditional humanistic front, Kevin Hart is completing a major book project on the history of Christian contemplation. On the teaching front, in 2012-13, the CSC supported a new pilot offering of a course by Religious Studies Chair Kurtis Schaeffer and David Germano for 200 U.Va. undergraduates called “Buddhist Meditation in the Modern World,” including contemplative lab sections. This course will be repeated in the Spring 2014, as well as developed into a MOOC offered through the Coursera platform in 2014 for tens of thousands of people around the world. The model is being expanded in the fall of 2013 for a course on Yoga with similar contemplative lab sections as offered by John Campbell. Vanessa Ochs is exploring contemplative pedagogy in Jewish traditions, while Heather Warren has worked with more Christian contemplative traditions in her teaching. Other programs of contemplative practice are being designed for such departments as biology, while faculty with contemplative interests are found in English, Anthropology, and elsewhere.