Laurie Anderson

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Hi, my name is Laurie Anderson, and I’m honored to be profiled here. I’ll tell you a bit about myself and how I ended up here. My day job is Executive Director of Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Vancouver campus (http://www.sfu.ca/campuses/vancouver.html), a job with a “management” function (budget, space, library, IT, operations, etc) and a much more stimulating “leadership” function (deeply engaging students, faculty, staff and the community). In my “spare” time, I’m an Adjunct prof in SFU’s faculty of Education, as well as the Associate and Senior Facilitator with SFU’s Centre for Dialogue. I like to joke that I took this job at SFU (after 30 odd years in the K-12 system) to recoup my tuition fees for my three degrees from SFU over the decades.

In my day job, I try to manifest a contemplative approach to my work, attempting to create the conditions that foster inclusion, laughter, safety and belonging. I work with incredible colleagues who have helped us create a wellness centre that offers meditation, yoga and Zumba class (free!) for faculty, staff and students together. We have also introduced lots of initiatives that bring us together: Lunch Poems, Tea at Three socials, a walking club and our newly created First People’s Gathering Place. I think of these sorts of activities as “love-based”: simple yet powerful ways to build community, belonging, and joy. These attributes are not the first things people typically think of when universities come to mind, yet to me they are essential pre-conditions for engaging intellectual pursuits.

But the real reason I’m being profiled here, presumably, is that along with my wonderful colleague, Dr Heesoon, I developed and now teach in our graduate degree in Contemplative Inquiry. Our first cohort of 23 students started the two year program last September, and a similar sized cohort began this past September. The students are mostly K-12 teachers, but we also have health care professionals and one or two from business. What attracts these students to the program is a desire to attend to and incorporate their inner ways of knowing into their academic studies. The various professors who teach in the six course program are committed to honoring 1st person and 3rd person ways of knowing, as well as the 2nd way of knowing – how these two “worlds” intersect. We are united in our belief that building students’ “contemplative capacity” fosters more compassion, engagement, consciousness and resilience.

It’s been a remarkable journey for all of us involved. The students are exploring their various areas of inquiry (mindfulness programs in schools, contemplative practices in social justice work and climate change advocacy, transforming the school experience for disadvantaged inner city youth, addressing the marked increase in anxiety and depression among students at all levels). We all feel that in attending to the epistemology of our inner world, we help create a more humane, fulfilling, diverse and accepting environment for all forms of human learning and development.

I would be pleased to share more information if needed. Thanks for this opportunity

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