Engaged Scholars Program

CONTEMPLATIVE STUDIES ENGAGED SCHOLARS CONCENTRATION

Contemplatives, in all traditions and throughout history, have tended to live their lives along a spectrum.  At one end are the recluses, those who withdraw from the world and live in seclusion:  one thinks of the yogi living in a mountain cave.  At the other end are the activists, those who are engaged in the struggle fo peace, justice, and social equality.  One thinks of Martin Luther King, Thich Nhat Hanh, Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Tenzin Gyatso, Nelson Mandela, A.K. Ariyaratne, and countless others, all deeply contemplative and all deeply engaged in transforming the world.  Contemplative education requires that we introduce our students to this broad range of possibilities, so they can decide for themselves how they would like to bring their contemplative lives to helping solve some of the major social, environmental, and global problems of the 21st century.  

The purpose of this program is to examine the relationship between individual complative practice and activities that engage major social issues in new and creative ways.  Through study in our program, and through their own contemplative practice, students in the Contemplative Studies Engaged Scholars Program (COST ESP) will investigate the application of contemplative methods to a variety of social, environmental, and global problems.  They will learn to critically assess the particular psychological, social, and cultural conditions that allow for successful contributions from contemplative practices, and to critically evaluate practices such as attention-training as a means to facilitate altruistic responses to real-life situations.  

Students in the COST ESP will be required to take:

  • The five core courses for all Contemplative Studies concentrators.
  • Six more courses, four from the courses in either the Sciences or Humanities tracks and two from the list below.  The Capstone Course can be included in this total of six courses.   
  • COST 1950 - The Concentrators Seminar. 

The Engaged Scholars Program accepted the applications for its last cohort in Fall 2020, so any student wanting to apply from this point forward will be applying to the new Engaged Scholarship Certificate launching this Spring (2021). To apply for the certificate you need to be in your fifth semester and have taken and be currently enrolled in at least two courses that will apply to the certificate.  You can only have one concentration in order to apply for the certificate.  Please stay tuned for further details on this new program. 

Meanwhile, you can review the requirements for the old Engaged Scholars Program below:

ESP Application:  Students apply to ESP when declaring their concentration in ASK, typically in the second semester of their sophomore year. ESP is selective and applications will be reviewed by departments and ESP staff in mid-April of the application year. Students will be contacted by ESP staff directly about their application status. If you miss the deadline but are interested in applying, contact: [email protected] it is typical that students apply to the Engaged Scholars Program during sophomore year when declaring a concentration, you may revise your declaration to apply to the Engaged Scholars Program if you have enough remaining semesters at Brown to complete the program requirements. 

ESP Seminar:  ESP students take the required ESP seminar, The Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship, that examines the theory, practice, and ethics of engaged scholarship through readings, case studies, site visits, and visits from faculty and practitioners.  The course examines the field of engaged scholarship, highlights local community-university relationships and projects, and situates students’ studies at Brown within these contexts.

Students emerge from the seminar with a critical understanding of engaged work and with practical skills to continue their community-engaged scholarship. Students also develop relationships across disciplines with other ESP students through the seminar and spend significant time researching capstone plans.

ESP Seminar: Theory and Practice of Engaged Scholarship (SOC 0310).  Syllabus and course information available on [email protected]

All ESP students take a required seminar that examines the theory and practice of engaged scholarship through readings, case studies, guest faculty speakers, site visits, skill-based workshops, and visits from practitioners and non-university-based stakeholders whose work exemplifies key issues explored in the course.  

Typically, ESP students enroll in this course in the fall semester of their junior year. At least one ESP seminar will be held each semester. Through the ESP seminar, students develop habits of self-reflection and eloquent listening along with related competencies such as community inquiry, partnership development and collaboration, intercultural competency, and systems thinking.  The course examines the field of engaged scholarship, local community-university relationships and projects, and situates students’ studies at Brown within these contexts. Students emerge from the seminar with a critical understanding of engaged work and with practical skills to continue their community-engaged scholarship.

ESP Practicum:  ESP students complete significant experiential work with community partners and non-academic stakeholders via an ESP practicum. A practicum is an intensive engagement experience (150-250 hours) – an internship, a significant and rigorous volunteer experience, a fellowship, or another kind of meaningful engagement with an organization or project. 

The purpose of the practicum is to deepen students’ academic learning through work on a significant social challenge in a practice-based setting. The practicum provides opportunities for students to learn first-hand about different types of organizations; about the complexities of participating in enacting community change and creating impact; and about their own interests and possibilities as active citizens and agents of change.  The practicum also helps students explore possible career pathways, develop skills and capacities that are useful in multiple contexts, and cultivate habits of self-reflection. 

An ESP practicum is a structured, practice-based, challenging work experience with a community partner.  The purpose of this intensive engagement experience – which could be an internship, significant and rigorous volunteer experience, or a fellowship – is to deepen students’ academic learning through work on a significant social challenge in a practice-based setting.  The practicum provides opportunities for students to learn first-hand about different types of organizations; about the complexities of participating in enacting community change and creating impact; and about their own interests and possibilities as active citizens and agents of change.  The practicum also helps students explore possible career pathways, develop skills and capacities that are useful in multiple contexts, and cultivate habits of self-reflection.The ESP practicum requirement can be met in several different ways: 

  • Non-credit bearing practicums: At least 150-250 hours during the summer, academic year, or combination. Non-credit bearing ESP practicums can be either unpaid/volunteer OR paid by an employer, through a LINK/SEW award or via other funding identified by student. Non-credit bearing practicums are supervised by ESP staff. 
  • Credit-bearing practicums: At least 150-250 hours, during the school year. Credit can be awarded by a supervising professor as an independent study or by participation in an approved  "practicum course” (for example, POLS 1821: RI Government and Politics).  For-credit ESP practicums are supervised by faculty. 

All students doing their ESP practicum will develop a work plan and complete a serieof assignments designed to generate meaningful reflection on the practicum experience.

Students are welcome to find or develop their own practicums; ESP staff also have several community partnerships and are happy to make recommendations and connections for students. ESP students are encouraged to attend office hours with ESP staff to discuss practicum ideas.

ESP Learning Community:  The Engaged Scholars student community meets regularly for workshops, lectures, and other gatherings. ESP programming builds skills; establishes cross-disciplinary networks of relationships on campus and beyond; and helps students deepen their understanding of the ethics and practice of engaged scholarship.

Programming is grounded in an ongoing practice of critical reflection through which students articulate connections between their academic study and the external contexts and communities within which they work.

ESP Capstone:  Students’ concentration-based work culminates with a credit-bearing ESP capstone project, which may be completed through a departmentally-sponsored capstone course, Departmental Independent Study Project (DISP), or a Group Independent Study Project (GISP).  The ESP capstone requirement may also be fulfilled through honors thesis work, if that work embodies core elements of an engaged capstone, delineated below, and meets specific concentration requirements (please check with your faculty advisor). ESP Capstones are for-credit and involve a faculty advisor.

ESP students are encouraged to use a practicum experience and/or other significant engagement experiences with partner organizations outside of Brown as a basis for developing a capstone.  An ESP capstone might involve a continued relationship with that organization or project, or it might build on relationships developed with people and/or content from the practicum.  Alternately, the practicum experience may have opened up a different set of relationships or questions that you would like to investigate through your capstone.

The following best practices define the purpose of ESP capstones:

  • An ESP capstone functions as a culminating experience that demonstrates mastery of the key learning outcomes of both your discipline/concentration (see Focal Point) and engaged scholarship (see Swearer Center learning outcomes).
  • ESP capstones place engaged learning experiences and questions in larger frames of reference – both in terms of responsibility to community partners and knowledge and the context for the work.
  • ESP capstones are communicated to a public audience, either through a written or digital product or oral presentation.

Note: You do not need to complete a separate capstone for your departmental requirements. In most cases, this capstone will qualify.

CONTEMPLATIVE STUDIES ENGAGED SCHOLARS PROGRAM COURSES

HIST 0150C:  Locked Up:  A Global History of Prisons and Captivity (Remensnyder)
A long history lies behind the millions of men and women locked up today as prisoners, captives and hostages.  Beginning in antiquity and ending in the present, this course draws on materials from a variey of cultures across the world to explore incarceration's centuries-old past.  In examining the experience and meaning of imprisonment, whether as judicial punishment, political repression, or the fallout of war, the class will ask fundamental questions about liberty as well.  History 150 courses introduce students to methods of historical analysis, interpretation and argumentation.  This course presumes no previous history courses.

HMAN 1971F:  World of Walden Pond:  Transcendentalism as a Social and Intellectual Movement (Sacks)
The World of Walden Pond examines the 19th century phenomenon of Transcendentalism:  this country's most romanticized religious, philosophical, and literary movement.  Focusing on Emerson, Thoreau, and Fuller, we'll examine the ideas of the Transcendentalists in the age of reform and evaluate the application of their principles to abolition, feminism, and nature.  The central problem which they wrestled with will be the focus, too, of our investigations:  then tension between individualism and conformity.  

RELS 0068:  Religion and Torture (Bush) 
The debates about the moral and legal status of torture have acquired a new urgency since 9/11.  People are now questioning the consensus of law and human rights declarations that torture is never permissible. Indeed, some argue that in extreme cases, it may be obligatory to torture a captive for information that could save many lives.  This class explores the recent debates about torture from secular and religious perspectives.  It also deals with the more general themes related to torture:  What are the nature and effects of pain?  Are human beings sacred, and does sacredness involve a prohibition against torture?

RELS 0260:  Religion Gone Wild:  Spirituality and the Environment (Cladis)
A study of the dynamic relation between religion, ethics, and ecology.  Religion, in this course, includes forms of religion within and outside the bounds of conventional religious traditions.  The religions we study include Buddhism and Christianity, on the one hand:  and ecofeminism, nature literature, and Australian Aboriginal religion, on the other.   Topics include:  religious depictions of creation, nature, and the place of humans in the natural world; religions' contribution to environmental degradation and environmental health; religion and environmental justice; and environmentalism as a form of religion.  This course is taught in the tradition of the liberal arts, exposing us to cultural history and to ethical inquiry.  "What is the relevanace of this material to me and to my community?" will be an implicit, sometimes explicit, question in this course.  

COST 0410 (RELS 0290E):  Engaged Buddhism (Roth)
"Engaged Buddhism" is a term used to describe social activism that applies Buddhist insight and ethics.  This course will examine the historical background of engaged Buddhism, explore its central concepts, analyze it theoretically, and look at practical applications.  Since many engaged Buddhist movements employ meditation, we will also study, first hand, the effects of meditation on prosocial attitudes in the "Meditation Labs" that are integral to the pedagogy of the course. Students will have the option of class projects on engaged scholarship that will be worked out with the Swearer Center for Public Policy.  

COST 1080 (PHP 1880):  Meditation, Mindfulness and Health (Loucks)
This course provides an overview on the relation of meditation and mindfulness (the ability to attend in a nonjudgemental way to one's own physical and mental processes during ordinary, everyday tasks) with various health outcomes and disease risk factors such as depression, anxiety, pain management, diet, substance use, and cardiovascular disease.  Mechanisms by which mindfulness may influence health will be addressed.  The course will assess studies in the field for methodological rigor, and students will be taught strengths and weaknesses of current research.  Students will be taught various mindfulness practices including direct experience with mindfulness meditation.  

PHP 1920:  Social Determinants of Health (Loucks)
This course provides an overview of social determinants of health.  Examples of topics include health effects of educational attainment, social integration, racial discrimination, childhood psychosocial environment, mindfulness and job strain.  Mixed teaching methods will be used, such as small and large group discussions, debates, student presentations, and lectures.  The human body is embedded in communities with particular attributes such as collective lifestyles and health practices, population-based health programs, economics, health services, built environments and social characteristics.  Those communities are embedded within contexts of the natural environment, culture and politics, which all exist within a particular place and time in history.  These upstream factors influence health and the physiologic underpinnings of disease.

Note:  It is possible to take other courses in order to fulfil your ESP requirement.  You must consult with your COST and ESP advisors for approval. 

Contact
Anne Heyrman-Hart, Program and Financial Coordinator for Contemplative Studies, ([email protected]