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WCU Makes Space for Mindfulness

A dedicated room on North Campus will be open for reflective practices

Just as there is no single definition for "mindfulness," there is no single place to practice it. But West Chester University now has a dedicated space on North Campus where students, faculty, staff, and the greater community can stop in for a few minutes or longer to "be present," breathe, refocus, reflect, or meditate. The welcome sign is up for the University’s Center for Contemplative Studies at 700 South Church Street, Ehinger Gym Annex.

The center, which is staffed by professionals trained in mental health first-aid, is a holistic safe-space for students and the entire community to explore health and wellness, friendship and solidarity. Its function is to help students reduce stress and improve overall self-regulation and self-awareness, while also supporting area neighbors in an effort to improve the well-being of all citizens.

The first classes begin on Monday, Sept. 26 and grand opening day is Wednesday, Sept. 28, when the center will offer a variety of contemplative practices from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. including meditation, yoga, T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Reiki, Sensory Awareness, and Compassion Practice. The sessions sample the center's fall schedule of free classes. A Saturday series is open to the public.

At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, special guest Pat Croce will ring a gong signaling the official opening for the center. A gift of $250,000 from the former ’76ers owner and WCU alumnus and his wife, Diane, helped the University expand awareness of the center and the programs it offers. Croce, who is more well-known for his high-energy personality, is a proponent of contemplative practices like mindfulness, yoga and meditation, which he says have helped him focus and achieve stillness and a peaceful state. The Croces intend for their support to help students recognize and take advantage of the valuable benefits that come from training the mind and body through contemplative practices.

Center co-directors Don McCown, associate professor of health, and Christine Moriconi, associate professor of nursing, also noted that the generosity of the Croces’ as well as of the dean of the WCU College of Health Science provides for mental health first aid training for all CCS staff and will enable them to offer graduate assistantships.

Thanks to support from an anonymous donor, the center will host a "Science, Spirit, and Health" speaker series exploring the scientific evidence for mind-body medicine as well as critical reactions. Says McCown, "This series is a way of becoming informed — by trusted experts — about such important topics as mindfulness, meditation, and prayer; the many roles of religion in healthcare; and the legal, political, and ethical dimensions of this approach."

The series begins Thursday, Nov. 3, with Anne Harrington, the Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, discussing "When Medicine Engages Spirituality: Why We Want That, Why We Worry."

Explore the Center for Contemplative Studies, which has offered academic and extracurricular programs through the College of Health Sciences since 2011.