Meditating in silence with palms facing upward and eyes closed would seem a practice reserved for monks.
And while Keuka College has played host to the Venerable Lama Tenzin Yignyen, an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk, meditation can also fit into the lives of Keuka students, faculty and staff.
So says Nicole Hunt, mindfulness meditation instructor, who will begin weekly meditation sessions Tuesday, Feb. 12. The program is cosponsored by the Center for Spiritual Life (CSL) and Academic Success at Keuka (ASK).
Hunt wanted to bring meditation to the College to show students how to focus their attention.
“You have the power to choose where you want your attention to go and sometimes we don’t understand that,” explained Hunt, who also teaches tai chi classes at the College. “I want to show the College community how to focus its attention on the positive things in their lives and not so much on the negative things. I want to teach the community to respond more and react less.”
Mindful meditation is a research-based form of meditation derived from a 2,500-year-old Buddhist practice. A secular technique for enhancing positive life skills, mindful meditation has been shown to reduce stress, develop balance and prioritization, and increase the effectiveness of interpersonal and intrapersonal activities, among other benefits.
College Chaplain Rev. Eric Detar says the CSL is interested in the success of students in their academic, spiritual, and personal lives.
“Meditation has been growing in popularity across campuses nationwide, and by offering meditation at Keuka, we have another opportunity to help students succeed,” he said.
And that is music to the ears of Jeffrey Carter, academic skills counselor for ASK and an adjunct instructor in the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).
“The primary focus of ASK is retention through academic support, and we see meditation as another retention tool for our students,” said Carter. “Meditation sessions at Keuka are needed because students experience stress and can have scattered thoughts. Meditation can help reduce these while developing more positive life skills.”
“I have always had a deep interest in understanding the mind-body connection,” said Hunt. “Through meditation, we learn to quiet the cognitive mind and awaken our feeling-awareness for the present moment. It is here that intuition and embodied learning can take place.”
Detar says the College is “fortunate to have Nicole,” while Carter hopes the skills Hunt will teach “are such that students can expect a greater focus in their lives, which may translate into better grades.”
“We hope that if a student runs into a conflict with a roommate, the meditation sessions they attended will remind them to stop for a minute, collect their thoughts, and proceed to resolve the conflict,” said Detar. “Meditation can also be useful for those who may have test anxiety and let them breathe, focus, and maybe have a more productive test time.”
Hunt has been practicing movement-based meditation techniques, including tai chi, qigong, and yoga, for more than 10 years, and is in her fourth year teaching mindfulness-based movement techniques at Finger Lakes Community College.
Meditation sessions will be held every Tuesday at 4:30-5:30 p.m. in the Norton Chapel meditation room.
For more information, contact Hunt at [email protected]
Winning the Keuka College Golf Classic has become a habit for the team of Kyle Reagan ’05, Roger Jensen, Scott Jensen ’07, and Josh Robinson ’09.
The foursome have carved their names on the trophy three times in the past four years and was favored to make it four out of five at the 12th renewal of the event July 18 at Lakeside Country Club in Penn Yan.
Reagan, Jensen, Jensen, and Robinson delivered once again, although they were pushed to the limit by the team of Jim Stork, Matt Stork, Jeff Zimar, and Ben Stewart.
Both teams carded 13-under par 59s, with first place determined by a match of scorecards.
The team of Mike Sweet ’03, Jenn Sweet, Mike Heib, and Bryan Lanahan won the mixed team division with a 62 while Paul O’Neill, Jean O’Neill, Bob Meriwether, and Glenn Rolls returned a 61 to win the senior division.
Marty Sample and Jenn Sweet won the longest drive competitions while Judy Erwin, Doug Lippincott ’11, Jesse Bond, and Sweet won closest-to-the-pin prizes.
The tournament benefits the Deb Manahan Golf Classic Scholarship, which carries the name of the late Penn Yan resident, avid golfer and Keuka College benefactor. In its first 11 years, the tournament raised some $137,000 for the scholarship, awarded annually to Keuka students from the Finger Lakes region.
To see more of golfers in action at the Keuka Classic, click here.
If you are a student who wants to raise your GPA, all you have to do is ASK.
Make an appointment with Academic Success at Keuka, that is. The ASK office provides academic counseling and disability services, as well as peer and professional tutoring in writing and other subjects.
“While students with disabilities are our constant population, we are available to help all students enhance study skills, improve time management, and earn better grades,” said Carole Lillis, director of ASK.
But it is students with disabilities for whom the office has made a big impact; just look at the statistics from the last four years.
In fall 2006, there were 25 freshmen with documented disabilities, according to Lillis. Seventeen of those students sought academic support services through ASK; eight of them did not. The median first semester GPA for the 17 freshmen was 2.769. The median first semester GPA for the eight freshmen was 2.062.
The biggest difference between the two groups—those who sought help and those who did not—was in retention.
Fifteen of the 17 students are still enrolled at Keuka this semester for an 88 percent retention rate. None of the eight students are still enrolled.
“It’s not just us (the ASK office) [responsible for the achievement],” said Lillis. “It is the success of the students, faculty, and advisers.”
Another impressive statistic: of the 16 students on academic probation this academic year who were referred to ASK and worked with Academic Skills Counselor Kathy Snow, all 16 of them got off of academic probation.
“Making an academic connection is key to retention,” said Lillis. “We have an opportunity to make an academic connection.”
And that connection is established early on. Assistant Director of ASK Jennifer Robinson presents freshmen and transfer students in FYE (First-Year Experience) 101 with information on note taking, textbook reading, and managing time.
Lillis and Robinson serve as advisers to exploratory students who have not yet declared a major.
“I try to get them into a January Field Period right off the bat,” said Lillis. “That way they can experience a profession [in which they are interested].”
Lillis and Academic Skills Counselor Pam Jennings teach English 100: Fundamentals of College Reading and Writing (a non-credit bearing, developmental course designed to prepare students for English 110: College English I) and 110. They also have writing conferences with these students on a weekly basis.
In addition to Snow, Amy Sellers also serves as an academic skills counselor, and holds Sunday hours in addition to weekday availability.
“We (the professional staff) have about 2,100 appointments with students each semester,” said Lillis.
That doesn’t include appointments for the Achieving a College Education (ACE) program, in which upperclassmen serve as consultants/coaches to first-year students who elect to participate during their first semester. ASK monitors the progress of the participants, in addition to recruiting, hiring and supervising writing and content-area tutors.
In March, Lillis and Robinson (who oversees ACE) presented academic retention data related to the ACE program at the International Mentoring Association conference.
Since 2005, 181 students have been invited to participate in the ACE program. A total of 79 students elected to participate while 102 did not. The first semester GPAs of the participants averaged 2.51, while the first semester GPAs of the non-participations averaged 1.82. Forty-eight of the 79 participants in 2005 are still enrolled at the College or graduated for a 60.8 percent retention rate. Forty-one of the 102 eligible non-participants are still enrolled for a 40.2 percent retention rate.
“People from other schools, the Army, and the CIA were in attendance [at the conference],” said Lillis. “And many of them wanted to know how we did it. Our students connect to ACE clients.”
Sophomore organizational communication major Ryan Nichols was one of those clients last year.
“As a first generation student, I wanted to learn how to best study and what else I could do to achieve academically,” said Nichols. “I was able to achieve above a 3.0 GPA my first semester and go on to be an ACE coach.”
According to senior criminology/criminal justice major and two-year ACE coach Brittany Bridenbaker, the experience prepared her for her criminal justice senior practicum working with children.
Said Bridenbaker: “I was able to use the skills I developed as an ACE coach to build a good rapport and establish trust with [the children].”