The Frederick P. Lenz Residential Fellowship in Buddhism and American Culture and Values
This is an opportunity for faculty and other professionals to spend a semester on the Naropa University campus in Boulder, Colorado, conducting a research, artistic, social action, or other project that relates Buddhist philosophy and practice to an aspect of American culture and values. This is an ideal place for a Buddhism fellowship, Religious Studies fellowship, or sabbatical fellowship in Religion.
Previous Scholars by Academic Year
2021–2022: Ruth Wallen // Walking with Trees
For the past decade, I have been walking with some of the hundreds of millions of trees dying from beetles, drought, fire and more, bearing witness to the mounting devastation while sharing my experiences through photography, writing, installation and digital displays. In the face of worsening ecological crises, I believe that Buddhist wisdom is vital to fully experiencing the wonder of being alive, cultivating compassion and empathy, developing the courage to grieve, and igniting the will to change the perilous course of ecological devastation. The Lenz Fellowship will allow me to deepen the focus of my work, expanding my reach from southern California and the Sierras to the Rocky Mountains, while working to articulate Buddhist insights. In particular I plan to investigate Buddhist teachings and practices on interconnectivity, cultivating the sense perceptions as gateways to awareness, developing bodhicitta, and recognizing the sacredness of the world. All of these teachings are crucial to working with ecological grief—to staying present with pain and loss while grounded in the unconditioned brilliance of a degraded world. The outcome of my explorations will include a series of essays interweaving my learning from practice, study and walking with trees.
2020–2021: Elizabeth Maynard, PhD // Embodied Pedagogies for Liberatory Art Practices
This fellowship supports the development of art history and art pedagogies rooted in embodied practices. The alleged meritocracies that govern many higher educational cultures in the United States (often linked to supremacist constructions of individual excellence) contribute to significant rates of anxiety, depression, and burnout among students, especially in BIPOC communities. In reckoning with my personal experience as a student and an adjunct professor, combined with my observation of the experiences of my students at the highly competitive Rhode Island School of Design, my research and teaching-learning methodologies have turned towards the possibilities of body-mind based epistemologies within educational institutions. My work as an educator and scholar have been both personally and methodologically informed by my Buddhist-lineage meditation practice, by way of Jewish Renewal interpretive models. The decentering of Self implicit in both is reflected in the post-Modernist project of art history, while somatic awareness is foundational to exploring alternatives to Englightenment-era Western epistemologies, as well as cultivating spaces for transformative praxis among students and faculty in a neoliberal environment. I plan to produce and publish sharable teaching modules for anti-oppression educators aiming to integrate contemplative and embodied practices into artistic/creative pedagogy.
2019–2020: Kathleen Yep, PhD // Integrating Contemplative Practices in Palliative Care by and for Immigrants and Refugees
In collaboration with a community partner, I will co-develop a transformative justice curriculum by and for undocumented immigrants and refugees. Weaving together contemplative practices, public health, and feminist pedagogies, this project centers loving-kindness practices to amplify community strategies for surviving and thriving after release from immigration detention centers. In doing so, we will reimagine palliative care in the context of historical trauma and community cultural wealth.
2018–2019: Stephanie Briggs // Visioning the Eightfold Path: Liberatory Contemplative Practical Empowerment for African-American Educators
Stephanie Briggs is an independent scholar/artist and owner/designer of Be.Still.Move., a program of contemplative, compassionate community building through embodied movement and arts-based learning. She has created racially sensitive self-care programs for the STEM Women of Color Conclave, Howard University Hospital, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Her recent research, “Practical Empowerment: Building Contemplative Communities With Student of Color” funded by a grant from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, consisted of a think tank of faculty of color from six institutions focusing on the value of contemplative communities on college campuses. Based on qualitative assessments, this year-long project determined that incorporating personal, practical strategies through contemplative pedagogical processes that were partially informed by African/African-American practices were key elements when creating safe, academic spaces. Stephanie Briggs’ 2018-2019 Lenz Fellowship project will address inequities towards African-American faculty, particularly those in predominately white institutions (PWIs), through community-based practices that contextualize Buddhist and African/African-American spirituality wisdoms. By also incorporating art and movement-based theories, the goal is to uncover ways of rethinking and releasing suffering and, through the creation of training modules, establish the groundwork for personal, transformative change through contemplative, communal practices designed for African-American faculty.
2016–2017: Jennifer Woodhull // Working with Violence from an Inclusive Worldview
Both at home and abroad, Americans are increasingly being obliged to confront the issue of violence. Conventional solutions have proven inadequate to the the scope and urgency of the problem. Similarly, appeals to religious values of compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, and the like seem to have yielded sparse fruit. Violence of every kind, religious and otherwise, continues to vex the contemporary American situation. The 2016–17 Lenz Fellowship project is based on the proposition that, as in the observation popularly attributed to Albert Einstein, a problem cannot be solved by the same consciousness that gave rise to it. A more radical approach is required: literally radical, in the sense of addressing the roots of violent human conduct. The Lenz project will seek to uncover and amplify clues to such an approach through a hands-on engagement with the nondual worldview of Vajrayāna Buddhism. The Naropa community will be invited to help create a radio presentation that encourages listeners to identify and befriend the habitual violence in their own experience. The design of the project itself serves as a model for the inclusive perspective from which may be glimpsed a novel, and conceivably effective, approach to the problem of violence.
2015–2016: Ryūmon Baldoquin, Sensei // Contemplative Somatic Wellness™: A Body-Mind Centered Movement for Spiritual Social Activism
Ryūmon Hilda Baldoquín Sensei, MS.Ed, SEP®, an independent scholar-activist and practitioner, is guiding teacher and co-founder, with her spouse Catherine Anraku Hondorp Sensei, of Two Streams Zen, a Multicultural Dharma Movement with the mission of transforming people and communities through fearless intimacy and living compassion. Ryūmon Sensei’s project, Contemplative Somatic Wellness™: A Body-Mind Centered Movement for Spiritual Social Activism, arose out of the profound need to address the present societal suffering of: the historical legacy of racial oppression, institutionalized structural inequities, and the healing of intergenerational trauma which continues to live in our physiology. Guided by a vision of a true spiritual activism that embodies sanity, wisdom and compassion, the project integrates the essence of Zen Buddhist teachings and practices with the trauma resolution modality of Somatic Experiencing®, grounded in the theory of Emancipatory Consciousness. With the intention of creating a body-centered social justice movement, Contemplative Somatic Wellness™ isaholistic and integrative application of these three transformative vehicles. The outcome is the design of protocols, practices, and strategies towards the implementation of a somatic immersion contemplative, ninety-day retreat for the training and mentorship of social justice leaders of color—an important, and sorely needed, development in American Buddhism.
2014–2015: Melissa Rolnick, MFA // MEISA: Movement Exploration through Imagery and Sensory Awareness
Melissa Rolnick currently teaches dance at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. Integrating her background in dance and contemplative practice, Melissa has developed a somatic approach termed MEISA: Movement Exploration through Imagery and Sensory Awareness. MEISA is a burgeoning somatic and contemplative practice/form that is evolving out of the questing need to know, live and move deeply in the authenticity of the body, by consciously stepping away from the relentless tempo of contemporary, American rhythms. Her presence at Naropa will be a unique experience for the University community to assist in the form's development. The practice will be taught in a one-semester course in Spring of 2015 consisting of contemplative practice, choreography generated from the embodied research/practice, and a performance practice realized through individual and group compositions.
2013–14: Douglas Lindner, PhD
Douglas Lindner received his PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois. He has been a faculty member in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech since 1982. In April of 2013 he organized a conference "Contemplative Practices for a Technological Society" at Virginia Tech. He practices meditation and qigong in the Shambhala sangha. While at Naropa University, Douglas Lindner developed course materials for the integration of contemplative practices into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education. Using Buddhist and Taoist insights, this course was used to develop mindfulness, deep listening skills, and creativity with an emphasis on a holistic worldview as a framework for engineering design.
2012–13: Sarah J. Heidt, PhD // Contemplative Pedagogies for Literary Study
Sarah J. Heidt is an associate professor of English at Kenyon College, where she teaches nineteenth-century British literature and culture, auto/biography and life-writing, women's writing, and literatures of memory. She holds a PhD in English from Cornell University and has published essays about Victorian life-writing and contemporary memoir and film. She began Zen practice in 2010 and is a formal student at Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York. While at Naropa in spring 2013, she explored intersections of contemplative practice and literary study.
2011–12: David R. Loy, PhD // The Great Encounter: Why Buddhism and Modernity Need Each Other
Dr. David R. Loy is a professor of Buddhist and comparative philosophy, writer and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism. He is a distinguished author who has written several books and is regularly published in multiple publications, as well as serving on editorial and advising boards for various journals. Dr. Loy’s past research has focused upon the encounter between Buddhism and modernity, exhibiting special concern regarding social and ecological issues. His fellowship question, why Buddhism and modernity need each other, correlated directly to his research. While at Naropa, he began writing a new book that reveals the contemplative dialogue between Buddhism and the West.
2011–12: Arturo J. Bencosme, PhD // Heart to Organizations: Contemplativeness-based Organizational Learning and Strategic Thinking
Originally studying engineering, Dr. Arturo J. Bencosme has been involved with organizational learning for over 30 years. His work includes teaching, management, and individual work with private, public, and nonprofit service organizations. Dr. Bencosme has served as a consultant, facilitator, and educator in the fields of visionary strategic planning, organizational leadership and servant leadership. As a fellow at Naropa, he was interested in developing a contemplative approach to enhancing learning in organizations. In conjunction with Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, Dr. Bencosme’s project explores how contemplativeness, especially meditation, can affect organizations. His work focused upon how contemplativeness is demonstrated in the work place and how Naropa graduates can bring contemplative practice into the work place. Dr. Bencosme worked on expanding the outreach of Naropa into the organizational world including businesses, nonprofits and so forth, and to strengthen the personal and professional journeys of Naropa’s students.
The program is designed to provide scholars, artists, activists and other leaders and practitioners from a variety of disciplines with an opportunity to reside in Boulder, Colorado, and affiliate with Naropa University during their sabbatical or other professional leave. It supports visiting fellows in the development of an artistic, social action, curriculum development or other research project on some aspect of Buddhism’s contributions to American education and society. The residential experience affords fellows an opportunity to immerse themselves in the university’s varied curricular and community offerings, as well as complete a program of study and a project that contributes to their own professional field or another area of American culture and society.
No. The program is available to faculty, artists, activists, leaders and independent scholar-practitioners who seek to immerse themselves in the study of Buddhism and complete a project that applies Buddhist philosophy and practice to some area of American culture and values.
Yes, only citizens and permanent residents of the United States are eligible for the Fellowship Program.
We hope to provide each fellow with an experience tailored to their professional background, interests and proposed project. During their residency on the Naropa campus, fellows will be able to audit classes. Also, they will be assigned a Naropa faculty member to serve as project mentor and/or meditation instructor. Fellows will be encouraged to become involved in the life of the university, attending guest lectures and recitals, meeting with students and offering a public lecture or other teaching.
Fellows will be expected to:
- Immerse themselves in the educational opportunities of the university—auditing courses, meeting regularly with faculty, attending university functions, accessing library resources, etc.
- Complete the project proposed in the application to the fellows program.
- Present a public lecture or demonstration, conduct a classroom session, and/or offer some contemplative practice or artistic performance. Fellows will also provide a final presentation on the outcome of their project and their fellowship.
- Develop a plan for implementing the project after the residency. This may include a plan for publication, teaching, community service and so on.
- Acknowledge the fellowship support, as well as both Naropa University and the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism, in all publications, performances or other products resulting from the residency.
We will select fellows whose plans of study propose the integration of Buddhist Studies with contemplative practice and illustrate a disciplinary, artistic or professional commitment. No prior academic knowledge of Buddhism will be required of applicants, although those applicants with prior meditation experience in one of the Buddhist traditions will have an advantage. Finally, applicants should demonstrate a commitment to participate in a rigorous program of study while at Naropa and to use the vehicle of the proposed project to integrate this study with their other professional interests. (Please note: Only citizens and permanent residents of the United States are eligible for the Fellowship Program.)
There is no limit to the academic, artistic or professional focus of the fellowship projects. We envision being able to support traditional academic scholarship, curriculum development, social action projects, professional training modules, artistic productions, and the like. The key is for projects to point to some issue in American social life (education, the arts, economics, politics, etc.) and propose study within the Buddhist tradition to address that issue.
Both the foundation and the university are interested in the unique forms of Buddhism taking root in America. The fellowship program continues Naropa’s leadership role as the pre-eminent accredited university in North America for contemplative studies and a provider of education that integrates Eastern and Western traditions of scholarship and practice. Along with the Summer Seminar in contemplative pedagogy for university professors, the fellowship program enables Naropa to support professionals wanting to enrich their work and their home institutions and communities through a deeper understanding of Buddhism.
Of course, Naropa will no doubt be enriched by hosting fellows as well. It is our hope that the fellows will energize the Naropa campus, by providing our students and faculty with new conversation partners, by offering a public lecture or teaching a course, and by serving as ambassadors to their home departments and disciplines. We also know that new institutional partnerships, collaborative relationships and publications carrying the name of the home institution and sponsoring foundation often live on long after the fellows have completed their campus residency and project at Naropa. Sponsoring multiple visiting fellows each year will provide Naropa faculty and students with opportunities to network with individuals representing a variety of scholarly and Buddhist traditions.
Naropa takes to heart the commitment of the Lenz Foundation to “contribute to the establishment of unique American forms of Buddhist understanding and practice.” Like Dr. Frederick P. Lenz, Naropa’s founder, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, recognized the spiritual challenges that America’s fast-paced and materialist society holds for its citizens. Both Lenz and Trungpa Rinpoche understood the contribution that Buddhism—albeit a distinctly American one—can make to addressing these challenges. Naropa is proud of its forty years of success in forging a unique model of liberal arts and professional education and is delighted that the Lenz Foundation will expand our ability to influence scholars and other professionals in this area for years to come.
Fellows will typically be invited to spend one semester on campus, though a longer stay is possible to support a project of considerable depth and complexity.
The typical stipend for a one-semester fellowship is $16,000. Fellows are responsible for finding living arrangements for their residency in Boulder. Naropa staff will provide information and resources to assist with finding living arrangements.