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Professors’ “Best Idea” Wins Multidisciplinary Research Grant

By Lindsey Anderson

Marketing Professor Sonya Grier.

Marketing Professor Sonya Grier.

Four AU faculty members and their "best idea" to examine environmentalism through a new interdisciplinary lens recently won a $6,000 research grant.

“The Best Idea” Grant, from AU’s Center for Teaching, Research and Learning (CTRL), aims to support a team of multidisciplinary faculty as they develop critical knowledge on a research subject. The team can use the grant for conference fees, student workers, computer software, or other needs. Ideally, their work will evolve into a larger research venture.

The team's innovative proposal, “Integrative Environmental Studies Program: Consciousness and the Environment,” examines environmentalism from a different perspective: mindfulness and contemplation.

Mindfulness is heightened clarity, focus and awareness that often grows from mindful meditation. It can be used to solve problems and move towards future goals. Activists such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., were known for their use of mindfulness practices to influence social change.

"They used mindfulness to understand the appropriate use of action and the need for action, to cultivate awareness and to empower themselves and others towards a just course of action," said Professor Deborah Norris of the College of Arts & Sciences.

The professors will hold a spring workshop on environmental consciousness and contemplation, but they have not yet decided other specifics of their project.

"That's the joy of a 'best idea'," said Professor Sonya Grier of the Kogod Marketing department. "Part of the process is our working together from different perspectives to determine exactly what we will do."

The team members are: 

• Paul Wapner, Associate Professor and Director of Global Environmental Politics in SIS

• Deborah Norris, Psychologist-in-Residence, Adjunct Professor, and Director of the Psychobiology of Healing Certificate Program in the Department of Psychology in CAS 

• Sonya A. Grier, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Kogod School of Business 

• Evan Berry, Assistant Professor of Philosophy in CAS and Co-Director of the MA Program in Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs.

"It's the start of dialogue, the start of conversation, that uses mindfulness techniques to begin to come to terms with knowing what's best with the environment and to create a sustainable future," Norris said.