2nd ChangeMakers Event Focuses on the Effect of College on the Brain

2nd ChangeMakers Event Focuses on the Effect of College on the Brain

Neuropsychologist William R. Sixtrud being interviewed by event organizer Michael Sternfeld
(photo by Werner Elmker)


Professor Fred Travis demonstrating brain-wave patterns with student Chevonne Height
(photo by Werner Elmker)


The student panel: Kirby Shields, Chris Baluja, Emily Mauntel, Kent Kachejian, and Chevonne Height
(photo by Red Pearson)


Speakers Vicki Alexander Herriot, Dean of Faculty; Craig Pearson, VP of Academic Affairs; and Leslie Doyle, Director of Personal Support Services at MUM
(photo by Werner Elmker)


Students participating in the World Cafe roundtable discussion
(photo by Red Pearson)

On February 8, MUM held its second ChangeMakers event, titled “Is College Bad for Your Brain?” The conference explored the national epidemic of stress that can be overwhelming for college students in their pursuit of higher education.

Mental health challenges, substance abuse, and poor lifestyle choices undermine student learning outcomes and a successful college experience, said organizer Michael Sternfeld. Nationwide, three out of four students report feeling stressed; 39 percent of college freshmen report symptoms of anxiety or depression; 40 percent of college students binge drink; and there has been a 30 percent rise in mental health support requests.

The conference’s goal was to showcase MUM as a university that is reversing this trend by putting stress-reducing meditation at the core of the curriculum rather than as a peripheral add-on as done at other universities. Speakers included neuroscientists, psychologists, educators, and students.

A panel of five students discussed their experience dealing with stress and the transformation they have undergone at MUM. “MUM has provided the tools and allowed me to work with the stress, instead of against it,” said student Kirby Shields. “TM and Consciousness-Based education focus on who you are, and more so on who you want to be,” said Chris Baluja. “That’s what differentiates MUM from every other university.”

In addition, former Student Government President Chevonne Height participated in a live EEG demonstration led by Professor Fred Travis, showing the coherence creating benefit of the TM technique.

Chevonne said that since the event coincided with the orientation week for new students, many of the incoming students participated and learned about how MUM can help them grow and measure their growth by showing the improvements in their brain.

Chevonne also spearheaded the Love ThySelf Week challenge which encouraged students to engage in actions of self-care and self-love and share their successes with healthy behaviors.

On Saturday student Dylene Cymraes led a World Cafe event, which explored the question: How do we take full responsibility for creating a more balanced, centered life for ourselves and our greater community? During this dynamic roundtable discussion, students had a chance to interact on a more intimate level with the presenters from the Friday event.

The ChangeMakers event was sponsored by the David Lynch Foundation, the Abramson Family Foundation, and MUM.

Read about the speakers and watch a replay of the broadcast here.

MUM Offers New Track in Sustainable Energy

MUM Offers New Track in Sustainable Energy

Ralph Hearn, professor of sustainable living


Students in the Energy and Sustainability class at MUM in 2018


Professor Hearn coaching a student on how to make an EV charging station


Tejasvi Sharma, professor of sustainable living

From electric cars to wind turbines to solar energy, students studying sustainable living will now have the opportunity to enroll in a new sequence of six courses that will prepare them to work professionally in the field of renewable energy.

The curriculum of the new sustainable energy track has been designed by Ralph Hearn, who received an engineering degree from MUM in the 1980s and subsequently two Master of Science degrees. Professor Hearn is an inventor and researcher in sustainable energy with over 20 years of experience. He is a former senior scientist in the development of the first electric vehicle for General Motors.

Other faculty will include Tejasvi Sharma, who has just completed his PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Iowa.

The courses in the energy track focus on solar photovoltaic technology and energy systems of electric vehicle technology, setting students on the path for a career in renewable energy supply and electrical vehicle transportation. This includes areas such as solar thermal energy, solar panel installation and sales, and electric vehicle technical support.

Currently, Professor Hearn is fixing a damaged 2012 Mitsubishi electric vehicle to get it ready for use in teaching the course on energy systems of electric vehicles in June. “There are 25 computers in the car,” Professor Hearn said. “It’s like a mobile micro-grid. A lot of knowledge about energy conversion, inversion, and distribution is concentrated in an electrical car, including the method used in wind-powered electrical generating systems.”

The sustainable energy sequence will begin in block 3 with a course led by Dr. Sharma on heating fundamentals and energy-efficient heating systems for housing and small-scale industry.

Solar energy courses include Solar Energy Science, Solar Energy Applications, and Sustainable Energy Lab. In the latter course, students will learn electrical fundamentals by doing, with instruction and guidance provided on the spot in the lab. For every energy course, there will be an integration of theory and a hands-on project.

A recent news report said that the fastest-growing job in eight states is solar panel installation. And in three states, including Iowa, the fastest-growing job is wind turbine technician.

Esther Fontaine—Getting a Masters Degree on the Road

Esther Fontaine—Getting a Masters Degree on the Road

MUM online student Esther Fontaine


Behind the wheel of her semi truck, which she drove for a year across the country


With her daughter Jenn, who discovered MUM

MUM student Esther Fontaine is a professional driver taking MUM’s online MA in Maharishi Vedic ScienceSM program. While driving a truck across the country for a year, Esther found a way to keep up with her classwork: she listened to the lectures on the road, took notes during her breaks, and did her homework at the end of her ten-hour shifts.

Esther has been a commercial driver for 34 years, driving buses, taxis, limousines, and trucks. She now lives in Illinois and drives locally while finishing her degree. Originally she trained to become a police officer and also earned a dual degree in criminal justice and sociology.

Esther has always been an avid reader. Growing up in a troubled home, she escaped to reading. At the age of seven, she became interested in God and attended various churches and Bible camps in search of answers. As an adult, she studied every religion, including Buddhism, Islam, and Bahá’i.

In 2012 Esther experienced difficulty coping with family trauma and loss, so she began searching for answers again, this time through personal development seminars and books. She attended Landmark Forum programs, which catapulted her growth. “I was looking for something that would challenge me on a level that I have never been challenged on before,” she said.

In 2016 Esther’s daughter discovered MUM while visiting Iowa, and Esther knew she had found what she was looking for. She learned the Transcendental Meditation® technique and enrolled at MUM the same year. She says she has become more peaceful and content, in spite of life’s challenges: “Transcendental Meditation has changed my life.”

Esther was excited to discover all the scientific studies on the TM program. “The logical correlation of a spiritual reality that manifested through a scientific avenue was what I’ve looked for my whole life,” she said. She enjoys sharing her experiences of the TM® technique and what she is learning in class with her friends.

In the future, she wants to write and speak about her journey and help women overcome domestic violence. “I want to create a legacy of change, where people know that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you end up.”