MUM Student Farm Receives Organic and Biodynamic Certification

MUM Student Farm Receives Organic and Biodynamic Certification

Steve McLaskey PhD (bottom left) and farm manager Kris Johnson (top left) with students in the Regenerative Organic Agriculture Program

Students harvesting tomatoes in the greenhouse

Sorting vegetables for the CSA customers

Professor McLaskey with students at the Fairfield Farmers Market

After following US Department of Agriculture organic standards for three years, the MUM student farm has been inspected and verified to have met these standards — and is now certified organic.

Organic certification disallows the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and the farm must be free of these chemicals for a transition period of three years in order to be certified. In addition, the farm recently received biodynamic certification, making MUM the first accredited university to achieve this distinction.

Biodynamic certification goes a step further, requiring that the farm produce its own fertility. According to farm manager Kris Johnson, that entails locally sourcing all the potting soil, compost, and compost tea (a blend of microorganisms used to treat the soil).

Professor Steve McLaskey, who heads the Regenerative Organic Agriculture Program, said that biodynamic agriculture takes best care of the soil, the environment, and biodiversity. It requires using as little tillage as possible and using cover crops when the soil isn’t being used to grow food. In addition, it requires setting land aside and not cultivating it so that it provides a nourishing environment for wildlife and wild plants.

“Biodynamic agriculture can truly be called regenerative,” Dr. McLaskey said. “Part of the university’s mission is to be a good steward of the environment. These certifications clearly demonstrate that we’re doing that.” The MUM farm is the only one in Iowa to be certified biodynamic.

Achieving these certifications has been a great satisfaction, he said. “We put in a lot of work. It involves a lot of paperwork, including detailed records of our practices, as well as inspections by the certifying agencies.”

The farm operates throughout the year, growing produce in the campus greenhouses during the winter months. Produce is sold at the farmers market and via a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program May through mid-October. Subscribers receive a box of produce each week. This year there are 27 subscribers, with the CSA program expected to expand next year.

Currently there are seven full-time students working on the farm as part of their major in regenerative organic agriculture. In addition, other students sometimes take one or two agriculture courses and work on the farm during those periods.

Number of New Online Students Surpasses Number on Campus

Number of New Online Students Surpasses Number on Campus

Professors Paul Morehead and Jim Davis, D.O. with students in the MS in Maharishi AyurVeda and Integrative Medicine Program during their on-campus orientation.


Vaidya Manohar Palakurthi with students practicing pulse diagnosis during their on-campus clinical residency.


Students in the online MBA program take their classes simultaneously with students on campus via video conferencing.

“The availability of online learning brings the appeal of Consciousness-Based education to a much wider audience, and the year-over-year growth is an indication that our programs are really resonating among prospective students,” said Rod Eason, vice president of enrollment management and student life.

The new online enrollment includes 49 undergraduate students in the BA in Ayurveda Wellness, a program that began in January. In addition, 8 students enrolled in the new BA in Applied Arts and Sciences. Together, these 57 new undergraduate students compare to 50 new undergraduate students on campus.

“It’s heartening to see that our new online students are every bit as enthusiastic about Consciousness-Based education as our on-campus students,” said Chris Jones, dean of assessment and undergraduate studies. “They have also bonded as an online community in a sweet and profound way. Online is definitely a growth area for the university at this time.”

Interest in online study of Maharishi AyurVedaSM and Integrative Medicine is even more robust at the graduate level, with 67 new students enrolling in this master of science degree, with a total enrollment of 163 students.

“This master’s program has come along at just the right time, when the need for holistic, prevention-based health care has never been greater,” Dr. Eason said. “It aligns perfectly with MUM’s mission to improve the quality of life everywhere.”

Overall, not counting students in the MS in Computer Science, the total enrollment this fall is 760, with 353 online students and 407 on-campus students. Total enrollment at the university as of early September was 1,750, including 739 students in the MS in Computer Science and 151 students at Maharishi Invincibility Institute in South Africa.

Sean Downey Finds Support for Teaching and Research at MUM

Sean Downey Finds Support for Teaching and Research at MUM

Art Professor Sean Downey


With students and faculty of the MA in Studio Art Program


Professor Downey working in his studio


Orange Trip for Méliès, 2018. Oil on panel, by Sean Downey

Sean Downey joined MUM’s art faculty in 2018, bringing a wealth of experience as an artist, teacher, and curator. Professor Downey received his MFA from Boston University, and for 10 years ran the Post-Baccalaureate Program in Studio Art at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, which is similar to MUM’s MA in Studio Art. He has also exhibited extensively and received numerous awards and scholarships.

Professor Downey attended the Kansas City Art Institute along with Gyan Shrosbree, a native of Fairfield and MUM art faculty since 2011. He visited MUM in 1996 and learned the Transcendental Meditation® technique. A few years ago he came to MUM as a visiting artist and was impressed by the Art Department. When a teaching position became open in 2018, he gladly accepted it.

“The students at MUM struck me like art school students—they seemed motivated by something other than grades,” he said. “The students here are very focused, which has to do with the structure of the curriculum, the block system, and the mission of the school.” Professor Downey has also observed how the daily practice of the TM® technique acts as a “refresh button” for students, allowing them to stay engaged.

Professor Downey found that the integration of the principles of the Science of Creative Intelligence® into his teaching has been very natural as a result of his long-time practice of the TM technique. “You can find those same principles articulated in the language of art,” he said.

MUM’s support for faculty research has also been an important draw for Professor Downey, who appreciates having easy access to studio space right next to his students. “Any important and useful thing I said to my students was because I had the direct experience myself engaging in the same issues in the studio,” he said. Professor Downey recently received a scholarship from the Wege Foundation for his art work. He is also the director of the Unity Gallery on campus. His work can be viewed on his website.

The Unity Gallery is currently offering paintings by Geoffrey Baker for sale. Proceeds from the sale fund scholarships for the MA in Studio Art.

Angel Thordsen—Self-Reliance and Sustainability

Angel Thordsen—Self-Reliance and Sustainability

MUM student Angel Thordsen


With classmates and Professors John Collins and Joseph Holland in the Science and Technology of Consciousness class in August 2018


Rehearsing for a theatrical production with fellow MUM students


Angel (in the middle) with her two sisters

MUM student Angel Thordsen grew up in a military family, moving around the Midwest and the southern United States. She and her two sisters attended a different school every year, which helped Angel develop adaptability skills and become self-reliant.

Angel was looking for a college to attend when she saw an ad for MUM on Facebook. She liked the university’s focus on self-development and enrolled in August 2018. Angel also wanted to develop skills to help cope with her depression. Practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique has helped her think more clearly, process stress more effortlessly, and not become overwhelmed by negative emotions. “I barely recognize the person I was before I got here,” she said. “I am not feeling helpless anymore.”

She decided to do an individualized major in business, focusing on entrepreneurship and sustainability. “It’s wonderful to be able to pick the classes that I think will benefit me, especially because I came with a goal in mind,” she said.

Angel and one of her sisters plan to open a coffee lounge in Austin, Texas, that would also serve as an art gallery and performance venue. She would like to distinguish their business by offering a quiet environment that she herself enjoys, instead of a noisy bustling establishment. In addition, she hopes to rely on her own resources and become sustainable by growing food, making ingredients, and managing the financial aspects of their business as well.

Inspired by MUM’s focus on growth, Angel wants to contribute to the university’s progress, so she joined MUM Student Government as vice-president. She wishes to help her fellow representatives accomplish their goals and make an impact on students’ experiences.

Hal Goldstein Publishes Book on Entrepreneurs Who Practice TM

Hal Goldstein Publishes Book on Entrepreneurs Who Practice TM

MUM alumnus and author Hal Goldstein


Mr. Goldstein and Professor David Weisman with students in the Successful Entrepreneur class in April 2019 (photo by Michael Sternfeld)


The book, Meditating Entrepreneurs, and the 15 entrepreneurs featured in it


Rita and Hal Goldstein in front of their office in 1989

Hal Goldstein recently published Meditating Entrepreneurs — Creating Success from the Stillness Withina collection of 15 stories of business owners who started from nothing and shared their wisdom of silence and success.

Mr. Goldstein himself is one of the success stories. He earned an MA in interdisciplinary studies from MUM in 1975. He and his wife Rita, also an MUM graduate, moved to Fairfield in 1984 to found Thaddeus Computing, which supported mobile computer users with magazines, apps, and refurbished devices. He semi-retired in 2011, handing over the company that publishes iPhone Life to his employees.

In 2012 Mr. Goldstein approached the Business Department at MUM with an idea for a course on entrepreneurship. “I’ve always felt that we in the Fairfield community have so much to offer to MUM,” he said. “Students need to hear the wisdom of these community members.”

Since then Mr. Goldstein has taught the course every year, inviting entrepreneurs to speak to his class. Over the years he has filmed each class and collected over 70 personal success stories, which inspired him to create the first in a series of books.

Among the business owners featured in the first book are several MUM alumni, including Peter Huggins, Eva Norlyk Smith, and Amy and Troy Van Beek. The book also features organic dairy farmer Frances Thicke, photographer Jim Davis, and author Janet Bray Attwood.

“There is so much to learn from the incredible stories of these Fairfield entrepreneurs,” said Mr. Goldstein. “Each entrepreneur embodies a different flavor of Maharishi’s teachings in the way they think and have created their companies. But they were all so influenced by Maharishi’s teachings.”

Mr. Goldstein, who is already working on volume two of the book, said he knows over 150 entrepreneurs practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique and who found unlikely success after moving to Fairfield, Iowa.

Mr. Goldstein’s book is available on Amazon. All proceeds from the book are donated to MUM.