Two years ago, David Mick—the Robert Hill Carter Professor of Commerce Marketing at the McIntire School of Commerce—experienced a desire to integrate his teaching on grounds at the University of Virginia with his personal interest in meditation and contemplative activities born from extensive reading in Buddhism and western philosophy. His office evidences this eclectic mix of philosophies which has since come to define his pedagogy—beneath a statue of Ganesh smiling benevolently are pictures of his sons tacked onto corkboard; a statue of the Buddha stands next to a small plaque declaring the freedom-call of Davy Crockett at the Alamo in Texas; two jade dragons support books on marketing research methodologies and business management. For David Mick, however, these differing systems of thought are not in opposition, but rather supportive branches of the same ideal—producing wise, self-aware leaders and consumers. Through his experiences teaching Marketing Research methodology in the McIntire School for over a decade, Dr. Mick realized that “our students here at Virginia are committed to education in its broadest possible sense…they are yearning for a course that lets them ask deep and difficult—sometimes unanswerable—questions, a course that lets them wrestle with those things and write about them.” This commitment to guiding students in the exploration of such challenging questions has become the foundation of Dr. Mick’s undergraduate seminar Wisdom and Well-Being, which utilizes a variety of sources ranging from Aristotelian philosophy to Buddhist meditation practices to ask, “What does it mean to be a wise leader and a wise person in one’s daily life?”/p>
From Dr. Mick’s perspective, well-being rests upon living a wise life; he explains that “a necessary condition of wisdom is being what we would call in the new age word ‘mindful.’ One cannot live a wiser life and bring to bear the concepts of patience, compassion, resilience, forgiveness, gratitude, you cannot be successful in bringing those things to bear, if you are not more mindful.” His course aims to help students develop a self-aware sense of their own wisdom through brief meditation activities and reflective exercises which culminate in a Life Envisionment Project. This Project does not ask them to memorize facts or tackle problem sets, but rather guides students in the active contemplation of their future lifestyle and how to live a full life in accordance with their personal virtues, values, and ideals.
While any student in the McIntire school can take the course, Dr. Mick explains that most of the students who select into his 25-person undergraduate seminar are “students who want to discuss deep, difficult issues, who want to open their mind and their heart and are not going to be too concerned when the moment comes when I dim the lights and start trying to teach a little bit of meditation.” The student feedback on the course has been very positive and it has attracted the attention of professors and administrators throughout the McIntire School. Dr. Mick is looking forward to developing his course further through utilizing the resources for contemplative practices on grounds at the University of Virginia and in the surrounding community, including coordinating a class excursion to Yogaville.