Pre-Conference Retreat Day:
Practicing Care of Self and Others in Higher Education

Thursday, November 7th, 2019
Campus Center, UMass Amherst

9am – 4pm (with a lunch break from noon to 1pm)
Regular Rate: $125 / Student Rate: $50

In our current political, social, environmental, and economic climates, with experiences of miscommunication, misunderstanding, ideological differences, trauma, fear and rage, the practice of compassion becomes radical indeed.

Whether one is a teacher, administrator, student, or staff member of a college or university, the experience of working in support of students and employees can be a challenging experience. While the educational endeavor is a worthwhile calling,  we can often sacrifice a great deal in service to that mission.

This pre-conference is an invitation to join a space with other contemplative practitioners to understand the limits and capacities of our practices to meet the challenges we face in our work as educators.

We are inviting participants to imagine and create a space in which we do the following:

  • reflect on current experiences in academic institutions as contemplative educators;
  • deepen contemplative practices as a means to address academic divides creating a caring, compassionate, empathetic community;
  • explore what care means to each of us according to the ways we experience it;
  • engage in practices that shape new pathways toward addressing issues of discomfort, rage, fear, trauma;
  • expand their knowledge of how contemplative practices provide access to creative, liberatory approaches to care.

Pre-Conference Facilitators

Stephanie Briggs is an assistant professor, English, at the Community College of Baltimore County 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’ Teaching to Increase Diversity and Equity in STEM,and developed a program of yoga and tap dance, called “Tapping into Yoga” at the University of Virginia. She is the 2018-2019 Lenz Residential Fellowship recipient at Naropa University for her project, “Visioning the Eightfold Path: Liberatory Contemplative Practical Empowerment for African-American Faculty” where she plans to address inequities towards African-American faculty, particularly those in predominately white institutions (PWIs), through creation of modules consisting of community-based practices that contextualize Buddhist and African/African-American spirituality wisdoms, incorporating art and movement-based theories, to uncover ways of rethinking and releasing suffering and establishing the groundwork for personal, transformative change through contemplative, communal practices.  In addition, in 2016-2017, Stephanie’s project, “Practical Empowerment: Building Contemplative Communities With Student of Color” funded by a grant from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, served as a think tank for faculty of color from six institutions focusing on the value of contemplative communities on college campuses, a qualitative assessment that incorporated personal, practical strategies through contemplative pedagogical processes that were partially informed by African/African-American practices for creating safe, academic spaces. Her TED Talk, “Developing Empathy as Practice,” shared her use of empathy through contemplative art practices in her English Composition courses. She has studied with Meredith Monk, Malidoma and Sobonfu Some, Kiara Jewel Lingo, Marisela Gomez, and Patricia Norton. Stephanie is currently working on developing a program of sound healing, tap dance (and other forms of rhythmic/somatic movement), and contemplative arts as a healing justice practice.

Contact Information: Website:

Kerr Mesner, PhD, is a Visiting Assistant Professor: Women’s and Gender Studies, at Wells College, a queer theologian, a theatre performer and educator, and an activist. Kerr’s current areas of research and writing include anti-oppressive approaches to education, gender and sexual diversity in education, transgender studies, arts-based educational research, and contemplative educational practices. Kerr brings a background in theology, pastoral ministry, professional musical theatre, and queer activism to these current areas of research.

Regina Smith holds an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology from Naropa University. Rooted in embodied contemplative philosophies, she is known for her magical creativity, intellectual clarity, and mission-centered collaborative leadership.  The founder of ZenMama Consulting, Regina coaches womyn into realness through connection with their own divine source of power. Regina also brings radical honesty and training in mindfulness and power dynamics to inspire organizations to develop inclusive cultures for the greater good. Regina currently serves as the Executive Director of Mission Integration and Student Affairs at Naropa University.

How to Register for the Pre-Conference

Registration for the Pre-Conference Retreat Day is available as an add-on to your main conference registration or as standalone registration. Rates are $50 for students and $125 for everyone else. Financial aid is available through the ACMHE Conference Access Grants.