This year’s annual student satisfaction survey showed high levels of satisfaction with both academics and extracurricular features of the university.

“It was very nice to see that the features that make MIU unique in higher education — the block system, Transcendental Meditation, and Consciousness-based education — were what the students found most satisfying,” said Rod Eason, Vice-President of Enrollment and Student Affairs.

More than 700 students — both on campus and online — participated in the annual survey, the largest response by far in the years the survey has been administered.

“I was particularly pleased that so many students took the time to give honest feedback on their MIU experience,” Eason said. “While the survey data showed a high level of satisfaction overall, students also offered many thoughtful suggestions for improvement. This kind of constructive feedback is exactly what we were looking for and is a big help in our efforts at continuous improvement.”

MIU’s most attractive features

Along with detailed questions about the degree to which MIU met students expectations in different areas (shown in the five charts at the right), the survey asked several narrative-answer questions.

One of those was was, “What is the most attractive feature of MIU for you personally?”

One student responded, “Consciousness-based education and the value MIU places on ensuring students are improving their personal wellness and health alongside their higher education.”

Another wrote: “The sustainable living and regenerative organic agriculture programs were originally the big draw for me. I did not anticipate how much the practice of TM would change my life.”

“I absolutely love the block system,” commented another. “I can be a full-time student, receive federal loans, and still have time for a part-time job and my family.”

Another student replied, “I love the Ayurveda courses. My classmates are great, and teachers really care about me.”

On-campus students noted two areas for possible improvement: more variety in the menu offerings in the dining commons and a wider range of student activities.

The table below shows on-campus and online students’ responses to another set of global questions.

AreaPercentage responding “strongly agree or agree”
Tuition paid is a worthwhile investment85%
Requirements in my major are clear and reasonable85%
Maharishi’s knowledge is incorporated into the curriculum in a meaningful and relevant way that enhances the discipline81%
The faculty care about me as an individual83%
The quality of instruction in most of my classes is excellent86%
My instructors challenge me to do my best work86%
The content of the courses within my major is valuable89%
I feel welcome to be myself within the culture at MIU87%
I’ve seen an improvement in my personal well-being at MIU88%
Overall, I’m satisfied with my experience at MIU87%
I’m planning on returning to MIU next semester88%
I would recommend MIU to others84%

Online students’ feedback

With MIU’s online student enrollment burgeoning, the survey results from that group were of special interest.

Online students were asked, “How satisfied are you with the following components of MIU’s online education?” This chart shows their responses:

AreaPercentage responding “strongly agree or agree”
Opportunity for interaction with instructors & peers online77%
Communication and instructor feedback on assignments81%
Flexibility of the online learning format88%
Accessibility to the learning materials (readings, videos)88%
Support services (tech support, personal counseling)73%
Free virtual TM retreats for online students74%

A narrative question directed to online students was, “What do you like most about your online education program?”

“That I’m surprisingly able to form close bonds with fellow students,” one student said.

“The flexibility to be a mom and a business owner and be in school full-time,” another wrote.

“How much my professors cared for me!” wrote another. “I had many personal challenges going on in the meantime, and my professors and TAs did everything they could to help me succeed.”

Wrote another: “The sense of community I felt. I almost felt as though I was there in person and fully integrated into this group of warm and welcoming people who were truly and sincerely devoted to each other’s success and wellbeing.”

Thank you to Rod Eason for his help with this story.

The “forever wars” need not go on forever. The path to peace lies in health. And the path to health runs through practical meditation techniques that not only foster individual health but create peace on a broad social scale, through the mechanism known as the Maharishi Effect.

This is the thesis put forward by Dr. Robert Schneider and his coauthors in a perspective article about the Maharishi Effect entitled “Peace Through Health: Traditional Medicine Meditation in the Prevention of Collective Stress, Violence, and War,” recently published by Frontiers, the prominent research publisher and open science platform.

“This is the first time, to my knowledge, that a paper about the Maharishi Effect has been published in a fairly highly respected, mainstream public health and medicine venue,” Dr. Schneider says. Dr. Schneider, MD, FACCD, is Dean of the College of Integrative Medicine, Director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, and Professor of Physiology and Health at MIU.

The paradigm barrier

The first study on the Maharishi Effect was conducted just over fifty years ago, showing reduced crime rate in four US cities where the percentage of the population practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique had reached the one percent threshold, which Maharishi Mahesh Yogi predicted would improve overall quality of life.

Since then studies on the Maharishi Effect have proliferated, expanding the scope of the original study to larger and larger populations, testing the effect in locations around the world, and identifying reductions in many other symptoms of social stress, including infectious diseases, accidents, and drug and alcohol and tobacco use. Perhaps most encouraging have been the studies showing reductions in international terrorism and warfare.

To date nearly sixty studies have been conducted, published in nearly thirty peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly journals.

“And yet, after fifty years and all this research, we still have not seen a large-scale implementation,” Dr. Schneider said. “We think this must be because it’s difficult for many people to understand how the Maharishi Effect works. How can people sitting with their eyes closed in a hotel in Jerusalem, for example, reduce the fighting in the Lebanon Civil War across the border to the north, as happened in that dramatic experiment in 1983? To many people this just doesn’t seem plausible.”

This is because the Maharishi Effect inhabits an entirely different paradigm, a different way of understanding how the world works, Schneider says. “Your paradigm or worldview shapes what you believe is possible and not possible, and in the prevailing materialist or physicalist worldview, this phenomenon is impossible.”

Enter doctors and health professionals — Peace Through Health

Dr. Schneider and company resolved to find a way to penetrate the paradigm barrier, to explain the Maharishi Effect in a way that professionals and policy makers could understand.

Fortunately, new developments in medicine and science have made that task easier. “Science is catching up to the Maharishi Effect,” Dr. Schneider says.

Schneider and his coauthors — Dr. Michael Dillbeck, Dr. Gunvant Yeola, and Dr. Tony Nader — began by framing the Maharishi Effect as part of the “peace through health” movement.

“This movement is gathering strength and attention,” Dr. Schneider says. “Since no one else has solved the war problem, including the prospect of nuclear war, doctors and health professionals have stepped into the game, saying we should do it. Just this past year top medical journals have been advocating for this approach — the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Lancet, and the British Medical Journal.”

It’s well known that wars are catastrophic for health. As Dr. Schneider and company observe in the article:

“War and armed conflicts cause severe damage to public health through widespread injuries, diseases, disabilities, premature deaths, displaced populations, environmental contamination, and often violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Moreover, it redirects crucial resources from health and social services to conflict-related activities, potentially perpetuating further violence.”

“But the converse is also true,” Dr. Schneider notes. “Poor health, particularly mental health, causes wars. That’s the message of the new medicine.”

Currently four major wars are underway, along with a long list of minor armed conflicts. Leading scientific minds consider these conflicts to be “intractable.” The current Israel-Palestinian hostilities, for example, are merely the latest installment in a 75-year conflict.

Looking to traditional medicine

The World Health Organization is also talking about peace through health — with a twist.

“The WHO is saying that not only is war bad for your health, but bad health creates conditions that give rise to war, and therefore the health professions should do something about it,” Dr. Schneider says. “And now they’re saying that since modern medicine hasn’t been successful in addressing this — or in addressing chronic, intractable individual health issues, for that matter — we should look to traditional medicine. Traditional medicine may hold secrets to modern maladies, they’re saying, and it’s cheap and used by billions of people already. So we should investigate it.”

That’s exactly what Dr. Schneider and his colleagues have done.

“We looked into the traditional medicine of India, Ayurveda, where there’s a long tradition of public health for prevention of epidemics and wars,” Schneider says. “Ayurveda describes how to reduce collective violence and prevent wars by managing the minds or consciousness of the people in the affected society. This challenge — known today as public or population mental health — is the theme of the Frontiers issue featuring our paper.”

Population mental health

We traditionally think of mental health as an individual malady. But some physicians have expanded this thinking to include whole societies — an example of how modern medicine is catching up to the theory behind the Maharishi Effect, making it easier to understand.

For example, scientists have developed a classic model called the Epidemiologic Triangle for studying health problems. The model involves three elements: the agent (the microbe that causes the disease), the host (the organism harboring the disease), and the environment (the external factors that enable disease transmission).

Barry Levy, a physician, epidemiologist, and author at Tufts University, has adapted this model to help understand collective violence. In Levy’s model, the host is the people, the environment is the conditions in which people live, and the agent is the machinery of warfare — military, weapons, the military-industrial complex.

“Levy proposes that to prevent war, we need to change the people,” Dr. Schneider says. “This contrasts with conventional approaches — for example, changing the agent by making weapons more or less available or militaries larger or smaller, or changing the environment by providing aid, modifying laws, enhancing security, and so on. The idea of changing the people is a huge step of progress.”

Dr. Schneider and his colleagues take Levy’s proposal another step forward.

“We extend the idea of Peace Through Health by proposing to change people from deep within — to expand their consciousness, literally to change the way their brains function,” Dr. Schneider says. “More integrated and coherent brain functioning will lead to changes in the environment and then to changes in military action — the agent — effectively going around the triangle in the opposite direction.”

Population neuroscience — a breakthrough in public health

The new field of population neuroscience also makes the Maharishi Effect easier to grasp.

“Population neuroscience or collective neuroscience says that our cognitions — our thoughts and feelings — are connected, and we can measure that,” Dr. Schneider says. “In other words, there is such a thing as collective consciousness. We’ve been using this concept all along in describing the Maharishi Effect, but now there’s a growing empirical basis beyond the research on the Maharishi Effect itself.”

This diagram illustrates the growing recognition in population neuroscience of collective consciousness and the role it plays in population health.

“Several Maharishi Effect studies show that group TM practice synchronizes brain activities across individuals,” Dr. Schneider says. “These findings help explain the increased social coherence and reduced stress-related behaviors we see in other Maharishi Effect studies — and they fit right into the new field of population neuroscience, shedding light on how collective meditation can neutralizes social stress, the basis of conflict and war.” 

The perspectives of quantum physics and consciousness

The Frontiers paper also points to quantum physics — particularly the phenomena of interconnectedness and nonlocality — that can help explain the Maharishi Effect. “The Maharishi Effect shows that we humans are fundamentally connected at a deep level and that we can influence each other from thousands of miles away,” Dr. Schneider says. “While this idea may seem implausible in classical physics, interconnectedness and nonlocality define the quantum world.”

Finally, the authors describe the emerging understanding that consciousness is not limited to the brain but is an underlying, universal field that underlies the quantum dimension and connects everything and everyone. Dr. Nader’s new book, Consciousness Is All There Is: How Understanding and Experiencing Consciousness Will Transform Your Life, provides perhaps the most thorough and detailed explanation of this to date.

A new model of holistic health, a new paradigm for peace

“Having laid all this groundwork, then we put it all together in a new model of holistic health — the Connectome,” Dr. Schneider says. “Environment-body-mind-spirit/consciousness are all connected. This total health mental model has rarely been presented in our own science.”

In the prevailing paradigm of social science and conflict resolution, the remedies for war typically involve ceasefires, peace treaties, mutual consent, third-party mediation — external actions.

“The practice of group meditation for peace represents a paradigm shift from an external locus of change to an internal one, where cultivating inner peace within individuals can lead to positive outcomes on a societal scale.”

“The practice of group meditation for peace,” the Frontiers article says, “represents a paradigm shift from an external locus of change to an internal one, where cultivating inner peace within individuals can lead to positive outcomes on a societal scale.”

The paper has generated considerable media coverage, especially in India.

“With research on the Maharishi Effect continuing to be published, and with science and medicine gradually catching up to the Maharishi Effect by helping explain the findings, we’re not completely alone in the world anymore,” Dr. Schneider says.

Dr. Schneider and colleagues hope to call attention to the Maharishi Effect among a wider audience — in science, medicine, and public policy.

“If we can provide a comprehensive understanding of the Maharishi Effect, in terms that scientists can increasingly relate to, we can call for courage in overcoming cognitive bias, for making a paradigm shift, and for expanding public health policy to support this promising approach to peace. Maybe it’s time to end the wars.”

* * * * * * *

About the authors

Images

In a move to enhance student learning, streamline the pathway to graduation for its many transfer students, and make MIU even more distinctive among American colleges and universities, MIU has adopted an open curriculum for undergraduate education, effective this fall semester.

MIU joins a small but elite group of schools with open curricula. These include Amherst College, Antioch CollegeBrown UniversityGrinnell CollegeHamilton CollegeHampshire College, and Smith College.

“At MIU we are all about continuous improvement of teaching and learning,” said Chris Jones, past dean of undergraduate studies, professor of education, and part of the ad hoc faculty committee on undergraduate enrollment that advocated for this change. “This represents a significant step forward for our university, one that offers students far more control over their undergraduate education.”

What is an open curriculum?

Schools with an open curriculum do not have a core curriculum, distribution requirements, or general education requirements — that is, substantial course requirements outside the major. Most open curriculum schools preserve the major requirement, but beyond that they give students freedom to choose their coursework, guided by ongoing academic advising.

Why is this a better approach for MIU?

“Above all, receptivity is crucial for learning,” Jones said. “Research and common sense indicate that students are more receptive to knowledge in courses they have chosen for themselves than in courses they’re required to take.”

Another factor is the large percentage of students who transfer to MIU from other schools. “About three quarters of our undergraduate students are transfers,” Jones said. “They may arrive with a year or more of transfer credit, meaning they will not be at MIU for a full four years. We want to ensure they have the simplest possible pathway to graduating, without having to stay longer and incur more debt than necessary.”

Yet another element in the decision is that MIU students are generally older than entering students at other schools. “The average age of our entering freshmen students is thirty-one,” Jones said. “They’ve been out in the working world, and when they come to MIU to finish their degrees, they’re pretty clear about what they want to achieve in their education. We want to make sure they have every opportunity to get what they come for.”

What changed in this transition?

“MIU had a set of general education courses required of all students,” Jones said. “These included courses on physics and consciousness, physiology and consciousness, higher states of consciousness, creative and critical thinking, and math. These courses are all valuable, and our academic advisors will recommend them to students, but students themselves will decide whether they wish to take them.”

An open curriculum eliminates a challenge that typically accompanies core curricula, distribution requirements, and general education requirements.

“Required courses will inevitably have students who don’t want to be there,” Jones said. “This can be a challenge for the instructor and the other students. In an open curriculum, every student in the class is there because they’ve chosen to be there.”

How does this make MIU more attractive to students?

“We have a unique undergraduate student demographic,” said Ron Barnett, MIU’s director of marketing. “They’re older, they’re free spirited, they’re disillusioned with conventional education, and they’re looking for something different, including personal development. That’s why they like our block system and Consciousness-Based education. The open curriculum will appeal to these students.”

Are any courses still required?

“Our academic majors remain in place, with their requirements,” Jones said. “Most open curriculum schools still have majors. Like other schools, we also allow students to design their own major and name it as they wish.”

The introductory course for entering students, “Exploring Consciousness,” remains required. “This course is the gateway into the MIU experience,” Jones said. “This is where students learn the Transcendental Meditation technique and explore the new paradigm of consciousness that MIU is based on. It’s the orientation to MIU’s unique Consciousness-Based approach to education.”

Students are also required to take at least one writing course, or two, depending on their entering skill level.

“It’s typical for open curriculum schools to require a couple of courses like this,” Jones said. “Writing is such a critical skill, even in a digital age, and it’s an important mode of learning in itself.”

And then there’s the venerable Forest Academy program, which takes place during the first two weeks of each semester for on-campus students and twice a year for online students. Students choose from a set of interdisciplinary courses on a range of interesting topics with a focus on the consciousness dimension, and they can participate in a TM Retreat. “Students begin each semester with an inward dive,” Jones said. “Then they return to their studies with greater freshness, clarity, and energy.”

How do you ensure students get the breadth of education and important knowledge that general education requirements, core curricula, and general education requirements aim to provide?

“The key is academic advising,” Jones said. “Open curriculum schools place great emphasis on advising, on guiding students in making the curricular choices that will serve them best. We will do that as well. Students are already highly motivated to get the most from their investment in education, and they are amenable to advising.”

Open curriculum schools also monitor patterns of student enrollment. “One concern is that students might take a lot of ‘easy’ courses or only courses in their comfort zone,” Jones said. “Other schools have found no evidence of this, but we will monitor this closely, as they do.”

What’s the history of the open curriculum in the US?

Most schools using this approach conceived and implemented it in the 1960s and early 1970s. But the principle of “freedom to learn” has a much longer history. Even before the Civil War many top American universities were trying out alternatives to traditional forms of higher education, rejecting existing models in favor of allowing students more choice.

Charles Eliot (1834–1926), the president of Harvard who transformed the school from a regional college into America’s most esteemed research university, “urged that all requirements be abolished, leaving students free to study whatever appealed to them,” according to later Harvard president Derek Bok, in his book Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More.

Brown’s President Francis Wayland recommended in 1850 that “the various courses should be so arranged that, in so far as practicable, every student might study what he chose, all that he chose, and nothing but what he chose.”

At Cornell University, President Andrew White at Cornell was also championing student choice. “The attempt to give mental discipline by studies which the mind does not desire is as unwise as the attempt to give physical nourishment by food which the body does not desire,” he wrote. “Vigorous, energetic study, prompted by enthusiasm or a high sense of the value of the subject, is the only kind of study not positively hurtful to mental power.”

What has been the experience of schools using the open curriculum approach currently?

It’s been very positive.

Brown University organized a project that brought together representatives from eight institutions where such a curriculum had thrived for more than forty years — Amherst College, Antioch College, Hampshire College, New College, Sarah Lawrence College, Smith College, and Wesleyan University, plus Brown.

They met throughout an academic year to identify the values and learning outcomes associated with this educational model and to begin to assess its strengths and weaknesses. In their report they wrote:

“According to alumni interviews and faculty focus groups undertaken as part of this study, students who are granted such freedom display unusual motivation and engagement with their studies and develop independence, self-confidence, and decision-making skills that serve them well in later life. . . . An emphasis on developing the capacity for problem-solving and on promoting creativity, curiosity, and independent thinking is, according to these reports, characteristic of the culture of learning that an open curriculum makes possible.”

The report shows that the open curriculum cultivates the very qualities increasingly needed in the 21st century. It prepares students “to become life-long learners who are energized by novelty and unafraid of the unfamiliar.” It supports students in becoming “versatile, flexible, responsive to change, and comfortable with ambiguity.”

“Rapid development of new technologies calls for nimbleness, adaptability, and even playfulness — an ability to learn quickly new ways of doing things and an imagination for exploring and exploiting their possible applications, finding them not a threat but an occasion for creativity and an opportunity to expand our capacities for expression and discovery. . . . The qualities of mind and character that an education for such a world should cultivate include versatility, flexibility, resilience, and agility. A curriculum designed to develop fearless, independent thinkers and to nurture adventurous spirits would seem especially attuned to its challenges and opportunities.”

After being closed for four-and-a-half years, the magnificently renovated MIU Pool — the Cowhig Family Aquatic Center, to use its full name — will finally open June 1.

When the pool closed for the season in the fall of 2019, pool goers looked forward to swimming again in the spring. But spring brought Covid-19, and the pool remained closed through 2021 and 2022. By the time 2023 arrived, the pool and the surrounding deck needed extensive repair before it could reopen.

Thanks to a major targeted gift from Vincent Argiro, past professor of neuroscience at MIU and emeritus member of the MIU Board of Trustees, along with other donations, that renovation work was done during the spring, summer, and fall of last year. 

It was completed in October, just in time for a late season inaugural celebration and ribbon cutting. A few people took that opportunity to chill — literally — in the water for a few minutes.

Inauguration of the pool on October 7, 2023.

Davis Eidahl returns for his 30th year

Pool fan favorite Davis Eidahl will be returning to the pool for his thirtieth year. In prior years he has worked with the lifeguards, taught swimming lessons, and scheduled all the activities. This year he will focus on what he loves most — teaching swimming lessons.

Davis Eidahl and assorted lifeguards.

“I have enjoyed every year at the pool,” Davis says. “I have made many great relationships in the MIU community.  It’s been so enjoyable watching so many people come together to swim and talk and create such a congenial atmosphere. Parents bring their children, we have students and staff and faculty, we have international students from countries around the world. Everyone gets along very well — it’s very enjoyable.”

From fall through spring for the past sixty-one years, Davis has taught biology at nearby Pekin High School. He also coaches cross country running, girls basketball, and boys and girls track. His teams have won fifteen state championships, and he has received multiple awards for coaching.

“Davis taught me to swim when I was seven or eight years old,” said Soren Pearson, director of the MIU Rec Center and past certified pool operator for the pool. “He was Mr. Eidahl to us back then. He has given swimming lessons to hundreds and hundreds of kids and adults. He’s a legend.”

MIU certified pool operator Tom Brooks

Long-time MIU Vice President of Operations Tom Brooks will serve as the certified pool operator, having recently completed the two-day state certification course in Iowa City to prepare for the role.

Jan Harvey will train the lifeguards. A Fairfield community member since 1999, Jan has been an American Red Cross lifeguard instructor since 2015 and has instructed at YMCAs and municipalities in the Jefferson County area.

Sign up for swimming lessons here.

This fall, MIU kicks off a new undergraduate pre-professional specialization in art therapy, which will prepare students for most graduate programs in art therapy, the stepping stone to becoming a licensed art therapist.

The program will be offered online for maximum flexibility, and Federal grants and loans will generally cover all or most costs for US students. No prior art experience is required.

What is art therapy?

“Art therapy is a mental health profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship,” according to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA).

Art therapy can be used “to improve cognitive and sensorimotor functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate emotional resilience, promote insight, enhance social skills, reduce and resolve conflicts and distress, and advance societal and ecological change.”

Art therapy at MIU

Genevra Daley, MIU assistant professor of art

“The new program came about organically as a way to fulfill a need,” said Genevra Daley, assistant professor of art.

“We have two art students who both came here to complete their undergraduate art requirements in preparation to apply for an MA in art therapy,” Daley said. “One student had already completed their psychology requirements at another school, and the other was going to have to complete her psychology courses somewhere else once she graduated. Both students were having to gather their prerequisites at multiple schools. We decided to create a specialization that packages together what most master’s programs in art therapy require.”

“Our art students gravitate to MIU because they are interested in wellness, meditation, and art, things we’re already providing,” Daley added. “Creating this specialization was just the next step for us.

The new art therapy specialization fits right in with a cluster of other academic programs — the BA in Consciousness & Human Potential, the BA in Ayurveda Wellness & Integrative Health, the Bachelor’s with Specialization in Positive Psychology & Consciousness, and the Bachelor’s with Specialization in Life & Wellness Coaching.

MIU shines new light on traditional psychology, with its emphasis on cultivating one’s full potential in the light of consciousness. Every academic program spotlights self-awareness and self-development.

The MIU version of art therapy training

The MIU art faculty developed a unique take on pre-professional training in art therapy.

“Our department has had solid success with helping students develop portfolios for MFA grad programs, so we’re looking forward to applying this strength to a new but similar field.”

— Genevra Daley

“Most MA programs in art therapy require around 18 credits of art and 12 credits of psychology as pre-requisites,” Daley said. “We designed our specialization to cover these basics but in a way that builds to a capstone portfolio development class. This final class helps students create a cohesive body of work and establish a daily art practice of their own. The portfolio class also helps students with written materials, like artist statements and letters of intent, that a school might require in an application process. Our department has had solid success with helping students develop portfolios for MFA grad programs, so we’re looking forward to applying this strength to a new but similar field.”

Art therapists are credentialed mental health professionals. “Especially when people are struggling, facing a challenge, or even a health crisis — their own words or language fails them,” the American Art Therapy Association says. “During these times, an art therapist can help clients express themselves in ways beyond words or language. Art therapists are trained in art and psychological theory and can help clients integrate nonverbal cues and metaphors that are often expressed through the creative process.”

Professionals can incorporate art therapy into other therapeutic practices as well.

MIU recently completed its “Year 4 Assurance Review,” a key milestone in the ten-year accreditation cycle with its accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission.

“This is a significant attainment for us,” said Scott Herriott, MIU’s provost and chief academic officer. “It affirms that MIU continues to successfully meet all the criteria for institutional accreditation.”

The Assurance Review involved MIU submitting a detailed report describing how it met HLC’s formal Criteria for Accreditation. These criteria fall into five broad categories:

When HLC received the report, they sent it to a “peer review team” consisting of academic leaders at other HLC schools, typically deans and college vice-presidents. The team wrote its own 39-page analysis of the report, assessing the degree to which MIU met the criteria, and submitted it to HLC for a final review.

“The peer review team that evaluated our Assurance Review was very impressed with our report.”

— Scott Herriott

“The peer review team that evaluated our Assurance Review was very impressed with our report,” Herriottsaid. “These educators recognized MIU’s uniqueness and distinctiveness, and they valued it. You could tell they were selected for this team because they had that broadmindedness to be able to look at MIU with fresh eyes, and they were impressed with what they saw.”

Options for accreditation

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) — headquartered in Chicago and one of a number of institutional accreditors in the United States — accredits the University of Iowa and Iowa’s private colleges as well as more than 1,100 colleges and universities around the country. 

HLC offers two options for accreditation. MIU is on HLC’s Open Pathway option, which is designed for more mature institutions. The other option is the Standard Pathway.

Both pathways follow a ten-year cycle, and both focus on quality assurance and institutional improvement, which the HLC monitors through comprehensive evaluations during the cycle.

But the Open Pathway is more flexible than the Standard Pathway. Where Standard Pathway institutions must undergo two days of on-site interviews and inspections for their mid-cycle review, Open Pathway institutions submit a report that is read by the HLC team and evaluated on its merits. 

Also in lieu of a mid-cycle site visit, Open Pathway schools undertake a Quality Initiative, an improvement project they choose according to their needs and aspirations. “The Quality Initiative is intended to allow institutions to take risks, aim high and learn from only partial success or even failure,” the HLC says. Institutions submit a proposal for their projects to HLC and then report on the outcomes at the end of the project period.

MIU was invited to join the Open Pathway in 2010. For its Quality Initiative during the 2010-2020 cycle, MIU chose assessment, the shorthand term in higher education for systematically improving student learning by objectively assessing how well students meet the specified learning outcomes of the courses and programs they take.

The 10-year Open Pathway accreditation cycle

Here’s what the 10-year cycle looks like, showing how HLC monitors its Open Pathway colleges and universities:

Dr. Herriott became an HLC consultant-evaluator in 1998 and has visited 35 schools as a member of HLC peer review teams since then. He has been the team leader for eight of these comprehensive visits.

“My 25 years of working for the Higher Learning Commission has been of incomparable value to MIU.” 

— Scott Herriott

“My 25 years of working for the Higher Learning Commission has been of incomparable value to MIU,” Dr. Herriott said. “Particularly as the team chair, who organizes the site visit and edits the final version of an evaluation report, I learned very well what is expected of all colleges and universities, and that has helped us write self-studies that give the HLC teams exactly the information they needed to write their own reports.”

“This experience has also exposed me to the challenges that the smaller colleges and universities are facing nationwide,” Dr. Herriott said. “MIU is very fortunate to have started to offer online degree programs several years before the pandemic. When we needed to grow our online programs, to adapt to the new reality of higher education, we already had the base of experience to build on.”

Writing the Assurance Review

Thank you to Scott Herriott for his help with this story.

On April 3, with people from across the MIU and Fairfield community crowded into the Golden Dome, Sri Madhusudan Sai — known for his global mission of service and spirituality across 33 countries, supporting thousands of underprivileged people through free healthcare, free education, and free nutrition — was awarded a Doctor of World Peace honoris causa degree for his achievements in service to humanity and his recent pledge of support for establishing a large, permanent peace-creating group in India.

“It gives us immense joy to honor you for your lifetime of exemplary service to our world family, with the goal of creating a happy, healthy, peaceful, enlightened world,” said MIU President John Hagelin, reading from the diploma being presented.

Service to the underserved

Sri Madhusudan Sai has established high quality and large volume hospitals, wellness centers, and mobile hospital services across India and overseas, serving rural areas without access to specialty care and offering free care to children and underserved populations. He has created schools that provide “integral education,” designed to build character and train future leaders who transcend divisive politics.

And he has established a “morning nutrition program” that serves free, well-balanced and nutritional breakfasts to nine million children every morning in India, through more than 106,000 schools, carried out by 650 support staff and 135,000 volunteers, and supported by 150 corporate organizations and institutions, with nearly 700 million meals served to date. The Morning Nutrition program has expanded to include health, education, water, and sanitation to address children’s overall well-being and health holistically. More than half a million villagers have now benefited from clean drinking water.

And all of this absolutely free of cost to those being served.

To support these programs, he established the Sai Global Federation of Foundations, a non- religious, non-denominational, non-political community of organizations in thirty countries with the shared goal of alleviating human suffering and creating new opportunities for those in need.

Toward creating a large peace-creating group

Especially meaningful to those gathered in the Golden Dome was his pledge to establish a peace-creating group large enough to create a global influence of peace — specifically, a permanent group of 10-15,000 people practicing the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs. Such groups have been repeatedly demonstrated to produce measurable effects of harmony in society and improved quality of life for whole populations, the phenomenon known as the Maharishi Effect.

Sri Madhusudan Sai had visited the 10,000 for World Peace Assembly, held from December 29 to January 12 in Hyderabad, India, where nearly 11,000 people from 139 countries came together to generate an influence of peace and harmony in society and to call public attention to the power of the TM and TM-Sidhi programs to create such an effect, with the goal of securing support for a permanent large peace-creating group.

He was inspired by what he saw and committed to adding his support for that goal.

“One thing that we haven’t totally learned is how to be peaceful within and how to spread that peace to everyone else.”

— Sri Madhusudan Sai

“It is my most sincere feeling that the need for world peace is being felt now more than ever before,” he told the audience in the Golden Dome. “In this 21st century, most of the world is much better off than we were in the past. Yet one thing that we haven’t totally learned is how to be peaceful within and how to spread that peace to everyone else. And this is where the work that is being done here so much resonates with the work that we are doing in our organization — to bring both peace within and peace without. Without the inner peace, there is no way to world peace.”

“That is what the philosophy of this organization is,” he continued. “And I so appreciate this great effort being put by all of you, and I want to congratulate you for all that you have done and appreciate you for all that you have done. Millions of people across the globe we have brought so much of peace, happiness, fulfillment and joy to so many people.”

We are all deeply interconnected, he observed.

“Whosoever we help, we help ourselves and so also, whosoever we harm, we harm ourselves,” he said. “With this understanding of the one consciousness that unites us all, we can become better human beings. We can create better societies, better communities, and a better world for all.”

And he expressed his dedication to joining forces to achieve this goal.

“The work that is being done here in helping people transcend the limited mind into that boundless, unlimited infinity of consciousness is the solution to all the problems in the world.”
— Sri Madhusudan Sai

“The work that is being done here in helping people transcend the limited mind into that boundless, unlimited infinity of consciousness is the solution to all the problems in the world,” he said. “And we are more than happy to join you in spreading this work to more parts of the world, where people are taught how to transcend their minds and touch base with their true selves, which is that supreme ocean of consciousness that unites us all as one.”

“The moment we realize this, I think that would be the end to all the disharmony, conflict, all the wars and all the discrimination and hatred that still plagues the world. And all of us will work together towards this one common goal of achieving world peace in our lifetime, so that we all can see that day when we live together as one world family. ‘One world, one family’ is our motto and our goal. And I’m sure together we can achieve this. This is my prayer. This is my commitment. This is my promise to us that we shall achieve this.” 

With this closing comment the audience rose to its feet in an extended ovation. “It was as if someone with enormous resources had come and said, ‘I am going to make your dearest wish come true,” one audience member remarked after the celebration.

Dr. Tony Nader expresses his appreciation

Also present for the ceremony was Dr. Tony Nader, leader of the Transcendental Meditation organizations worldwide and noted neuroscientist and author. 

“Every word you said, every expression, has given me such a sense of assurance that the world is going to be better,” he said in response to Sri Madhusudan Sai’s remarks. “Before Maharishi left, he said, ‘The future is bright, and this is my delight.’ Because it was based on the knowledge that we can transcend difficulties, we can reach that unity, we can experience it and we can spread it. And the science has shown that it works, and that has been our focus and the focus of this great university.”

Dr. Nader continued: “All of us in our heart knew and felt that one day this will happen, that the world will be better and the world is going to be at peace, because the knowledge is complete and the knowledge has proven itself to be effective and the practical technology is there. And it’s my great joy to feel that this one day is actually today.”

Presentation of scientific research

The following morning Sri Madhusudan Sai met with MIU scientists for a comprehensive presentation of the scientific research on the TM and TM-Sidhi programs, with special focus on the Maharishi Effect Research. Presenters included John Hagelin, Fred Travis, Robert Schneider, Sanford Nidich, David Orme-Johnson, and John Fagan.

Dr. Hagelin presented his work showing the quantitative and qualitative parallels between the structure of the superstring, as identified in mathematical physics, and the structure of Rig Veda. Dr. Travis summarized the studies showing that brainwave coherence increases in subjects that are in the vicinity of a coherence-creating group. Dr. Schneider presented his work on the effects of TM practice on heart health and his work on a holistic “unifying systems medicine model” that encompasses and unites all aspects of health — mind, body, environment, and consciousness. Dr. Nidich reviewed the research on TM practice and mental health. Dr. Orme-Johnson described the empirical findings on the Maharishi Effect, including recent studies showing the remarkable nation-wide changes that took place during 2007–2010, when the peace-creating group at MIU was large enough to create measurable effects for the whole country. Dr. Fagan described the research that he and his team are conducting on the molecular changes that take place during TM practice as well as in non-meditating subjects in the vicinity of a large peace-creating group. And Dr. Hagelin concluded by summarizing the effects of the national demonstration project in 1993 in Washington DC.

“I am so glad that you have been able to put numbers and figures and all the scientific language to this knowledge,” Sri Madhusudan Sai said. “This is the way to go, because to make people understand that it works requires a lot of empirical evidence. And I’m very, very excited and very pleased to see that you’re already doing that, and I’m going to take all this back to India, where it originally started, because we need a sounding board — otherwise we wouldn’t have that appreciation on our own. That’s the job that you are doing, and I’m very happy and very pleased. Congratulations for this.”

Photographs by Ken West.

Dr. Hassan Tetteh — former US Navy Captain, heart and lung transplant surgeon for Inova Health and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, associate professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University in Maryland, member of the board of the David Lynch Foundation, and best-selling author — will address the graduating students and the university community at MIU’s commencement exercises on June 22.

“Dr. Tetteh is a rare soul — a wise and compassionate leader and a deeply loving and caring family man,” said Bob Roth, chief executive officer of the David Lynch Foundation. “He is a brilliant heart transplant surgeon and experienced health policy expert, a dedicated TM meditator, and a devoted member of the David Lynch Foundation board of directors. He is an inspiration to me and an excellent choice to be the MIU graduation speaker.”

“Dr. Tetteh is a rare soul — a wise and compassionate leader and a deeply loving and caring family man.”

— Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Tetteh received his BS from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburgh and his MD from SUNY Downstate Medical Center. In addition to his MD degree, Dr. Tetteh has an MPA (master’s of public administration) from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, an MBA in medical service management from Johns Hopkins University’s Carey School of Business, and an MS in National Security Strategy with a concentration in Artificial Intelligence from the National War College. 

He is the best-selling author of several books. In his book The Art of Human Care, illustrated by his daughter, he describes how his own life-altering, near-death experience profoundly affected his approach to health care, which includes the healing power of art. “My near-death ordeal taught me how the mind, body, and spirit function together to keep us alive,” he writes.

He wrote the book Star Patrol as a twelve-year-old seventh grader and republished it in 2019.

And his novel Gifts of the Heart tells the story of a young surgeon sent to the front lines of Afghanistan. “This wonderful book by Hassan Tetteh should be required reading of anyone in the military or medical professions,” one reviewer wrote. “Hassan writes an astounding account of a young surgeon’s journey of self-discovery backed by what may only be the author’s own experience on the front lines of the War on Terror.” Another reviewer wrote, “This is a very heart warming and interesting story about intelligence, persistence, and ambition with a lot of love included.”

Here you can read his blog posts, including “Seven Life Lessons from Finishing 20 Marathons,” “How to Find Yourself Through Service,” “The End of Heart Attacks: An Empowering Guide for Women,” “Reflections on Martin Luther King Day: Never Sacrifice the Gift,” “How to Find Your Talent,” and “Seven Steps to Solving Your Big Problems in Life.”

“With health,” Dr. Tetteh writes, “wisdom reveals itself, art becomes manifest, we have strength to fight life’s challenges, our wealth becomes useful, we may apply our intelligence, and positively change the world for generations.”

As part of the commencement ceremony, in recognition of his lifetime achievements, Dr. Tetteh will be awarded a Doctor of Science honoris causa degree.

Last January, when 500 new students enrolled at Maharishi Invincibility Institute (MII), MIU’s sister institution in Johannesburg, South Africa, they became the first students to take their classes in a beautiful 450,000-square-foot building in the central business district of Marshalltown, Johannesburg.

The building had been gifted last year to MII by Anglo American, the multinational mining company founded a century ago in South Africa and now headquartered in London.

This gift will allow MII — already one of the great educational success stories in Africa — to serve an additional 3,000 students. This will more than double its enrollment and its academic offerings and enable many more South African youth to have the benefits of Consciousness-Based education.

MII CEO Taddy Blecher (far left) and Nolitha Fakude, Chair of Anglo American’s Management Board (to his left), unveil the plaque commemorating the gift of the building.

Anglo American’s South Africa office had been at 45 Main Street in Johannesburg for many years . When the company relocated north of the city in 2021, universities and corporations made substantial offers to purchase the building, with some bids higher than 100 million rand (five million dollars).

The commemorative plaque shown in the photograph above.

But Anglo American decided to donate the building to MII, enabling MII expand its educational and outreach work and allowing more graduates to secure jobs with international corporations based in South Africa and nearby countries.

In making this gift, Anglo American reaffirmed its commitment to both education and the revitalization of downtown Johannesburg.

Taddy Blecher, CEO of Maharishi Invincibility Institute, speaking at the ceremony.

“We firmly believe that Johannesburg’s inner-city regeneration hinges on nurturing the potential of its young people, who represent the city’s future,” said Nolitha Fakude, Chairman of Anglo American’s Management Board, in announcing the transfer. “The Maharishi Invincibility Institute has emerged as a driving force in paving pathways to opportunities for thousands of young people, and it fills us with great pride to entrust them with the custodianship of the iconic 45 Main Street — a building that holds deep historical significance in Johannesburg’s evolution.”

Taddy Blecher, CEO of Maharishi Invincibility Institute, praised Anglo American for its foresight in donating the building to MII and for its commitment to both education and revitalizing the business district.

“If more companies, organizations, and the government come together to tackle the city’s challenges, we can secure a more productive future for all,” Blecher said. “By entrenching ourselves in the central business district, MII will play an active part in making the inner city safer and a more attractive place to live, work, and thrive.”

“MII will play an active part in making the inner city safer and a more attractive place to live, work, and thrive.”

— Taddy Blecher

“It’s truly inspiring to see the Maharishi Invincibility Institute and other organizations joining hands with us, ready to roll up their sleeves and work together,” said Themba Mkhwanazi, Anglo American’s Regional Director for Africa and Australia. “This collaboration is not just about uplifting the inner city but is equally focused on stimulating socio-economic development and tackling our youth unemployment crisis. Together, we aim to create a better future, where the inner city becomes a safer, thriving, empowering place for all its residents — particularly its young people — brimming with opportunities for growth and prosperity.”

A history of educational innovation and success in collaboration with MIU

Maharishi Invincibility Institute is a non-profit South African skills-to-work educational institution.

Maharishi Invincibility Institute choir and orchestra perform at the gala inauguration for transferring the Anglo American building to Maharishi Invincibility Institute.

Since its founding in 2007, the Institute has provided critical scarce-skills job training to 24,000 South African youth and placed 21,000 in jobs. These numbers include students who have received bachelor’s degrees in business and MBA degrees, 5,000 who have trained as entrepreneurs, and many thousands who have taken shorter one-year programs. 

The bachelor’s in business students receive their degrees from MIU, which teaches more than half the business curriculum.

The MBA degrees are also from MIU, and those students come to MIU in Fairfield to do their work-study. Some of the MII staff have also earned MBAs from MIU.

MII has a better than 90% success rate in placing its graduates in high-quality, sustainable jobs.

And it has established a dynamic, focused, and peaceful learning environment that helps unfold and develop a student’s full potential.

Stanford University recently selected MII as one of the twelve most innovative schools in the world in its “2025 Guide to Reimagining Higher Education.”

Simultaneously, MII is helping to reinvigorate the Johannesburg city center through its work with civic partners there.

Goal: 5,000 students 

The value of the Anglo American donation is over 200 million rand (ten million dollars), including 30 million rand spent in refurbishing the 45 Main Street building. This beautiful facility requires only some classroom setup for the high school and a few of the specialist academies to function as an educational institution.

Enrollment is expected to grow to 5,000 students over the next three to five years.

MII will recruit students from across South Africa and the rest of Africa. For its high school, MII will recruit from Johannesburg itself.

As part of this growth, MII plans to hire between 120 and 200 staff and faculty, many of whom will come from within the ranks of MII’s enthusiastic graduates.

In combination with their two existing buildings, which Anglo American donated some years ago, MII’s total real estate in Johannesburg has reached nearly 650,000 square feet — more than enough space to handle their enrollment goals.

MII is also seeking grant funding and philanthropic support to ensure that its educational programs can be sustained. 

With such a powerful educational presence in Johannesburg, MII administrators have renamed their section of the city “Education Town.”

In recent years, several large corporations have relocated their headquarters from Johannesburg to northern suburbs and cities such as Rosebank and Pretoria, diminishing the inner city’s vitality. But the promise of 5,000 full-time students studying in the city every day will create a compelling foundation for city enrichment and a stronger educational culture, a new facet for Johannesburg.

Like most urban areas, the city business district is home to a wide range of institutions — business, financial, governmental, and legal, as well as residential areas. MII is working closely with its civic partners, spearheading initiatives such as street cleaning and streetlight installation, to increase security, safety, and peace in the city.

Expansion beyond Johannesburg and South Africa

Maharishi Invincibility Institute established a school in Durban in 2015 and another in Cape Town in 2021. MII Cape Town focuses on cybersecurity technology programs in conjunction with a large bank.

A high school has been established in neighboring Zimbabwe — the Maharishi Invincibility School — and a college has just started there as well.

And a Maharishi Invincibility Institute has started in Brazil, also focused on cybersecurity training. 

Impact of Consciousness-Based education

Historically, leading universities typically accepted students from privileged backgrounds and with top grades, who would graduate and enter the workforce even more privileged.

“At MII, we are demonstrating that every person has genius within and is worth nurturing,” Blecher explains. “Our incoming students are largely from marginalized families, and the vast majority are unemployed when they join us. Some are asylum seekers or refugees from other African countries. Seventy percent of our student population would be ineligible to attend conventional universities. Over sixty percent come in with some form of post-traumatic stress disorder and around forty percent suffer from depression.”

MII’s educational philosophy inverts Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, elevating purpose and self-actualization as the primary needs to be met. This supports people in fulfilling traditionally basic needs like economic security.  

MII promotes what Blecher calls “inside-out learning,” not “outside-in.” The curriculum is holistic and consciousness-based. Students take part in group TM and TM-Sidhi practice daily, developing their inner creative intelligence. MII combines this with online learning customized to students’ varying levels of academic preparedness. 

MII also focuses on leadership and career preparation, with outstanding results. “MII graduates are hired at well-paying, full-time jobs, and they’re very successful as entrepreneurs too,” Blecher says. “With the right kind of education, people can develop so much more of their full potential — an extraordinary and beautiful outcome.”  

“With the right kind of education, people can develop so much more of their full potential — an extraordinary and beautiful outcome.”

— Taddy Blecher

Blecher points out that the greatest opportunity for human growth is no longer on the side of academic content and learning technologies, which are expanding at a phenomenal rate.

Far more important is giving students a means to increase their learning ability and develop their full potential. In that respect, the TM and TM-Sidhi programs, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, are game-changers for education.

“MIU has been the anchor of everything we have been able to achieve,” Mr. Blecher said. “We are deeply grateful for MIU’s steadfast support since 2010, especially through its business degree program, and we look forward to many more successful collaborations in other parts of the world.”

MIU has received another annual round of grants from the Wege Foundation — six grants totaling $400,000. This is the tenth consecutive year the university has received these grants, and this year’s grants bring the total support from the Wege Foundation to $4,086,139.

“We appreciate this extraordinary support from the Wege Foundation so very much,” said MIU President John Hagelin. “The many grants we have received over the past ten years have reached every corner of the university and touched and uplifted everyone here, students, staff, and faculty alike. I also offer my boundless gratitude to Chris and Laura Wege, who have facilitated these marvelous gifts and whose passion for the university inspires me every day.”

Chris and Laura Wege

“MIU is the symbol and center of Consciousness-Based education, the most ideal system of education in the world,” said Laura Wege, vice chair of the MIU Board of Trustees and an MIU alum . “Twice every day the students, faculty, and staff transcend and experience the inner field of pure consciousness. From that field all good qualities emerge. These qualities make us better people, more balanced, happy, generous, and kind.”

“This is why we work together with the Wege Foundation to generate these grants for MIU,” Mrs. Wege added. “We are supporting an approach to education that cultivates these qualities, and this ultimately contributes to creating a better world. As Desmond Tutu said, ‘Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.'”

This year’s Wege Foundation grants

$150,000 – Faculty, Staff, & Student Comprehensive Development Program

This grant, now in its eighth year, supports a wide array of activities, including faculty research, publication, conference participation, and other academic support; faculty and staff training; student activities; and the annual Wege Awards, given to outstanding faculty and staff and which have become a year-end highlight at MIU.

“This year, a portion of this grant will also be used to complete the renovation of part of the Fairfield IT & Business Park to accommodate faculty, staff, and student TM retreats,” President Hagelin said. “This is the highest form of development we can provide to people.”

$75,000 – Wege Fellowship for the Arts

This grant, now in its third year, supports merit-based scholarships for the MFA in Visual Art, which have attracted talented students.

$70,000 – Faculty and Staff Multi-Purpose Support

This grant will support long-time faculty and staff in their transition to retirement.

$70,000 – Enrollment Growth Support

This grant will support the Admissions Office, specifically expenses related to Slate, our customer relationship management platform, as well as staff training and operational streamlining projects.

$20,000 – MIU Campus Ayurveda Clinic

This grant will underwrite general physical improvements in the Maharishi Panchakarma Clinic, housed in the Doshi Center for Integrative Health and Maharishi AyurVeda, to provide enhanced experience for both clients and staff.

$15,000 – Annual Fund

The Annual Fund provides unrestricted support for the operating budget.

About the Wege Foundation

The Wege Foundation, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was founded in 1967 by Peter M. Wege, chairman of Steelcase, Inc. Known for his compassion and generosity, Peter Wege was also passionate about preserving the environment. His motto: “Do all the good you can. For all the people you can. For as long as you can.”

Wege Foundation grants have supported the extensive renovation of the Wege Center for the Arts, Dr. Hagelin’s innovative research on dark matter, research on the Maharishi Effect, MIU’s MEG’Array Solar Power Plant, the Schwartz-Guich Sustainable Living Center, faculty art exhibits, student field trips, locally-grown organic food for the dining hall, the endowment fund, faculty and staff service awards, and more. Wege Foundation grants have also contributed substantially to Maharishi School, the K-12 school on the MIU campus.

Banner photo – Downtown Grand Rapids by Rachel Kramer, licensed under CC BY 2.0. From the Wege Foundation home page.