Our Mindfulness Studies program has entered a new era, as Dr. Andrew Olendzki, an acclaimed Buddhist scholar and teacher, became the program’s director. He succeeds founding director Dr. Nancy Waring, who remains on the program faculty.
Olendzki, who began at Lesley on July 1, was the first executive director of the Insight Meditation Society and was executive director and senior scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, both in Barre, Massachusetts. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies at the University of Colorado; a master of arts in Buddhism, Hinduism and Sanskrit from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, where he also earned a doctorate in religious studies.
His studies led him to the then-new field of mindfulness, however, as he says he “became more interested in the human mind,” how it functions and how individuals could influence it than in the more esoteric study of purely spiritual matters.
“Mindfulness is a secular word for what’s going on in your consciousness,” he says.
That application resonates with Waring, who says she came to mindfulness not via the path of spiritual studies, but in the pursuit of stress management. For that reason, she believes Olendzki’s background is an ideal fit for elevating and broadening the university’s Mindfulness Studies program’s reach.
“Andrew is widely known as a wonderful teacher of Buddhist studies and mainstream mindfulness,” says Waring. “He is internationally recognized as an eminent Buddhist scholar. His publications also include books and journal articles that make ancient Buddhist wisdom accessible to a broad readership. Going forward, our program will benefit greatly from Andrew’s vision. I am delighted to turn the leadership of the program over to him.”
Developed by Waring and launched in 2014, Lesley University’s low-residency Mindfulness Studies master’s degree program — the first of its kind in North America — prepares students to be mindful citizens, enriching their lives and the lives of others through rigorous study and intensive meditation practice. Professional fields as diverse as health and wellness, education, social action, leadership, sports science and business benefit from integrating mindfulness principles and practices. Lesley also offers a 15-credit Graduate Certificate in Mindfulness Studies. Like the master’s degree, the certificate is a hybrid program that combines online coursework with a weeklong summer residency in Cambridge.
"I am grateful for the opportunity of joining this great program, and look forward to making a valuable contribution to ensuring it remains the foremost academic training of its kind in the world,” says Olendzki. “The field of mindfulness studies is only beginning, and there is no limit to how it might evolve to enrich the world in currently unimaginable ways."