Presence is a place where students can learn from one another's personal experiences & meditation journeys, inspiring personal growth via the support of a student-led, student-run community. Located within a 10-minute walk from central campus, our furnished studio meeting space provides a comforting oasis for any and all who care to experiment or expand upon topics of mindfulness.
The founding of Presence was inspired from our (Ethan and Shelby’s) time working together at the UW Resilience Lab. We worked with Dr. Anne Browning, Director of Resilience Lab, to analyze incoming data regarding the mental states of incoming freshmen. We discovered that a staggering population of students struggled with themes of belonging, social connection, and self-esteem. Through discussion, the two of us came to share that we too had personally struggled with these themes as UW students. Furthermore, we came to recognize that both of us had found support during these tough times through our own personal practices of meditation. We shared in common the experience of using meditation as a useful tool to better understand ourselves, as well as exploring how to heal in the face of personal challenges. Meditation provided long-term holistic solutions in the dealings of personal obstacles, instead of relying on consumption (commonly seen with alcohol, drugs, material possessions amongst students). Presence was born upon the realization that meditation, having been so useful for the two of us, may be useful for other students as well. Having wished that meditation had been more accessible at UW in our time of need, we hope that it now can be accessible for students in their time of need.
Both from personal experience, conversations with other students, and exposure to mental health data at the UW; It has become glaringly obvious how great the need is at our school for students to be able to experience genuine connection and community. Although UW offers yoga through the Mindfulness program at the IMA, conversations with Mindfulness director Danny Arguetty has signified an absence of student community around such mindful topics. His program has sustained students physical need for stretching, movement, and exploration of slow movement, however Danny agrees that there is a lack of continued vulnerable and intimate dialogue between students when it comes to their own mental health. Knowing how significant and impactful community and social connection is, we see an opportunity for growth at UW. We have experienced how meditation inspires groundbreaking inner-clarity and centeredness, and we are adamant about building a much needed community based upon values of vulnerability and honesty, as well as expression and true self-acceptance.
During our weekly meetings, we often reach out to members of the club to lead an introductory activity, such as a stretch or guided visualization. Any of our members that have activities they’ve done in the past that helped them discover a mindful state, are actively encouraged to speak up. These ideas are incorporated into an upcoming week’s agenda.
We are in the process of expanding our administrative responsibilities to members who want to contribute to our overall success. The latest addition to our executive team is Jon, who has been with us since our first meeting, bringing his experience from working with the UW Mindfulness Program and Danny Arguetty. He will assist in spreading the word about Presence and collaborating with various communities who might benefit & enjoy mindfulness practices.
Our club is still nascent and Shelby and Ethan are still upholding most of the club’s responsibilities. However, we’ve made it clear to our members that if they want to contribute on the executive team, we will create an opportunity for them. Ultimately, we value being flexible and honoring our members’ excitement and interest in furthering our mission.
Some of the roles we’re considering are:
- Marketing & Outreach: curating advertising content, hanging posters, developing an advertising strategy, thinking critically about new potential communities to reach
- Website Management: ensuring information on the website is up to date and reflects our current status (website not yet active; in production)
- Event Planners: plans speaker and retreat events, organizes logistics, tracks costs
- Internal Communication: responsible for delivering reminders, messages, weekly email updates, text messages for group meeting organization
Education & Outreach:
Presence plans on taking multiple approaches when it comes to education and outreach.
First, Presence will collaborate with UW Mindfulness, and begin to gain visibility through their established marketing and outreach channels. This includes tabeling, verbal advertisement before yoga classes, and other Mindfulness marketing opportunities. Presence will also table on their own independent time, as well as in the upcoming Fall RSO fair. We will spread posters around campus in public bulletin boards, as well as in the HUB.
Secondly, Presence plans to hold meetings throughout the quarter during campus’ busiest times in public places like the Quad and Red Square. Through physical presence, our group will be a sort of spectacle from the standard students who are walking to class or sitting reading a book. We will have our branding and poster nearby so that passersby can connect the meeting to our mission, as explored further through our website that will introduce to them who we are and how to get involved. In fact, students will be invited right then and there to join us in meditation, if they are inclined.
Thirdly, Presence has collaborated with a fellow student organization called BizzBuzz whom has supported us in forming a marketing plan. They have been incredibly supportive in their role to create and design an effective and accessible website, as well as develop a MailChimp account in order to provide students with an email subscription of updates and information from Presence. They have also advised us on branding strategies to get the word out. Our website will be incredibly educational, as a section of the website will provide a “portfolio” which will outline resources for exploration into meditation and mindfulness from tried and true authors and researchers within the field. The website will also educate members of our values, mission, introduction to club members (via short bios), as well as meeting times and place. Furthermore, Presence plans on continuing collaboration with organizations in the UW community, with entities such as The Daily, Rainy Dawg Radio, ASUW Food Co-Op, Resilience Lab, Mental Health and Counseling Center. Through mutually beneficial relationships, we intend to support one another by spreading the word about what each entity offers.
Fourthly, each member will serve as a living breathing role model and poster child for Presence. We would like to create swag such as t-shirts, stickers, water bottles that will be embodied by members. As these members engage with the UW community, they will effortlessly spread the word about Presence. Each member who receives swag will be encouraged to promote Presence in an authentic way, and always be welcome and open to students who are curious about getting involved.
- Energy Use
- Community Development
- Cultural Representation
- Social Justice
As an activity that has been proven by science to be fundamental in improving mental health, we anticipate Presence to develop strong roots in the UW community. As founders, and intended graduates of the 2020 class, we intend to groom and select two presidents to carry on internal and external oversight of Presence responsibilities in the 2020/21 year and on. We will have a democratic election in which all members will cast a vote for who they like to represent them. This election process and discussion will begin Winter quarter of 2020, and voted members will then shadow the current presidents in order to prepare for the following years responsibilities. New leadership will be provided with a transitional document that outlines responsibilities, passwords, leadership advice/past experience, breakdown of meetings and events, etc that they may reference at any point and time for support when needed. Even after graduating, we will be available to consult virtually with the presidents if they are facing any challenges. Furthermore, Ethan and I will pass on our relationship with the UW Mindfulness program and program leader Danny Arguetty who serves as a mentor and advisor for our club. As a practicing yogi, Mindfulness instructor, program leader, and UW professional, he serves as an influential advisor and support to the club as an experienced adult who also shares stakes in the club’s success.
In terms of financial maintenance beyond our first two years, we aim to be sustained through the partnership among other UW entities. The UW Mindfulness Program offers the opportunity to earn support through the application to tap into a donation based fund in which they have been collecting for years now. Additionally at the IMA, club registration as a Rec Club offers an opportunity to be funded by the IMA and recreational department. Beyond the IMA, Presence will consider applying for various seed grants offered by the ASUW, RSO Department, Comparative History of Ideas Undergraduate Program, and other opportunities on campus.
Beyond institutional support, the club feels that under difficult circumstances, after Presence is fully established, that some funds could be secured through fundraising on campus. We take the percent of other clubs such as “Campus Animal Rights Educators” (CARE for short), whom have bake sales in order to earn necessary funds while mutually benefiting students on campus with intentional and thoughtful goods.
One method of financial sustenance that will not be considered is a club member fee. A club membership fee will not be considered, as we do not want to discriminate participation based on financial status, stigma and privilege.
The primary social sustainability challenge we are facing is emotional regulation and connection with others & ourselves. We would also like to address environmental sustainability by connecting our members with nature via mindful activities in green spaces, and eco-village retreats.
Our project addresses emotional regulation and social connection by cultivating a community of vulnerability and acceptance. Meditation is natural way that our members can use to be intentionally present to their emotions, as opposed to finding pleasure in excessive consumption (food, alcohol, drugs, material pleasures). As people consume less, they derive more of their rejuvenation from the nourishment of inner-peace. Human connection and conversation, especially about heartfelt and vulnerable topics, is so immersive that things aren’t as necessary to feel whole. The most sustainable belief is realizing that the ultimate source of happiness lies within, not externally. In working towards integrating this belief, we hope our community can provide a net of support as we all experience the ups and downs of student life. Presence is a home to our current members. We hope to expand our capacity and share it to anyone who feels lost or is open to developing a greater sense of belonging.
We would also like to include exposure and connection to nature as a part of our club meetings. Some weekly meetings will be held outdoors for meditative walks, or meditation in nature. Additionally, we are planning to host a short retreat this summer at a local eco-village to further understand & find inspiration from self-sustaining communities who live off the land as opposed to relying on consumption.
Furthermore, we will explore minimalist lifestyles and concepts among ourselves by sharing media poems, and philosophy excerpts that promote minimalism. In the future, we also hope to partner with minimalists and mindfulness practitioners and encourage them to share their experiences with living minimalistically.
Explain how the impacts will be measured:
The impact of Presence will be measured primarily via participant retention. We believe that if membership is constant and participation is self-inspired and voluntary, despite the numerous distractions and obligations of student life, then Presence is accomplishing its goals. Its goals being; to foster community and belonging with emphasis on belonging to one’s self. Ethan and Shelby build personal relationships with each member, and stay in touch with participants to build community as well as build a general awareness of how each participant feels they belong, or what they personally gain from being a part of the group. In these one-on-one conversations, and sometimes group reflections on Presence, we gain feedback about what participants enjoy and dislike. We then take this information and implement it into our structure and plan to ensure that the form of the club is adapting to the participants needs. So far this scale of data collection has sufficed, however in the future when the club grows significantly larger, we will most likely in addition include quiet written reflection time or a short answer survey in order to ensure that Presence is meeting its social and environmental sustainability goals.
Additionally, our impact will be measured by the interest and involvement of members in leadership roles. It is apparent that students gain sense of belonging and long-term dedication if they are eager to play a role in maintaining and furthering the group. The more students prefer to contribute, the more we will take it as a sign that the group is self sustaining and therefor meeting its goals. More and more leadership positions will be extended as the group grows in size.
To maintain social intimacy and vulnerability, Presence will form into smaller groups that build rapport and then may participate in larger whole Presence events. Again this will ensure that communication is tight, each voice is heard among the masses of individuals, and we can maintain and gadge our ability to foster social sustainability. A sign of meeting our intended impact will include relationship building. We expect to see friendships sprout from this club, and intend to provide ample social activity for team building. If relationships are absent, we will have to reconsider our approach.
Another measurement of Presence’ impact will levels of meditative participation and engagement. This includes the time at meetings in which we explore different exercises. Also reflection and contemplation of such themes during individuals lives outside of the meetings. Presence aims to inspire lifelong practices of mindfulness and awareness, and we will look for signs of these impacts in the stories that students share at group meetings as well as one on one conversation and shares.
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:
|Presence Budget through Spring Quarter 2021
|Meeting Space: Weekly Hourly Rent
|YouTube Red Subscription Monthly Fee
|ability to predownload guided meditations to avoid buffering while meditating, access to more guided meditations
|Swag: T-shirts, stickers, water bottles
|club is recognizable and creates sense of identity/belonging. does not restrict access by asking students to pay for it themselves
|Ad expenses: posters, flyers
|Ad expenses: hourly rate for student artist for red square chalk drawings
|drawing chalk pathways with meditative art to draw in members. our primary tool for marketing Presence
|Eco-village retreat expenses: lodging & gas
|as a substitute for meeting over the summer, we will take a trip to an eco-village to inspire ourselves of how to live more minimalistically
|Website expense: Wix Premium Monthly Fee
|UW entities for potential funding
|UW Resilience Lab
|IMA Rec Club Center
|UW Mindfulness Program
|Estimated Completion Date
|Market Presence to greater UW public
|Complete Website and begin using MailChimp to send member updates
|Plan logistics and date for summer eco-village retreat
|Continue conversations with other UW entities for potential sponsorship/funding