The University of Washington Bothell is a global pioneer with its Consciousness program. In September 2014, the University of Washington formally approved the Minor Degree in Consciousness – a first of its kind degree. Here’s the story:
The Minor in Consciousness investigates the nature, dynamics, and functions of the mind through the perspectives of depth psychology, neuroscience, physics, and contemplative practices. It utilizes both objective and subjective methods to explore levels of awareness, the intersection of mind and matter, and ways to enhance individual and collective well-being. The minor consists of a minimum of 25 credits from A and B:
A. Core Requirements - 10 credits
- BCONSC 321: The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (5 cr)
- BCONSC 322: Exploration of Consciousness (5 cr)
B. Elective Requirements - 15 credits (Chosen from this list)
- BBIO 310: Brain and Behavior (5 cr)
- BCONSC 323: The Psychology and Science of Dreams (5 cr)
- BCONSC 424: Consciousness, Ethics, and the Natural World (5 cr)
- BCONSC 425: Consciousness and Well-Being (5 cr)
- BPHYS 305: The Cosmos
C. Optional Undergraduate Research – 5 credits
- BCONSC 499: Undergraduate Research: After completing the minor students will be eligible to participate in undergraduate research (1-5 cr). Undergraduate research can be supervised by any interested faculty member.
The Consciousness Minor offers students at all three UW campuses a coherent opportunity to explore big questions and bigger mysteries that have drawn the attention of some of the most brilliant scientists, scholars, and creative minds throughout the centuries. By emphasizing broad and rigorous approaches to the study of consciousness, the minor brings together a variety of scientific and contemplative disciplines to speak to the following goals:
- Understand the ways in which contemporary scientists and contemplative scholars are collaborating to investigate the psychology, biology, phenomenology, and physics of consciousness.
- Analyze complex models of consciousness from scientific, philosophical, historical, and contemplative perspectives.
- Consider the role of different states of consciousness in facilitating creative processes, inventions, and scientific discoveries as well as psychological, physical, and societal well-being.
- Examine the influence and limits of scientific paradigms, as well as their ethical implications.
- Comprehend the ways in which thoughts, emotions, and contemplative practices change the anatomical and physiological structure and functioning of the brain.
- Explore the role of meditation and contemplative practices in expanding our knowledge about the nature and scope of consciousness.
- Offer students opportunities to participate in research at the leading edge of an emerging field.
- Provide a platform for students to explore their own consciousness, heighten mental clarity, and improve individual and collective well-being.
As a result of completing the minor, students will be prepared to explore the complex relationships among mind, brain, and body with scientific rigor and open minds. They will be able to converse about the relationship of mind and matter with contemporary scientists and contemplative scholars, comparing and contrasting different approaches, and assessing their strengths and limitations. They will learn contemplative practices that have been proven to help them concentrate, increase their motivation and persistence, enhance their higher order thinking skills, and achieve a greater sense of equanimity. These skills will help them cope with the increasingly complex problems of the contemporary world and contribute creatively to their solutions. Students will be encouraged to become more reflective, compassionate, insightful, and resilient, to cultivate their self-awareness, and to consider carefully the consciousness and needs of other species and the biosphere. As a result, students will gain a greater sense of meaning and purpose, an enhanced capacity to draw upon and integrate different forms of knowledge, and a heightened ability to utilize inner resources to live mindfully at home, at work, and in their communities.