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Nancy Watterson, PhD

Professor, American Studies

Nancy L. Watterson, Ph.D., is the Director of the Center for Global Learning and Professor of American Studies. She is also Faculty Director of the Balance Learning Community and served for 14 years as Co-director of the inaugural Living and Learning Community, Voices of Justice. Her areas of scholarship focus mindfulness and movement, ethnography, and cultural studies.

Dr. Watterson’s aim is to encourage transformational learning that promotes mindful action in personal, communal, social, and professional contexts. Her focus on mindfulness is grounded in her own experiential training and ongoing ethnographic research in Zhong Xin Dao/I Liq Chuan: The Martial Art of Awareness. Students appreciate learning from her strategies for grounding themselves in the present and grounding their studies in well-researched contexts.

Committed to connecting her scholarship to her pedagogy of direct experience, Dr. Watterson invites learners to develop their awareness and cultivate themselves through interoception, contemplation and reflection, movement-based practices, and cooperative partner exercises. From this foundation, students expand and deepen their connections with others, the environment, and the world. Through participation in experiential learning, students demonstrate their growing understanding of how important awareness and clarity are to every aspect of their “education of the heart.” Having received multiple awards for her teaching, Dr. Watterson’s approach to valuing her students’ myriad ways of knowing and her commitment to process over product has proven to be a very effective praxis.

Watterson sees intercultural exchange as the heart of both local and global learning. Her teaching philosophy as well as her own practice of embodied learning and leadership focus on linking international research with teaching in and beyond the classroom. Partaking in ethnographic research has brought her to study in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Bali and Bulgaria, as well as across the United States.

Watterson has presented and published numerous articles on critical thinking, writing, and social justice; the creation of inter-disciplinary, integrative curricula for Learning Communities; the intersection of faith, justice, and civic learning; community-based partnerships co-authored with colleagues from Cabrini’s Science and Psychology departments as well as community partners; and entries on “Activism” and “Community-Based Research” in Folklore: an Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art. Her most recent efforts involve expanding the training and professional development capacities of using the worldwide curriculum of Zhong Xin Dao/I Liq Chuan: The Martial Art of Awareness.

Watterson also coordinates the 1976 Fellowship Faculty Learning Community, and serves on the editorial board for the Body Studies Journal, on ad hoc advisory committees for the Journal of Folklore & Education, and on the Board of Directors for the non-profit International I-Liq Chuan Association Ltd.

Watterson earned a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in Folklore and Folklife; an MA in English language and literature from the University of Michigan, and a BA in English from Oakland University, with a concentration in film aesthetics and history.

Areas of Expertise

Mindful movement; ethnographic inquiry; engaged pedagogy in living and learning communities; strategies for integrating direct-experiential exercises as a means for awareness and transformational learning

Awards and Recognition

  • Campus Compact NY/PA Civic Engagement Catalyst grant recipient (2022)
  • Interfaith  Youth Core, “We Are Each Other’s” course development grants (2017, 2019)
  • A faculty fellowship from the 1976 Foundation Fund for the Enrichment of Teachers’ Teaching and Learning (2011-2018)
  • The Buzzallino Family Faculty Scholars Award from Cabrini (2008)
  • The Excellence in Teaching Award from Harvard University Extension School (1998-2000)
  • The Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania (1994)
  • Faculty Fellow at Princeton University (2002-2006), Harvard University (1997-2001), and the University of Pennsylvania (1992-1994)

Selected Publications

“Theory to Practice: Operationalizing the Best Practices Model (BPM) for Living-Learning Communities: A Case Study at Cabrini University.” Co-authored with R. Gebauer, M. Filling-Brown, A. Filippone, C. Smith, L Groves, D. Mace and M. Gordon.  Journal of College and University Student Housing. Fall 2021.


“Moved to Learn: Capoeira and the Arts of Embodied Empowerment.” Co-authored with Michael L. Murray, Ph.D. Body Studies Journal, March 2019. Available: http://bodystudiesjournal.org/moved-to-learn-capoeira-and-the-arts-of-embodied-empowerment/


Co-editor, Zhong Xin Dao, I Liq Chuan System Guide, 3rd edition. Sam F.S. Chin. Spring 2019.


“Common Ground through Dialogue:  Creating Civic Dispositions.”  Co-authored chapter with Darryl Mace and Nicholas Rademacher.  Chapter in The SAGE Sourcebook of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. Eds. Omobolade Delano et al. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Pubs. SAGE Knowledge. 2015.


“Beyond Improved Retention: Building Value-Added Success on a Broad Foundation.” Co-authored article with Richard Gebauer, Eric Malm, Michelle Filling-Brown, and John Cordes. Learning Communities Research and Practice 1.2 (June 2013): Article 4. Available at: https://washingtoncenter.evergreen.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1038&context=lcrpjournal


“An Honors Interdisciplinary Community-Based Research Course.”  Co-authors: David Dunbar, Melissa Terlecki and Lisa Ratmansky.  Honors in Practice. 9(Spring 2013): 129-140. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1080705.pdf


“Foregrounding Relationships: Using Deliberative Dialogue and Engaged Justice in a Living and Learning Community.”  Co-authors: Nicholas Rademacher and Darryl C. Mace. The Journal of College and Character.  (Invited Feature article). Special Issue. May 2012.


“Interdisciplinary Community-Based Research: A Sum of Disparate Parts.” Co-authored manuscript with David Dunbar, Melissa Terlecki, et al.  Journal of Community Engagement and Higher Education. Jan. 2012.


 “A Case Study of Team-Teaching Community-based Research Courses: A Cost Benefit Analysis from Instructor, Community Partner, and Student Perspectives.” Co-authored paper with David Dunbar, Caroline Nielsen et al. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship. 2012.


“Activism.”  And “Community-Based Research.” Entries in Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music and Art, Ed. Thomas A. Green.  ABC-Clio Inc., Ed. 2nd ed., Charles McCormick; 2010.


“Moving to Learn: Integrating Kinesthetic Modalities into Academic First-Year Seminars.” The National Learning Communities Conference (NLCC) 2021. Virtual conference hosted by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.  Oct. 2021


“Embodied Leadership: Using Body Mindfulness to Observe Self and Connect with Others.” Interactive session (45 min. workshop) NLCC, Oct. 2021


“Embracing Evolution: Ensuring Sustainability to Preserve Learning Communities through Institutional Change.” Panel presentation with Richie Gebauer, Michelle Filling-Brown, Johanna Crocetto. NLCC Oct. 2021.


Presenter, Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO-I) -Academic Initiatives Conference. (Virtual formatting). Co-resenting with Dr. Richie Gebauer and Dr. Michelle Filling-Brown.  Session Title: “Operationalizing the Best Practices Model (BPM) for Living-Learning Communities: A Case Study at Cabrini University.”  15 October 2020.


Invited Scholar. Harvard University. Symposium on Kinetic Folklore. Sponsored by the Committee on degrees in Folklore and Mythology. Zhong Xin Dao / I Liq Chuan Interactive Session. March 9, 2019.


American Folklore Society. Invited Presenter. Folklore and Education Workshop at the joint meeting of the American Folklore Society and International Society for Folk Narrative Research (IFSNR). “How We Teach: Folklore Pedagogies in the 21st Century Classroom.” Miami, FL Oct. 2016.


American Folklore Society. Invited Presenter. 22nd annual Folklore and Education Workshop, in conjunction with the Local Learning section. Presented “Moved to Learn: Improving Students' Awareness of Learning Processes through I Liq Chuan and Mindful Martial Arts.” Session co-facilitated by Joe Brooks, Director of the Community Works Institute.  Long Beach Oct. 2015.  


Ethnography in Education Research Forum, University of Pennsylvania. Conference Theme: The Future of Ethnography & Education: Methodologies, Equity, Ethics. Presented “Stillness and Motion: Using Body Mindfulness to Observe and Connect,” which was selected as part of the Practitioner Inquiry track. Co-presenters fellow ZXD Instructors Mr. Lan Tran and Mr. Ezekiel Mather. February 2019.


“Minding the Body: Embodied Strategies for Sustaining Self and Others.”
Presentation accepted for the 11th annual Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) Conference, the theme of which is “Radical Well-Being in Higher Education: Approaches for Renewal, Justice, and Sustainability.” University of Massachusetts Amherst. Co-presenting poster session with Lan Tran. Nov. 2019.


The Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) Conference: Conference Theme: “Transforming Higher Education: Fostering Contemplative Inquiry, Community and Social Action.”


International Martial Arts Studies Conference. Cardiff University, Wales/UK. Workshop presented: “Mindfulness, Metacognition, and Martial Arts: I Liq Chuan and Arts of Awareness.” Co-presented with Lan Tran at the. July 2016.


Interfaith Studies Conference. “Creative Classroom-Community Symbiosis in Interfaith Studies.”  Roundtable presentation with Dr. Nicholas Rademacher, Rev. Ken Metzner, and Professor Kun-Yang Lin.  Presented on Moving to Learn – Interfaith as Body Dialogues Using Zhong Xin Dao Approach.  California Lutheran University. March 2016.


SEPCHE (South Eastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education) Poster Presentation.  Celebration of Scholarship. Presented with my co-investigator, Lan Tran. Grant awarded as part of the initiative “Building Faculty Capacity for 21st Century Teaching.” Poster presentation, “Moved to Learn: Assessing Students' Awareness of Learning Processes through Mindful Martial Arts.” May 2015.


“Hands-on Justice: Exploring Somatic Solidarity through Comparative Movement and Martial Arts.” Chair and presenter for the panel: Intention: Fostering Disposition, Dialogue, and Collaboration. American Folklore Society, Providence, RI. Oct. 2013.


“On Breath, Meditation, and Walking the Circle: Practicing Ba Gua and the Arts of Redirection.”  Paper presented at the American Folklore Society national conference, New Orleans, LA.  Chair and organizer of panel: Moved to Learn: Art, Ethnography, Empowerment. Oct. 2012.


“Core Concepts, Key Terms: A Folkloristics of ‘Local’ Learning and Practice.  Discussant and Forum Co-Chair with Miriam Camitta.  American Folklore Society. New Orleans, LA. Co-Chair of Forum, part of the Local Learning Initiative of the National Folk Arts and Education Network. Oct.  2012.


“Returning to the Circle”: Kun-Yang Lin, the KYL/Dancers, and the Practice of Creative and Contemplative Inquiry.” Paper presented as part of the panel: “Star Informants”:  the Place of Biography in Folklore Fieldwork.” American Folklore Society. Bloomington, IN. Oct. 2011.


 “Keeping the Peace: Social Justice and Education.”  Invited Presenter. 18th annual Folklore and Education Workshop.  American Folklore Society national meeting. Bloomington, IN. Co-presented with Dr. Ruth Olson. Workshop included the Chicago Freedom School and representatives from the traveling exhibit of the Bloomington Banneker School Oral History Project. Hosted by noted scholar activists, Dr. Lisa Rathje and Lynne Hamer.  Oct. 2011.


“Character Building and Service Learning in the U.S.”  Faculty development sponsored by the Greenridge Secondary School in Singapore, held in Philadelphia, PA, as part of their Singapore Learning Journey to the USA, May 28-June 6, 2008; visited the faculty at their school in Singapore during July 2008.


“Capoeira and the Arts of Empowerment: Embodying Community through Experiential Learning and Community-based Collaborative Research.”  Invited Speaker for “The 2007 International Symposium on Multi-Cultural and Ethnic Harmony.”  Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 2007.