Who We Are

Faculty and Staff

Mark Dennis


Mark Dennis (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin) is Professor of East Asian Religions. He has published works on early Japanese Buddhism and modern Japanese literature. He took over as director of TCU’s Contemplative Studies initiative in January 2017 after Andy Fort’s retirement. He has been practicing Zen and other forms of Buddhist meditation for 30 years. He teaches a number of courses with contemplative elements, including Buddhism, Mindfulness and Millennials, and, with Andy Fort, Contemplative Life: Reflecting on Self and World. He lived in Japan for six years and India for two years.

Andy Fort


Andrew O. Fort (Ph. D., University of Pennsylvania) is Professor of Asian Religions (emeritus) and Green Distinguished Emeritus Tutor at TCU.  He has published extensively on aspects of Hindu thought and issues concerning teaching, particularly contemplative pedagogy. He founded TCU’s Contemplative Studies initiative in 2012, and has been on the steering Committee of the Contemplative Studies group at the American Academy of Religion.  He has practiced meditation for 45 years, and has been exploring the Time Space Knowledge (TSK) inquiry founded by Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche for 20 years. He has been to India numerous times, and has also visited China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Turkey.

Dave Aftandilian

steering committee

Dave Aftandilian is associate professor of anthropology and director of the Human-Animal Relationships (HARE) minor at Texas Christian University. He also chairs the Tarrant County Food Policy Council’s Working Group on Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture. He is the editor of What Are the Animals to Us? Approaches from Science, Religion, Folklore, Literature, and Art (Tennessee, 2007) and coeditor of both City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness (with Gavin Van Horn; University of Chicago Press, 2015) and Grounding Education in the Environmental Humanities: Exploring Place-Based Pedagogies in the South (with Lucas Johnston; Routledge, forthcoming Fall 2018). His research and teaching focus on animals, religion, and culture; food justice; Native American religions and ecology; and nature-based contemplative practices and pedagogies. TCU web site here.

Dave uses contemplative pedagogy in the following classes:

ANTH 30743: Animals, Religion & Culture

ANTH 30783: Anth. Approaches to Nature & the Sacred

ANTH 30823: Native American Religions & Ecology

Susan Douglas-Roberts

steering committee

Susan Douglas Roberts is Professor of Dance at TCU and a dancemaker, community builder, traveler, and curator. As one of the original members of the contemplative studies initiative at TCU, she piloted a course with Dr. Andrew Fort titled Mindbodyness: Contemplative Movement and Reflection. Active in the field of dance, she is the artistic director of wild goose chase dance, a project-based company. Her choreographies have been presented across the US and in Mexico, Central and South America, Taiwan, Japan, and Europe and, recently,  St. John’s Newfoundland. Honors include Fulbright Specialist Awards to Taipei National University of the Arts (Taiwan) and Centro de Danza e Investigación del Movimiento, Universidad Rafael Landívar (Guatemala).  She is local in Texas and in Maine where she and her husband host residencies for artists and educators at wild goose chase/the landing.



Chuck Dunning

steering committee

Chuck Dunning (M.Ed., University of North Texas) is one of the original members of the Contemplative Studies steering committee. He has worked in TCU Student Affairs since 2000, and has been engaged in various forms of contemplative practice for over three decades. In his career in higher education and mental health, and with other groups and individuals, he advocates, teaches, and facilitates mindfulness, meditation, and imagery to enhance peoples’ experiences of life in many ways. In 2016, Chuck authored Contemplative Masonry: Basic Applications of Mindfulness, Meditation, and Imagery for the Craft, a book about contemplative practice in the fraternity of Freemasonry. 

Blake Hestir


Blake Hestir (Ph.D., Florida State University) is Professor of Philosophy with primary interests in Ancient Greek Philosophy, Truth Theory, and Philosophy of Mind and Consciousness. He has written extensively on Plato’s and Aristotle’s conceptions of truth and most recently published Plato on the Metaphysical Foundation of Meaning and Truth with Cambridge University Press. His present projects are focused the ancient Greek conception of self and being, and the more contemporary view of self as a conscious and embodied process extended into the world. His present rotation of courses includes Mind, Consciousness, Self, Existential Philosophy, the lower-level course Mind, Meaning, and Morality, and an upper-level seminar on Socrates and the Socratic Tradition. He is currently developing a contemplative philosophy study abroad program on mind, consciousness, and self that integrates various contemplative practices including meditation, yoga, and mindful movement. The course is scheduled to be held in the jungles of Costa Rica during the May semester 2020. He enjoys a daily meditation and ecstatic dance, and is a certified yoga instructor through the Yoga Alliance. He has backpacked extensively around the world in places such as Japan, South Korea, Europe, and Central America. 

Ley Cray

steering committee

Ley Cray (Ph.D., The Ohio State University) is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and an affiliate of TCU’s Asian Studies program and Women and Gender Studies department. They teach a range of courses including Asian Philosophies, Metaphysics, Modern Philosophy, Philosophy of Comics, and Philosophy of Music. Their current research focuses primarily on ontological issues pertaining to art and aesthetics. They have been practicing various forms of meditation since 2001, and they are a (200-hour certified) yoga instructor at Urban Yoga in Fort Worth. Their personal website is at: http://www.wesleycray.com. (Photo credit: Hayley Roebuck Photography)


Tallon Endicott



My name is Tallon Endicott and I’m from Boise, Idaho. I’m a junior at TCU majoring in psychology and minoring in biology. My studies have been guided by an unceasing curiosity for such topics as human cognition and behavior. My passions outside of academia include cycling, running, and eating delicious food with my beautiful wife. Anything that takes me outside is sure to put a smile on my face!

My interest in contemplative studies was ignited while taking Dr. Mark Dennis’s World Religions course during the Fall 2018 semester. Having read about and experienced for myself the myriad benefits of mindfulness and meditation, I continue to integrate these practices into my daily routine. I’m excited to be a part of this movement at TCU. I truly believe that it’s for the greater good. My hope is that it will serve to amplify peace on our campus.

Lexi Endicott

Communications Director

“Hi! My name is Lexi Endicott, and I am a graduate of TCU’s Class of 2019. I graduated with honors with a degree in dietetics and a minor in business. I am now a Registered Dietitian practicing in the DFW metroplex.

My interest in contemplative practices began freshman year while taking Dr. Dennis’s Honors World Religions course. During my sophomore year, I took his Mindfulness and Millennials, where my eyes were opened to the role that mindfulness can play in nutrition. The following year, I had the opportunity to write and present a paper called “Food for Thought: An Exploration of Mindful Eating” at the ASIANetwork conference in Philadelphia. I have since presented this paper in many settings, and I hope to take my message beyond the bounds of the university walls.

Even as an alumna, I am excited to continue to work with this group to promote contemplative practices, mindful eating, and greater self-awareness to both current students and individuals within our community.

Christine Pho

Former co-director
My name is Christine Pho, and I am from Allen, TX.  I am a senior majoring in physics, and I plan on studying medicine after graduation.  I also really enjoy art, and my favorite place to go in Fort Worth is the Modern Art Museum.
I got involved in Contemplative Studies due to my interest in meditation, which I discovered in high school after attending a meditation retreat.  This introduced me to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, who led me to other teachers of modern mindfulness practice.  I regularly apply these teachings into my daily life, and I believe others may benefit from them too.  I am excited to lead the group with Max and Lexi in establishing Contemplative Frogs!

Max Sklansky

former co-Director

My name is Max Sklansky and I grew up in a suburb north of Chicago. I’m a senior at TCU studying Business Information systems and Sustainability. I really enjoy living a healthy lifestyle, which includes cooking, working out, listening to music, and much more. I try to spend us much time outdoors as I can with Marley, my French Bulldog.

I’m excited about helping establish TCU’s Contemplative Studies student group with Christine and Lexi. My experience with contemplative practices has always been a very individual experience as I started practicing a form of daily meditation at a young age. I’ve always been interested in learning more contemplative practices, and I can personally attest to the benefits that come from engaging in daily mindfulness. I’m excited to have the opportunity to share my knowledge of these benefits with other TCU students!