Its concept originated in the students’ response to national tragedies, such as the Virginia Tech massacre and the terrorist attacks of September 11. As a way to try to process and understand such loss, students unconsciously gravitated to the spot, a soon-to-be sacred space in nature that was adjacent to the Veterans Memorial.
The Garden of Reflection and Remembrance now serves multiple university populations in diverse ways. It provides a place of respite, healing and contemplation, while catalyzing connections between multiple groups and cultures within the large campus population. For both the labyrinth and the greater memorial garden space, the Student Affairs Office offers programming opportunities which embrace multiculturalism as they encourage people to take time for reflection and renewal. The impact of the labyrinth extends well beyond the chapel and counseling uses; future plans call for its incorporation in course work and other learning experiences. A model for other universities and schools nationwide to consider their own interfaith campus greenspace, the UMCP garden and labyrinth has the potential to affect a huge number of people.
In early 2016, a research team from the Adele H. Stamp Student Union – Center for Campus Life at the University of Maryland – released a publication entitled “The Gardened Heart: Garden of Reflection and Remembrance Journal Project”. The researchers set out to answer a question: “What are people sharing or experiencing through the journals?” With nearly five years of journals they narrowed the selection down to 15 journals containing 3,162 entries (including drawings)—PDF is here. What they uncovered will surprise, encourage, motivate, astonish and produce a myriad of emotions.