FAIRFIELD — Dr. John Hagelin thought he was busy. There was certainly enough to make him think so. Then he became a university president.

“Now I know what busy is,” he said.

Hagelin is the incoming president of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield. He’s familiar with the university through his longtime work with the transcendental meditation movement and his work there as a physics professor.

His academic credentials go well beyond MUM. Hagelin is a certified PhD, with a degree in theoretical physics from Harvard University. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at CERN, the European organization best known now for the Large Hadron Collider’s discovery of the Higgs boson.

Now he finds himself at a point he never envisioned, head of a university or, as he put it “the most complex small business in the world.” Any school is an intricate system, and colleges add layers of complexity with the needs of student housing, how to feed people, what campus programs will best succeed.

And MUM has other challenges to overcome. Programs aimed at careers are doing well. Computer programming is a notable success. But undergraduate levels are at best stable. The educational marketplace is crowded, so Hagelin wants to find new ways to cut through the noise and recruit students.

He thinks the university has an asset in that goal. A couple years ago Jim Carrey spoke at commencement. That drew attention. Other well-known figures might be willing to do outreach work to publicize MUM, and Hagelin wants to use that to help broaden the school’s reach.

The mission at MUM is twofold. Education, yes, but the practice of transcendental meditation is part of the school’s core identity.

“How can we really provide the people who are there with an intensive program and immerse themselves in the experience of transcendental meditation?” he asked. “That’s a challenge. We’re still one of the best kept secrets in the United States.”

Hagelin’s predecessor spent more than three decades with the university. He doesn’t see his own tenure lasting nearly as long. Five to seven years is the thinking now, a bridge of sorts between that which was and that which will be.

That, too, is a challenge. In some ways it’s not dissimilar to the one he faces in expanding the university’s reach while maintaining its character.

But change is a core concept in science. Atoms combine and recombine. But the law of conservation of energy states that nothing is really lost. It’s not a lesson lost on Hagelin as he looks at his career.

“It has been a thrill. There have been many turns in the road,” he said. “All of them have worked out, so far, pretty well.”


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