Geller Center offers safe community for CSU students

Just across from the Oval sits an inconspicuous red house that has been open to all CSU students and the Fort Collins community for more than 50 years.

The Geller Center for Spiritual Development, formerly known as United Campus Ministry, is a nonprofit organization that was renamed after the Rev. Bob Geller, who was the director of the Geller Center for 30 years, according to the Rev. Peggy Christiansen, who now occupies the position.

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Christiansen moved to Colorado from Arizona nearly 11 years ago and was a reverend in Loveland for seven and a half years. She has spent nearly eight semesters as a professor at CSU where she teaches Spiritual Development in a Pluralistic Society. She chose to be a part of the Geller Center because she had an experience with a similar program when she was in college and believes her time there was a beneficial experience in her life.

“I just think that there are many (spiritual) paths, and I think that what matters is we’re each trying to be true to what our path is,” Christiansen said.

Every Wednesday evening, all CSU students are welcome to join in Food For Thought at the Geller Center where free food is served and participants discuss varying topics, said Christiansen.

“It’s not about arguments; it’s not about trying to convince anyone of anything or tell someone they are wrong,” said Bethany Springer, a former intern at the Geller Center. “It’s just (about) sharing your own experience and listening to other people deeply and sharing their own experience as well.”

The Geller Center is home to CSU student interns who pay 200 dollars a month to live there. Interns help to develop and run programs and are involved in peer mentoring. According to Christiansen, interns usually commit to a year at the Geller Center where they learn to develop leadership skills and further their own spirituality. The internship program is open to all majors and gives students a chance to participate in service trips and community service.

Springer, who interned at the Geller Center for three years and is now a graduate teaching assistant working on her doctorate in CSU’s math department, said she was able to apply what she learned at the Geller Center to other aspects of her life, especially after she experienced a series of negative events.

“I don’t know how well I would have come out of that (negative time) if it hadn’t been for my experience at the Geller Center,” Springer said. “I would say the Geller Center was like a lifesaver for me in those aspects.”

Interns can learn a lot from participating in the program like, “learning how to get along with people who are really different from you, learning how to communicate honestly and how to be good listeners, (and) working through personal issues in a way in which they become empowered to help others,” Christiansen said.

According to Christiansen, the Geller Center is a place that is inclusive of all traditions and is open to anyone who is looking to develop their spiritual path.

“I think a lot of traditions have some basic things in common, like most traditions teach compassion and it takes work to learn how to live that way,” Christiansen said.

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The Geller Center's sign and sculpture in front of the Center on Howe's Street. The Center is a place for students and residents of Fort Collins to gather and talk openly about spirituallity.
The Geller Center’s sign and sculpture in front of the Center on Howe’s Street. The Center is a place for students and residents of Fort Collins to gather and talk openly about spirituality.

One current intern said he found out about the Geller Center through CSU’s counseling services.

“I remember what I found the first time I was at the Geller Center, I really felt a sense of acceptance for who I am regardless of my appearance or my associations,” he said.

Christiansen said they are looking to expand the Geller Center in the future to house either more interns or maybe other community members who are looking to live in an “intentional community” with people that may be different from them.

“This place, there’s something kind of magical about it,” Christiansen said. “People sometimes come in and they maybe feel a little bit like they don’t fit somewhere or they maybe just don’t feel totally comfortable in their own skin and they come here for a little while and they get to just feel like it’s safe to be themselves, like nobody is judging you or saying ‘you should be like this or you should be like that.’ You can explore your thoughts and feelings and realize that they are gonna change and that’s ok, that’s part of life.”