Category Archives: Events

Celebrating the Graduating Class of 2016

Congratulations to the graduates of Sofia University, Class of 2016!

“to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”

– Mary Oliver

 Sofia Grad 1
This year marked a very special commencement ceremony with world renowned author, physician, and luminary, Dr. Deepak Chopra delivering the commencement speech to over 250 attendees!
Sofia Grad 4
After sharing a personal story from his childhood, Chopra then connected it to his philosophy on awareness and love.

“Love is not just a mere sentiment. It’s not just a mere emotion, although that’s wonderful. But love is the ultimate truth at the heart of the universe. That kind of love will transform you and transform the rest of the world, or whoever you come into contact with – not because of what you say, not because of what you do, but because of your presence.”

He was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree conferred by university founder, Dr. Robert Frager and university president, Dr. Liz Li.
We wish you all the success and happiness you deserve as you step onto the next stage of your journey. We will miss you!


Sofia Grad 2Sofia Grad 3

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Celebrating Sofia U’s Stellar Female Faculty

This past March, during Women’s History Month, we wanted to focus on the women of Sofia University. We are so proud of all they have accomplished and the magic they continue to bring to the school.

About Women’s History Month…

In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.”

Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month.

Since 1995, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”

Power women at Sofia University

School President


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Dr. Liz Li, President

Professors Emerita


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Rosemarie Anderson, Ph.D.  Professor Emerita, Board Member, International Transpersonal Association (ITA)Abraham Maslow Heritage Award



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Kathleen Wall, Ph.D.  Professor Emerita


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Jill Mellick, Ph.D. Psychologist, Professor Emerita



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Barbara Hecker, Ph.D. Computer Science, Juris DoctorateCore Faculty


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Nancy Rowe, Ph.D.  Chair of Global MATP Program


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Olga Louchakova-Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D.  Chair of Transpersonal Programs, Association for Transpersonal Psychology (ATP)


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Kaye-Ailsa Rowan, M.A., Licensed MFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, Chair of MACP Program



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Carol Haefner, Ph.D. Core Faculty


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Dr. Donna Dulo Director of Advanced Computational Technologies, Core Faculty



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Roni Gillenson, Licensed MFT, M.A., Clinical Director



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The Sofia U Evolution Leads to Grant Writing Inspiration

While the mechanics of evolution – both the cultural and biological variety – are, in the final analyses, fuzzy, Stephan Jay Gould, America’s last public intellectual and blazing lighthouse of enlightenment and erudition, has described the process like this:

“Life is a copiously branching bush, continually pruned by the grim reaper of extinction, not a ladder of predictable progress.”

I’d say this is a pretty accurate description – especially for that intersection of longitude and latitude known for ­the second most-abundant chemical element (after oxygen) on Earth, as Silicon Valley.

Silicon Valley is no stranger to the bush, or to the reaper; indeed it is a bush that those who live here are intimately familiar with, having witnessed, firsthand, its emergence from the very same neighborhoods within which they live and work. After all, it would be nearly impossible not to notice the  kind  of Cambrian explosivity that has been going on in that neck of the orchard for the past half a century.

Gould’s metaphor makes sense. It also makes sense to see Sofia’s own evolutionary path as copiously branching – what was once a graduate school devoted solely to the field of transpersonal psychology, is now a full-fledged university with ever-branching departmental variations that span such diverse fields as computer science and drone operation. No surprise, then, that the rich transpersonal legacy of Sofia University has found a new expression in the fields of the applied sciences, domains of influence beyond the merely academic, and into real-life, real-world, relevance.

It is because of this new-found interdisciplinarity and commitment to engaged, compassionate, scholarship, that I was able to draw on the available resources at Sofia and draft a grant proposal for the Mind and Life/1440 Foundation Awards.

This grant, if funded, will be a collaborative endeavor between the NeuroPhenomenology Lab and the TransTech Lab, both operated under the aegis of Sofia University.

Working closely with the board of directors at the Youth United for Community Action in East Palo Alto, California, participants will be selected based upon their age (12-17) and other selected socioeconomic criteria, to intervene in the lives of at-risk youths, those whom sociologists describe as, “less likely to transition successfully into adulthood and achieve economic self-sufficiency.” This new approach will allow educators to inject mindfulness into the at-risk youth population and use today’s technology as a skillful means to build authentic relationships with themselves and with each other.

The bald truth is, safety and security aren’t just abstract constructs in a theory of human motivation; they are fundamental necessities of the human experience that many people, born into social ecologies of addiction, poverty, and crime, have never known. For the developing brain, however, the attendant neural ecologies are frequently beset by neuroarchitectural abnormalities in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) which are often correlated with high levels of anxiety and a concomitant lack of empathy.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Recent developments in the area of neuroplasticity have demonstrated that, if treated, these deficits can heal. Yet the problem remains: How can we teach empathy in urban war zones?

We can’t. What we can do is take the experience out of the classroom and into their lives and begin using  a technology that 70% of all teenagers currently have access to – a smartphone – to introduce mindfulness and empathy into one of the populations that could benefit from them the most. We will then map, using the Geodesic 64 channel Sensor Net, short and long-term neurobiological changes resulting from empathy training and group mindfulness, as well as monitor behavioral and physiological changes, as well.

Within the wider Western ethos of compassion, equality, purpose and hope, the multiplicative effects of hunger, illness, racism, and violence have created a culture in which security isn’t just elusive, it’s impossible. These are the children and at-risk adolescents that this project is designed to help with a novel approach that actually can.

How incredibly exciting to be a student at Sofia and to have available to me all of the world-class resources to help actualize this vision! I wouldn’t trade living in this moment for any other, regardless of the age.

Welcome to the Cambrian Explosion Reboot.

Blog by Nicholas Boeving, GPhD. student


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The Transpersonal Roots of Transcultural Psychology


Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 12.54.36 PM.pngWe are pleased to welcome Dr. Emmett Miller to the Spring 2016 Global Seminar. Monday, March 28 – Saturday, April 2 at the Vallombrosa Center

Widely acclaimed for his role in creating the field of Mind-Body Medicine, Dr. Emmett Miller continues to apply his innovative thinking in the development of new approaches and techniques of Integrative Medicine, psychotherapy, wellness, stress management, psychoneuroimmunology, meditation, guided imagery and self-hypnosis for optimal health and performance.

Preview of Dr. Miller’s Talk

In this presentation we will examine, experientially as well as intellectually, the power of the transpersonal perspective to produce transformational (vs. linear) change and mind-tools we can use to upgrade our mental operating systems to embrace the transpersonal paradigm.

At the intellectual level, we will examine the phenomenon of Second Order Change, which is the basis of all transformation. Intentional transformation requires a shift in the level of thinking to a higher point in the holarchy of the system – point of greater access to wisdom. At the level of the individual or the collective, this is transpersonal.

At the experiential level, we will explore mind-tools that allow us to step beyond our personal and sociocultural illusions, biases, and prejudices to directly experience the transpersonal level and channel its wisdom and guidance.

At the collective level, we will explore ways to integrate the transpersonal perspective – the key to our resilience and sustainability – individually and as a group.

The tools we will employ will include presence, meditation, mindful imagery, scientific logic, and emotional accessing. Our past is not our potential; beyond our denial, illusions, and prejudices lies a new world of possibilities.

Learn more about the Global Seminars

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Sofia Celebrates the Year of the Monkey!

Diversity and acceptance are hallmarks of Sofia University. Taking time to celebrate the rituals of other cultures enhances our ability to be compassionate and appreciate differences. Our residential students, staff and faculty culminated our celebration of Chinese New Year on Friday with a red envelope giveaway and delicious food.

*Rosalie and Eric chat before taking the first crack at the eggrolls.

Eric & Rosalie

*Everyone was encouraged to place their names on a ticket to draw a red envelope. Rosalie placed the names in the bowl.


Jenny helps pick the first winner. 

Rosalie & Jenny

*As Brian looks on, Jenny and Yue reveal the first winner.

Money envelop

*Aah, the hopeful crowd waiting for their names to be selected. We had to act fast because they were on break from their class.


*Mark chooses what he hopes will be the $20 winner.


*More students get a chance to increase their luck in the Year of the Monkey.


Here, we present our slides about Chinese New Year. It talks about Chinese customs in the Spring Festival:




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Ubuntu and the Celebration of Black History Month


Celebrating Ubuntu and the contributions of the African diaspora to Humanistic & Transpersonal Psychologies

By Shanna Houser


Ubuntu throughout the world and at Sofia

While I am not aware of the history of Sofia’s Ubuntu room, I will assume that the name was selected to honor the African concept attributed to the Nguni languages of the Xhosa and Zulu cultures[1]. I have found that there are as many definitions for Ubuntu as there are for transpersonal psychology:

“I am; because of you.”[2]

Bishop Desmond Tutu: “Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We can’t fully be human alone…indeed my humanity is caught up in humanity, and when your humanity is enhanced, mine is enhanced as well. Likewise, when you are dehumanized, inexorably, I am dehumanized as well.”[3]

Nelson Mandela: “A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?”[4]

I personally have always held an appreciation for the Ubuntu room as an intentional symbol of the contribution of the African diaspora to humanistic and transpersonal ideologies. I was unaware of the concept of Ubuntu prior to arriving at Sofia, and as I progressed in my studies at Sofia, I began to wonder about other contributions or philosophical parallels of the African diaspora (particularly sub-Saharan Africa) to which I and the Sofia community at-large, may be unaware. Or what do some of us know but have not had the opportunity to share? My hope is to (a) start a conversation, (b) share knowledge, (c) highlight the work of African and African American scholars in transpersonal psychology for the purpose of visibility, and (d) continue to build and celebrate the Sofia community in all of its diverse glory.


The Reception area at the entrance of the school. Thank you Eric and Shanna for creating the art and displays.

IMG_4905Shanna, Kimberly Anne and Eric – Loving the camaraderie of fellowship.IMG_4908

What a joy to discover some of the works of our African American students at Sofia/ITP in the library!






Origins of Black History Month

Harvard doctoral graduate Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) first conceptualized and orchestrated “Black History Week” in 1926. The first of the multi-faceted purposes of the event was to correct the fact that the history and contributions of black Americans were “misrepresented or missing altogether from the history books”[1]. Further, it was Woodson’s intention to highlight: (a) President Abraham Lincoln did not free southern slaves, rather, the Union Army and its thousands of black soldiers achieved this feat; (b) the “countless black men and women who had contributed to the advance of human civilization”[2]; and in hopes that (c) Black History Week would set the stage for black history to be taught year-round. 50 years later, Black History Month was nationally recognized (the state of West Virginia and city of Chicago, for example, began celebrating Black History Month as early as the 1950’s and 60’s) as part of the United States’ Centennial Celebration[3]. According to the History Channel, Woodson’s contribution ensured that the legacy of black Americans would never be forgotten. Well, at least not for 28 days each year…and 29 days every Leap year.

90 years later, the United States continues to celebrate Black History Month as unrevised and expansive histories of people of color in the United States are continually obscured by cultural imperialism or oppression:

The universalization of a dominant group’s experience and culture and its establishment as the norm….The experiences and interpretations of those who control societal institutions are endorsed and imposed onto all who rely on these institutions, whereas the experiences and interpretations of those who wield less control find little validation and expression in the broader society (p. 803) [4].

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Founders Series Launches


(left to right) Mark Collin, Robert Frager, Chuck Fischer, Gary Bacon

Sofia launched our 40-year anniversary as the premier transpersonal school in the heart of the Silicon Valley with our technology and humanist values-based Founders Series in mid-January.  Two Sofia alumni presented their entrepreneurial “Toolbox Project.”  Mark A. Collin, MA, MFT, class of ’76 and Chuck Fisher, PhD, class of ’86 shared their success story to a warm and responsive audience. “Together we’re building children’s capacity for learning and world citizenship through a common language based on personal and social awareness, self-mastery, non-violence, kindness & empathy for others,” said Mark, Founder and Executive Director at Dovetail Learning, Toolbox’s parent company.

The Toolbox Project gives children, teachers, parents, and schools a common language and the tools necessary to form a cohesive, collaborative, non-violent, and caring community, which leads to hope for a meaningful and positive future.  Toolbox is now in over 100 schools, in 30 cities.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama has endorsed Toolbox as a source of great optimism for the twenty-first century. Toolbox has also been named a Communities of Promise partner program by the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation to promote social and emotional learning to help protect children from gun violence.

Sofia University Founder Robert Frager, PhD said, “Toolbox is a beautiful example of the best that we hope for our graduates.”  Way to go Mark and Chuck, you make our university proud.

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Call For Unity and Diversity In Future Intelligence

IMG_9232 IMG_9228

“We want to create the next level of life,” said Google’s Mohamad Tarifi, PhD, to a packed auditorium of “Consciousness Hackers” at Sofia, as he shared his perspective on the creation of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) .  Mohamad’s call for “unity and diversity” as we create the architecture for A.I. was grounded within a solid philosophy of oneness he calls the Law of Spiritual Thermodynamics. “Fear causes separation,” said Mohamad. “As we integrate spiritual intelligence into this new form of life, there will be less fear because non-fear tames fear. We’ll offload our anxiety into a trustworthy source.” Mohamad predicts this A.I. will arise within 30 years.

Mikey Seigel of Sofia’s new Transformative Technology Lab (TTL) hosted this event.    The TTL is hard at work taking mindfulness to the next level. They serve as the epicenter for the emerging technology space that ties together hardware and software, industry and academia, engineers and end users—all in the pursuit of deep and lasting well-being.  Social scientist  Dr. Jeffery A. Martin, also of the TTL has written an engaging story highlighting the “Major Trends In Meditation for 2015.”

The future’s looking bright here at Sofia’s Palo Alto campus — we might just have to buy some new sunglasses.

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