Category Archives: Events

Faculty Spotlight: David Bergner

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Meet David Bergner, Interim Chair of the MBA program.

David is an energetic organizational leader, accomplished technologist, and passionate teacher with a strong commitment to his students. David earned both his Ph.D. in Management Science and M.S. in Engineering Economic Systems from Stanford University.

He retired from NASA with 30 years of diverse experience in science, engineering, technology research and development, program formulation and management, executive management, and organizational development. He teaches courses in Quantitative Methods, Operations Management, and Applied Decision Sciences. David’s research interests include frame analysis, computational dialogue models, organizational and team factors in data mining, and the emergence of online decision support communities.

We interviewed David to learn more about him and his interest in working at Sofia University.

How did you hear about Sofia University?

I learned about Sofia University in the spring of 2014, when I met Dr. Liz Li, the President. Liz expressed great enthusiasm for opportunities to create new programs in Computer Science and Business Administration, built on Sofia’s established excellence in Transpersonal Psychology. Liz explained that Sofia University is an evolutionary outgrowth of the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, and that the traditions of that institution would continue in the new programs. I was very excited to hear about such a worthwhile effort, and I offered to help any way I could. Liz asked me to serve on an advisory board for the new programs, and I enthusiastically accepted.

What made you decide to join Sofia University as faculty and interim chair?

I suppose I chose to come to Sofia because of the people – I’m impressed with Sofia’s leadership team, as well as the faculty, and also with the students I’ve met so far. I have known of the ITP for many years, and have long held its founder, Bob Frager, in deep regard. Liz and her team have successfully implemented the vision she outlined two years ago, and now the new programs have become reality. I am grateful for continuing opportunities to support Sofia’s mission. At Sofia, I feel surrounded by positivity, enthusiasm, competence, commitment, worthy goals, and high ethical standards. When Liz offered me the opportunity to develop a new course on decision making in such a context, I said “Yes!” – no decision analysis required! I also welcomed the opportunity to help administer the new Business Administration program.

Any special interests or passions that you bring to the Sofia Community?

I’ve had deep interest in decision making for many years. This was the main focus of my graduate work. In graduate school, I studied Decision Analysis (DA) in depth, and discovered the power of that discipline to create clarity for many people faced with difficult decisions. However, there is a major gap in the primary foundation of DA, which is Decision Theory. That theory is focused on how to make a choice, given that the hard work of framing the decision has been accomplished already.

Decision Sciences in general have paid insufficient attention to the essential inquiry processes that generate decision alternatives and elicit values, and to decision framing. Often these are the main difficulties in decision making, so this is where I focus my own work.

At Sofia, I look forward to taking an integral approach to teaching and research focused on how inquiry, communication, and reflection provide a foundation for high quality decision making. Given this foundation, the mathematics of Decision Analysis and Data Science may be applied effectively in an integrated decision making process. I’m also particularly interested in how people sometimes turn to the Internet when faced with difficult decisions – I’d like to develop tools and processes to help make this more effective for them.

Tell us a bit about you and your interests and family.

I like to spend my spare time cooking and appreciating the beauty of nature, particularly in the company of my wife and our four twenty-something children: two daughters, and two sons.

David teaches a course called Applied Decision Sciences. This course provides an opportunity to improve decision-making. Students learn how to apply tools and models to more deeply understand their decision-making processes and those of their fellow students. Emphasis is on the dialogue process for effective inquiry, balanced with contemplation and reflection, clarification of values, surface assumptions, and development of an appropriate frame.

With this foundation, mathematical modeling and data science can generate insights by focusing further inquiry on essential variables and facilitating collaborative deep reasoning. Additional insights from decision science will deepen awareness of decision traps, such as “frame blindness,” as well as cognitive, perceptual, and motivational biases.

The decision matrix is defined as: the conjunction of four human capacities – believing, caring, framing, and doing. Here, matrix means “an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure”; it is derived from the Latin word for womb. A decision is “born” from this womb through awareness of the conjunction of these four capacities.

The decision matrix is a model that provides a basic foundation for structured inquiry about specific decisions, and also about decision making in general. In this course, the matrix model will provide a foundation for acquiring, integrating, and applying the knowledge of decision theory and decision science to actual decisions. The decision matrix is depicted at the center of the figure shown above. The Decision Wheel expands the matrix model to encompass additional concepts essential to applied decision science.

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The figure provides a graphical outline for topics covered in the Applied Decision Science course at Sofia. The Decision Wheel will be used to facilitate dialogue about decisions, and to organize and integrate topics covered in the course. Simple decisions as examples to reveal essential aspects of decision-making – however, the primary concern will be with challenging decisions, those having aspects such as uncertainty, complexity, dynamics, new situations, high stakes, long time horizons, or lack of established precedents, for example.

We assume decision makers in such situations will need to rely on others for information, expertise, and perhaps facilitation or analysis. In these cases, communication and inquiry are essential to decision quality, as is deep reflection to elicit and clarify values and to become aware of unconscious and implicit aspects of decision frames. From this perspective, the quality of a decision hinges on the quality, balance, and depth of the inquiry process that shapes it.

To learn more about our MBA program, please contact our Admissions team at or 1-98-SOFIA.


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August 16, 2016 · 9:01 pm

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!


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Research in a Sacred World

By Rosemarie Anderson, Ph.D.

While qualitative approaches have a long history in medicine and philosophy, the formal articulation of qualitative research methods begin with Phenomenological Research and Grounded Theory in the 1960s; Ethnography and Case Study methods in the 1970s; Narrative Research, HeurisStained_glass,_Holy_Family_Church,_Teconnaught,_September_2010_croptic Research, Art- and Body-based Approaches, and Transpersonal Approaches in the 1990s; and Auto-biographical Approaches, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, and Mixed Methods, among others, in the 2000s. Qualitative Methods rapidly secured strong traditions especially in the United Kingdom and the United States and increasingly elsewhere. All these methods are rooted in hermeneutic perspectives developed in Europe in the late 19th C. and 20th C.

The Transpersonal Approach developed by the late William Braud and myself in the mid-1990s and first published in 1998 are essentially “mixed-method approaches,” that endorse both quantitative and qualitative approaches for the study of transpersonal and spiritual topics. However, in addition, to the standards of detailed documentation and analysis, we advocated that transpersonal research incorporate the following principles to guide transpersonal research:

  • An interior interpretative and reflective perspective
  • Research topics evolve from explicit personal life experience
  • Multiple ways of knowing, including intuition and personal insights
  • Transformation of self and others through research
  • Research as a response to the Sacred world



Rosemarie Anderson is Professor Emerita at Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA. and a research consultant. She received her Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1973 and a M. Div. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA in 1983. In 1998, she authored Celtic Oracles (Random House) and co-authored, with William Braud, Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences (SAGE Pubs), the book that established the field of transpersonal research methods. In 2011, she co-authored Transforming Self and Others Through Research (SUNY Press) with William Braud and co-authored Five Ways of Doing Qualitative Research: Phenomenological Psychology, Grounded Theory, Discourse Analysis, Narrative Research, and Intuitive Inquiry (Guilford, 2011) with Frederick Wertz, Kathy Charmaz, Linda McMullen, Ruthellen Josselson, and Emalina McSpadden. As a research supervisor and consultant, she oversees research using Intuitive Inquiry, Narrative Research, Art- and Body-based Approaches, Case Study, and Mixed Methods (Quantitative and Qualitative). She lives in Oregon and is a student of Denma Locho Rinpoche and Paul Goodberg.

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The Transpersonal Perspective and Its Value to Engineers, Scientists, Politicians, and Business

By Emmett Miller


There have been the seismic shifts at Sofia in recent years. Although I have been actively involved with the founders of the school since its prenatal days, until now I have not been formally associated with it. When I heard about the shifts I made an appointment with Liz Li, and was overjoyed to hear her vision for the future, since it so closely resembled my own. She requested that I write her a paper addressing the topic: Why is it essential that scientists, engineers, business people, and politicians learn to understand and use the transpersonal perspective.

The Ants and the Pen

It seems that a couple of ants discovered some writing and were quite amazed by what looked like many, many ants all strung together.  Soon they discovered the pen and decided, “Here, we have discovered the cause of this strange phenomenon.”  Then they discovered the fingers holding the pen.  They were proud of their realization that it was the fingers that caused the movement of the pen that in turn caused strange marks.

In time they discovered the hand, the wrist, the arm and so forth.  If they keep at it, the ants may well discover everything there is to know about the mechanics of writing.  But by investigating it in this manner they will never understand the meaning of the words being written. 

The Sisters and the Orange

Two sisters happened to arrive in the kitchen at the same time, where they found an orange sitting on the kitchen table. They both reached for it at the same moment, and a fight broke out, each claiming they had seen the orange first. Hearing the racket, their father came in and stopped the argument.

“You are sisters,” he told them, “and sisters should share equally.” He then cut the orange neatly in half with a sharp knife, and gave each their fair portion.
This mollified the girls to some degree. They stopped fighting, but each still eyed the other’s portion longingly.

At this moment the mother happened to come into the kitchen. “What did you want the orange for?” she asked the first girl. “I wanted to use the flesh of the orange for a fruit salad,” she replied.

“And you?” she asked the second.
“I wanted the rind to make some marmalade,” she answered. The mother then took the orange, divided it differently, and each sister got twice as much as before, and was satisfied.

My Personal Experience

Back in the 70’s, when I first developed my approach to healing, psychology, and spirituality, I referred to it as “Software For The Mind.” By this I meant to suggest that our mode of thinking, the paradigm we use in processing our mental images, needs an upgrade in order to successfully interact with our extremely rapidly changing environment. The symptoms of this are the stress, exhaustion, anger, fear, and lack of compassion we see around and within us everyday.

The Old Paradigm 

Now, more than 40 years later, we are even more desperately in need, individually and collectively, of an upgrade in our operating systems. It is even more than the metaphor to say that what we need is an upgrade to how we “Think”—how our prefrontal cortex (PFC) processes and manipulates information from the outside and the inside. Overwhelmingly, on a daily basis, most of us use dualistic (bipolar, linear) paradigms and algorithms to process the information reaching us from the world around us. This dualistic processing that divides the world into black or white, us or them, republican or Democrat, me or you is inadequate to the world we currently live in. And the paradigm that it represents is very much at the center of the highly toxic and dangerous situation in the world around us. This toxicity occurs on a local basis with our families and social contacts as well as globally – and this toxicity also occurs within us personally. I have referred to this as “Old Paradigm”— our usual way of thinking about the world and our selves – any way that encourages denial, prejudice, conflict, addiction etc.

Our science, our technology, and our computers all operate according to this paradigm too – after all, it is we who program them. Leading the way in our word are the “new,” “disruptive” technologies and inventions that enable powerful people to take from the less powerful –– to extract their cash and labor while giving up a minimum of compensation – and enable ruthless people to manipulate others with highly researched and refined propaganda, and even to kill large numbers of others more efficiently.

A World Inspired and Guided By Transpersonal Values

This Transpersonal Perspective aims to recognize, understand and realize unifying, whole, spiritual, and transcendent consciousness, and the states of mind (and body) it can engender–-for the specific intention of going beyond ego or personal self to the transcendent or spiritual. I believe it is time that we all learn it, especially those of us who are successful professionals, and begin to integrate it into all walks of life.

Imagine the enormously different world we would live in if our technology were somehow wisely driven from the Transpersonal Perspective. By Transpersonal Perspective I refer to a point of view that is primarily concerned with the highest potential of humanity–-from personal rapid healing to maximum creativity, to worldwide healing.

Our Inter-nested Brains and Our Inter-nested Minds

Blausen_0115_BrainStructures.png To address any kind of higher truth, it is essential that we speak in metaphors. In this case I’d like to use the metaphor of the inter-nested structures that make up the human brain-mind complex.

At the simplest level, we have the simple reflex arc. For more complex activities we have the spinal cord, which acts as a brain – that’s why a chicken with its head cut off still runs around.

Similarly, the spinal cord Brain is guided by what we call the “Reptilian Brain,” which is responsible for emergency responses and the attack mode, sexuality, digestion, regulation of temperature and blood pressure, etc.–-all activities that take place automatically, and mostly beyond the reach of the conscious mind. This level can coordinate all the subordinate systems and can keep a being alive in a primitive kind of way, but to what end? Similarly, the still – hire paleocortex, or limbic system, can handle simple activities such as fight, flight, hunger, sex, etc.

But what we, as human beings, recognize as most important is our ability to be creative, to ask and seek answers. For this kind of activity it’s necessary to go to an even higher level in our brain, we have a still higher order of behavior and learning capacity. It is only when we include this still higher level up human neocortex, (, Especially the prefrontal cortex, the executive part, the  “brain’s brain”), that we have a full-fledged human being who can set goals and achieve them, think abstractly and visualize novel solutions to life challenges.

But, unchecked by wisdom, all this science and technology can easily produce evil, as can be seen in such cases as the Nazis and our current day terrorists, as well as in other, milder and more common situations. This incredible neural creativity we possess created the weapons that will lead to our own destruction.

The Transpersonal Intention

maxresdefault.jpgThis leads us to the obvious conclusion that if we, indeed, have you as our intention for our work, our products, and our services is to bring health, happiness, fulfillment, and success to an ever greater percentage of our people, we must go to a higher level still, a level at which we are able to examine, study, and be guided by, deeper meaning, Love, compassion and the like.

This next level of the human mind evolves in each individual. It is also unique in that the evolutionary the change doesn’t happen at the physical level of the nervous system, but at the cognitive level – the level of thoughts, concepts, beliefs, and ideas –- concepts and imagery. This is the level that gives us access to transformational and transpersonal thinking!

In my book Our Culture On The Couch — 7 Steps to Global Healing  I presented the concept of MachineThink:

At their most sophisticated level, some machines are capable of a basic mechanical logic when they are controlled by computers. Computers, of course, are machines too. Some computerized machines can be created to operate autonomously and do wondrous things like vacuum our living rooms or explore Mars. Other computerized machines can be launched from a submarine 1,000 miles away and autonomously propel and navigate themselves at low altitude over uneven terrain to ring your doorbell just before they blow you up.

Perhaps what is most fascinating – and frightening – about computerized machines is that they must reduce everything they do to a series of billions of decisions each a choosing between one or zero. That’s what digital logic is all about: ones and zeroes. On-off. Either-or. It’s what I call “MachineThink.”

On the other hand, when loving human spirit guides the use of machines, we can derive great happiness and magnificent benefits from our interactions with them. A jetliner can take a mother to a joyful reunion with a child she has not seen for five years. But that same plane, if it does not have a loving human at the controls, can crash into
a New York skyscraper, killing and injuring thousands of innocent people. The plane does not know or care.

The plane is a machine and cannot know – just as the global, computer-driven economic system cannot know or care. When we look from the Transpersonal Perspective, we can see the deep similarities among all the legitimate spiritual traditions. We can see that in every religion there is an attempt to guide us to a “spiritual” kind of understanding of ourselves and of the world. Religions offer transformational experiences (Prayers), to help free us from our limited perspective and help us understand, surrender, and serve some form of Higher Being, Power, God, Principle, or Mission. Along with this we can discover our personal mission, our values we most want our lives to express, and the principles we want to govern how we behave and how we impact the world and the people in it.

When we then choose to express the Transpersonal Perspective in our lives our relationships change, improve, become more Love-based, and what we create in our work and the rest of our life reflects the basic principles that emerge from any high quality spiritual system.

Transpersonal Qualities

The Transpersonal Perspective can enable engineers, scientists, mathematicians, physicians — anyone — to learn how to rationally surrender unnecessary limits to their imagination, and through dissolving the fear that usually follows this “letting go,” they can then unleash the transformative power of transcendent experience. This is of great value to the Individual and the collective.

The value to the individual is a positive change and the deepening of the awareness of one’s sense of Self and beyond, with the resultant improvement in relationships, deeper happiness and more creativity.

The value of the Transpersonal Perspective at the collective level—the engineer’s family, workplace and community—will be the tendency (due to the all-pervading aura or feeling of love and contentment with all that exists), to respond compassionately to people, to the health of the environment, and to have a concern and caring about the ultimate use to which new discoveries and inventions may be put.

This, then, results in the creation of products and processes for the community and the marketplace that promote peace, freedom, equality, and all the values and humanistic/spiritual qualities of the Transpersonal Perspective.  In a very realistic sense, we take responsibility for our actions, for the people we do business with, and for the transpersonal final effect of what we do and what we sell. Indeed, the apple never falls far from the tree!

The result of the prefrontal cortex, the executive level of our mind guiding all subordinate levels according to transpersonal values, is that all the successively lower levels of the Brain/Mind are influenced, coordinated and integrated in a way that is ultimately guided by thoughts, images, beliefs, and visions that have emerged at the transpersonal level.

Ultimately, then, everything that we produce at work, every piece of software is produced under the guidance of this higher vision.

Extending our nervous system, Brain and transpersonal perspective into the environment

Right_brain.jpgJust as the simple reflex arc, the sensory nerve, and the spinal brain are just the basic units and technology of the human brain, all under the ultimate guidance of the higher level of the mind, so too can this serve as an apt metaphor for what can happen after the level of engineering.

The simple reflex arc may be seen as equivalent to a transistor, a circuit board, or a simple flip-flop circuit. At higher level, one may write a program, produce a chip, etc. All these can be done through careful engineering, but the real meaning in all this doesn’t take place until we begin to ask: What is the ultimate purpose all these assemblies are put to?

Will they be used to build a nuclear device that can kill millions in a fraction of a second, or to produce a lethal strain of virus, or will they be used to increase the amount of Love, spirituality, and wisdom available to human beings?

If we do not impact the system that operates our world (The “Matrix”) by enabling it to be in formed by the transpersonal perspective, It may soon be too late. Because of the such momentous changes that have taken place in our culture (the industrial revolution, for instance), there’s been much more interest in honing people to fit it into the increasingly machinelike and impersonal societal and cultural structures and less interest in guiding people to discover their deeper values and purpose, and their duty to the deepest part of themselves. This is particularly obvious and visible in the case of (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) STEM Academic training, and is at the root of how we have failed with our scientific, technical and engineering personnel.

My belief is that, by beginning to give people access to these higher levels of their own thought, the transpersonal level, we place a kind of higher guidance into the overall system, a kind of collective intelligence and collective wisdom that can see to it that we human beings produce what is truly valuable for the creative support of our higher values, our environment, and our sustainability.


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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.

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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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