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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

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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