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Student Profiles

Meadow Wittelsberger
: “Ecological Mind Restoration”

Morgan WittelsbergerWhat was the central problem that you wanted to address through interdisciplinary studies (INTD)? 

The colossal disconnection between humans and the earth that has resulted from the myriad manifestations of colonization.

How does the balance of the head, heart, and hands play out in your major?

All of these aspects of myself must be balanced if I am to perceive with clarity and act with swift precision. My head allows me to perceive the complex relationships that are perpetuating our ecological crisis. My heart allows me to empathize, to feel deeply, so that I might be authentic to myself and others. My hands allow me to plant seeds and really see my ideas come alive.

How do you creatively approach INTD, driven by your passion?

An interdisciplinary perspective is essential to my understanding of our species’ intersectionality with plants, animals and the biological rhythms of our earth. Through INTD, I can explore diverse frameworks of knowledge and weave them together through my life, creating my own unique way of seeing the world.

Why did you choose to study at Naropa University?

I chose Naropa because it provides an environment in which I can thrive. The tight knit community and the emphasis on alternative ways of knowing really drew me in. I have always thought in creative ways and deeply oppose the conventional and “normal.” Naropa helps me to feel held by the earth and supported by a vast community. It has showed me that I am not alone in the struggle for a better world and that change is truly possible.

Have you changed since coming to Naropa?

Yes, very much so. I have become more mature and responsible. I have become more self-reliant and self-motivated. I have become more present in the moment, grounded in my body, and am confident in my ability to make a difference.

How do you plan to make a difference in the world?

Through learning ways to live in physical and spiritual harmony with the earth, I hope to be the change I want to see in the world. I will teach workshops, write zines, make art, publish articles, engage in activism through street performance, volunteer, host re-wilding retreats, and eventually, establish my own sustainable community. I also want to travel the world and plant native seeds everywhere I visit, with my head, heart, and hands. 

 

Jared Urchek, BA Interdisciplinary Studies

"The only way to see anything is to look through a lens," says Jared Urchek, a former nursing student from northeastern Ohio. "Interdisciplinary studies is about using multiple lenses in order to glean a more holistic understanding of what we are looking at, and it's important because, otherwise, our backs would get stiff from bending over only one lens the whole time. It encourages us to get up and move around a bit."

Intent on fusing psychology and horticulture into one major, Urchek came to Naropa in the summer of 2007. Drawing from three departments— Contemplative Psychology, Environmental Studies and Peace Studies—he met his goal of combining multiple disciplines into something new.

"It is sort of the opposite of the nursing school curriculum, where every single class was laid out for you with almost no choices," he says. "The ability to combine interests, and even shift interests, within a degree is a major reason I chose INTD."

Far from leaving his nursing interests behind, Urchek expects to apply his education in the field of oriental medicine, where a diverse background will help him "integrate new ways of seeing into our society." He would also pursue additional education in "hard" sciences such as physics and encourages Naropa to expand offerings in that arena.

For now, Urchek appreciates the delicate balance of a wide field of study combined with "gentle encouragement" to focus and delve deeply into that which most resonates with him. Balance is a necessity in a major where connections are found between everything, no matter how dissimilar they may appear.

 

Akiva Steinmetz-Silber, BA Interdisciplinary Studies

Born and raised in New York City, Akiva Steinmetz-Silber spent a few years at other colleges before applying to Naropa University. “What attracted me to Naropa was the prospect of studying in a school that embraced an alternative model of education: it struck me as a school that was informal and unconventional, where the personal journey of the student would be honored as an integral part of the educational enterprise.”

Now a student in the Interdisciplinary Studies program, Akiva is interested in exploring the way religious experience is creatively expressed through writing. While still figuring out how to make Religious Studies overlap with Writing and Literature, he is both excited and intimidated at the freedom an interdisciplinary education offers. To earn a degree in Interdisciplinary Study you need to complete 60 credits and it’s up to the student to decide which courses will be the most beneficial to their concentration. Akiva responds to this challenge by saying, “With the increasing complexity of the world we live in, I think the potential contribution of any one area of study is limited; Interdisciplinary Studies presents the opportunity to practice integrating multiple fields and points of view and strikes me as an increasingly relevant and promising way of thinking and working.”

After he graduates from Naropa, Akiva would like to find a job where he can encourage cross-cultural discourse and creative reflection on spiritual experience in the modern world. He would also like to attend graduate school where he can build on the experiences and education he got from Naropa.