"I participated in a yoga course in Byron Bay, Australia, led by a teacher from Boulder, Colorado, and the assistant in the yoga retreat was a young woman who had recently graduated from Naropa. I remember thinking she looked radiant and happy and wanting to know how she became that way. After the yoga retreat I went home and looked up Naropa online. Reading the website, I knew immediately that this was the school I needed that I hadn't known existed. Relieved that I wouldn't be moving permanently to India, my family thought it was a good idea. I went to Naropa to try to link my academic work with contemplative practice. I wanted to try and become a 'better' person.
I had never heard of peace studies before going to Naropa, but upon doing my first class with Sudarshan Kapur, Issues of Global Poverty, I knew I had found my passion. As Peace Studies was not yet offered as a degree program while I was at Naropa, I hoped to participate in a program that brought the social justice classes together, combined with classes such as yoga and meditation, through Interdisciplinary Studies. While studying Gandhi, Malcolm X and Dorothy Day in Personal and Social Transformation, we looked at their lives and their work. In their example was proof that we all have the potential to help create peace. Sometimes though, I realized focusing more on the social and less on the personal side led to feeling burnt out. I am still learning the lesson of how to sustain activism. The official Interdisciplinary Studies degree also included the emphases: Humanities and Peace Studies.
My teachers helped me look deeply into the complexity interlocking oppressions, break down constructions of looking at the world as only 'good and evil', and learn to see my role in the perpetuation of injustice and therefore the potential I have to contribute to change.
We also engaged in advocacy work, highlighting the importance of peace studies as a necessary program for a university such as Naropa. I perceived an institutional potential and responsibility to help train students to engage with the world and themselves in a way that alleviates suffering.
While I was at Naropa, I had the opportunity to do an internship with the Urgent Action Fund for Women's Rights (UAF). UAF is an amazing grantmaking organization focused on global women's rights activism. After meeting Rita Thapa, a Nepali feminist peace activist who was visiting UAF, I knew Nepal would be the next part of my journey, carrying everything I learned at Naropa and UAF with me in every step and breath.
After graduating from Naropa, I moved to Nepal to work with Nagarik Aawaz (Citizen's Voice) a peace building organization committed to supporting youth who have been displaced due to conflict. After working in Nepal for over 1 1/2 years, I returned to Australia and now am studying for my Master of Letters in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney. I also have a plan to help create a women's fund in Australia. I would like the organization to focus on activists' needs and operate in a way that supports activism and women's rights."
From a San Diego family that made politics and religion topics of regular dinner-time conversation, Jenna Corbin has never been satisfied with conventions, instead preferring to apply critical thinking to all parts of life. By the time she settled on Naropa as her university of choice in Fall of 2005, she had already tried and rejected four other institutions. "I had a friend who, while practicing with a Buddhist community, kept saying that I should come here," she says. "I was always interested in the idea that personal process should be a part of the learning process."
Shortly after arriving, Jenna got involved with the Student Union of Naropa (SUN,) which directed her attention to peace studies. "Last year, the Sakyong presented the Dalai Lama with a Living Peace Award at the Shambhala Mountain Center, and he wanted it to have a connection with Naropa, so some of us in SUN interviewed Sudarshan Kapur. I was really impressed with his insights and perspectives and took a course with him in the spring. I've always been interested in what inspires and sustains political action, and what was happening in that class allowed those parts of myself to show up.
"Honestly, when I first heard about Peace Studies, I rolled my eyes, but I was secretly curious. I had already been through a period of burn-out and was rather cynical. It was actually by engaging my doubt that peace is a viable option that I was able to broaden my imagination and understand what is possible when ‘peace' becomes a verb rather than a noun. For me to believe in something or feel it's truth, it must become an experimentation process. I remember Sudarshan talking about the areas of the degree program, and he was making this idea of peace into something tangible, graspable, relatable – it ceased to be a vague concept.
"What's brilliant about the courses is we're starting to look at peace and war from a variety of perspectives, and the multitude of voices is really useful to me because, with all respect to the Dalai Lama, I need more than just him to tell me that peace is an option. In my experience, the alternative perspectives of well-respected authors and teachers who affirm love—when so many others want to talk about hatred—helps us engage the mainstream discourse on war and peace. Those voices seem to reflect a story of humanity that is less often heard, and they seem to come back to a common answer of love. I think it's a very complete program, and I just wish I had more time here."
An internship is required to complete the Peace Studies major, and Jenna worked for the Denver Justice and Peace Committee, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting economic justice and human rights in Latin America. The work, she explains, involved writing letters to Congresspeople and Senators, as well as researching economic policies in Latin America. "I spent the summer in Nicaragua doing an independent study," she says, "And the issues around fair trade versus free trade became alive for me."Jenna’s aspiration is to work with young people, supporting their civic engagement. Since graduating in 2008, she has worked with PeaceJam, and is now employed with Planned Parenthood of the Rockies. "Underlying Peace Studies is the idea that we can't just say what we're against; we have to say what we're for. So how do I name what I'm for? I'm still learning how to shift my paradigm, to create alternatives to militaristic thinking, but this program has changed who I am, so wherever I go, whatever I do, that will ultimately show up."
Martine McDonald, a Los Angeles native, enrolled at Naropa in Fall of 2005. Unsure
of which academic route to pursue, she eventually heard that a Peace Studies program
was in the works, and so remained undeclared until it came together. Now, she plans
to make it official.
Prior to her studies at Naropa, Martine attended the School for Designing a Society?a subsection of the Gesundheit! Institute, a healthcare delivery project started by Dr. Patch Adams (played by Robin Williams in a 1998 movie.) At SDaS, she engaged in social composition through art and language, cybernetics and clowning.
Martine cites two Naropa classes as having a profound affect on her: Spiritual Models of Social Action and Women and the Expansion of Democracy which she describes as life-changing and transformative. Thanks to the inspiration and enthusiasm generated by such classes, she knew that peace studies would become her major. "In addition to the opportunity to study famous peacemakers such as Gandhi, along with unsung community organizers and neighborhood movements," she says, "It was inspiring to take the invitation of my instructors and be just as effective and intelligent with my pursuits for a just world. Where else can you study and articulate the desire for systemic social transformation toward peace and bring commentaries on spirituality into the conversation?"
"The faculty makes it an incredibly personal act to reflect on the contributions of our elders. They respect you for striving toward the ideals you envision. They also challenge you to be very clear with your assertions and acknowledge the wisdom we already hold. Being true to your voice alongside the voices you find through history is key."
Martine volunteers periodically with the youth initiatives of Colorado's own PeaceJam Foundation, which was nominated for a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, and continues to be a youth board member and FUN-raiser for the Gesundheit! Institute. Unsure if she would prefer to be a grassroots community organizer and activist or "go the academic route and enroll at the United Nation's University of Peace in Costa Rica," Martine has no doubts she will apply her knowledge to teaching in those venues that focus on social justice.
In tandem, she seeks to enrich children's media through nonviolent content. "One of my heroes was Mr. Rogers," she says. "Seriously, I so admire him for his integrity in modeling emotional intelligence. Even though I wish technology wasn't the only way kids got their information, it is very powerful, and I'd like to take a youth curriculum created in Peace Studies and move it into television. I'm interested in working with middle school and high school students because you can learn to recognize the acts of peace early, then you don't have to unlearn a violent culture."
From Salt Lake City, Utah, Nathan Emerson was originally attracted to Naropa for its east-meets-west fusion, which allows the study of religion using contemplative tools. After taking a peace studies introduction course, he knew it was the program for him.
"Theory without practice is interesting but ultimately dead, so I take these courses at Naropa instead of another institution because of the holistic approach," he says. "Peace studies emphasizes the personal work that is necessary to practice peacemaking. A true commitment to peacemaking is contingent upon one's commitment to personal transformational work. The theories only come alive through practice, which starts from within. This major is for those who really want to grow, change and make a difference in the world."
With his sights firmly set upon graduate school, Nathan appreciates a challenging curriculum. "The writing standards, in particular, are set very high," he says. "I'm grateful for this. And I have to highlight Sudarshan and Candace as two of the most prominent features of the department. I know that long after I graduate I will look back with appreciation for who they are and their pedagogical skill, wisdom, and effort. I take what I learn in the class into my everyday experiences and, if you step up to the plate, this program will challenge you academically and transform you personally.
Originally interested in a writing degree, New Jersey native Ryan Hartman took Introduction to Peace Studies on a whim and found himself challenged in a way unlike anything that had come before. "I went home after the first class almost in tears," he says, "thinking that there would be no way I could keep up. I thought Naropa was an easy school where teachers and students sat around and discovered things about themselves, but this Peace Studies class blew my mind. It was the most intellectual conversation I had ever been involved in.
"At first, I didn't like it but told myself I would have to get through the semester. Then I had my first meeting with Sudarshan. I told him how I was feeling, that I got thrown out of high school, went to a community college, and hadn't really learned anything since 8th grade. I told him that my parents weren't intellectuals, none of my friends back home were intellectuals, and I felt like I was drowning. I ended up leaving the meeting with the realization that I had a lot of good insights to share, that what I had to say was just as important and meaningful as the rest of the class and there was no reason to think that I should have to remain quiet and feel like I can't compete. Almost instantly, things started turning around.
"By the fifth week, all I could think about was the Peace Studies class and, by spring semester, I was the most involved I had ever been in things like peace building, organizing and trying to make change in my community.
"Taking the history and theories that we read about, discussing them in class, and then using them in the real world has proved more meaningful for me than anything else I have ever learned at any other learning institution. It has also helped me see that there are ways to make a career out of peace building and conflict resolution. I can not only change the world with what I am learning, but I can also change my personal relationships. In almost every rough situation I am faced with, I find myself trying to incorporate something I learned in a Peace Studies class or book. Most of the time it works."
My name is Tara Riffle, and I’m from San Diego, California. I graduated from Naropa in 2011 with a Religious Studies major and Peace Studies minor.
As a Religious Studies major, I gained a basic understanding of Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam and deepened my understanding of Judaism and Christianity, studying the mystical practices of these traditions. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study and practice a Tibetan approach to meditation, adding to my lifelong practice of Zen Buddhism.
My Peace Studies minor focused on theories and practices of peacemaking, including mediation, non-violent communication, restorative justice, and dialogue. I completed Mediation/Facilitator Certification, Accountability Board Training, and Community Member Training and served on Naropa's Restorative Justice Committee for two years.
As a member of the Naropa RJ Committee, I gained hands-on experience working to resolve conflicts on-campus and in the residence hall.
My undergraduate education at Naropa was a time of tremendous personal growth and academic achievement, creating a solid foundation on which to build my future. As a result of my undergraduate work at Naropa, I was accepted into a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies program.
I spent a year enrolled at the University of Ulster, in Londonderry, Northern Ireland where I studied a variety of conflicts around the globe and models of peacemaking. In Northern Ireland, I volunteered with an organization called Children in the Crossfire, working with children and adolescents from Catholic and Protestant communities to foster understanding between members of these groups.
In August, 2013, I will begin a second Masters program through Webster University in St. Louis. I will be studying Global International Relations at five different campuses worldwide (Beijing, London, Vienna, Geneva, Switzerland; and Leiden, Netherlands) and working as an intern with organizations such as the International Red Cross, the International Court of Justice, and the United Nations. I look forward to continuing the amazing adventure, which began at Naropa.
Originally from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, Tyler came to Naropa in the fall of 2006 with no declared major, but later settled on the BA in Peace Studies. Children, he says, are his motivation for pursuing higher education:
"Given that we are led to believe that violence and war are viable options to settling disputes and differences, I am joyful that Naropa has decided to take an even stronger stance for social justice with the introduction of a Peace Studies program. Personally, I believe that spiritual components to peace studies cannot be ignored either.
"I personally appreciate the approach of critically looking at various, well known peace activists as well as the unknown activists and movements throughout the history of nonviolent revolutions. Furthermore, I am grateful to my friends in peace studies for the invaluable knowledge, wisdom and experience which they endlessly offer in classes and work. While many of the courses take an international focus, I would like to see language classes offered as well as study abroad programs specific to peace studies. I think this knowledge is essential, because a global nonviolent revolution is coming."