By Odra William

We recently got to sit down and video chat with one of our amazing alumnae, Emily Elrod-Black (BA Contemplative Psychology, ’15). We talked about the experiences that lead her to where she is now, a successful, self-made entrepreneur. Not only did she fearlessly volunteer herself as the speaker for her Naropa graduation and had an incredibly inspiring speech, but she continued to break barriers by inspiring young adults to chase triumph in academic testing. Emily is the creator of Alchemy Test Prep, a company she founded with the hopes of being under no one’s wing, but herself, and to continuing to show people different approaches to academic success.  

Emily grew up in a very academic-oriented household in Northern California around Palo Alto. Both of her parents were affiliated with Stanford University, and they pushed Emily to be an academic success growing up. She achieved it; Emily spent about four to five hours daily studying and revising school materialand she loved it, leaving her no choice but to focus on her books and maybe some extracurricular sports. When Elrod-Black graduated high school, she attended an all-women school named Scripps College, a liberal arts school in Los Angeles. Attending for two years, Emily double majored in Philosophy and Religious studies. But after she finished all her core classes, it hit her that she longed for something more meaningful.  

Emily felt dissatisfied with the traditional college experience, and said the curriculum didn’t go as far as she wanted in terms of her majors: “It was strictly academic, denying a huge part of what’s implicit in all the subjects, which is the spiritual, personal and the psychological—and none of if it was up for discussion. I was made to feel like an outcast for having a spiritual angle.”  

Emily took a chance and Googled ‘Buddhist College’, and that’s when she discovered Naropa. The more she read, the more she realized Naropa fit like a glove. Her first semester here, she was amazed by all the different strategies and practices the content she was provided talked about. ‘It was a revelation for me because it felt like I was finally given the informationboth personal and spiritual and intellectualthat I wanted.” Her experience at Naropa built up her confidence for the real world, and that’s what made her think she had more to offer than to work for anyone else.  

Alchemy Test Prep is an incredible selfbuilt company that Emily is thriving on now. She spent over 1,000 hours teaching herself different approaches to successful test score outcomes and is getting nothing but amazing results. Working with students who want to get into elite schools, she managed to a way for them to find the perfect strategies when it comes to the SAT and ACT. The students learn to dive into a specific mind training, where they are able to use their academic knowledge and vocabulary skills to get a perfect score. Emily said, “It takes a huge amount of practice and technique to be able to connect the dots mentally in the way the test creators want you to do, and I’ve gotten great results.” Emily continues to integrate her Naropa teachings into her job by showing her students they can take these tests with confidence and an open mind.