About NaropaLeadershipBoard of TrusteesVanessa Kelly
BOT member Vanessa Kelly

Vanessa Kelly

Trustee, Elected 2023

Brooklyn, New York 


Vanessa is a lawyer, disability advocate, speaker, and writer who practices narrative advocacy in the belief that sharing our stories is a change catalyst.

Vanessa is a corporate lawyer and senior counsel in-house at a global investment bank. Her practice ranges from advising on private debt and equity transactions, broker-dealer and securities regulation, municipal offerings, and restructuring and bankruptcy. Throughout her career, she has also held compliance, business selection/conflicts, and chief operating officer roles.

Deaf since birth, Vanessa serves in several disability-related leadership roles. She is the co-head of her employer’s Disability Network, where she creates educational programming and training, participates in disability recruiting initiatives, and implements disability-inclusive policies and procedures. Vanessa serves on the Hearing Loss Association of America New York chapter Board of Directors where she is also an active chapter member and featured speaker. She mentors professionals with disabilities and was recently selected to be a mentor in the Lime Connect Foundation Program for Young Professionals. Vanessa is a regular panelist and speaker at corporate and non-profit disability-related events. She served on the faculty for the Practicing Law Institute’s Diversity & Inclusion in Law Practice 2022 symposium. Vanessa has been featured on NPR and in other media publications. She is currently featured in the Center for Hearing and Communication and NYU’s Cochlear Implant Center’s marketing campaigns.

In addition to disability advocacy, Vanessa is dedicated to meditation and environmental conservation. She is a certified teacher of mindfulness meditation, contemplative nature practices, and Kripalu yoga. She teaches meditation in corporate and Buddhist retreat environments as well as at the Nalanda Institute where she serves on the Board of Directors and equity leadership team. She has completed the two-year Socially Engaged Buddhism training program with Upaya Zen Center. Vanessa is currently completing the three-year contemplative psychotherapy program with the Nalanda Institute and the two-year Margha program with Natural Dharma Fellowship. Vanessa is a Level Two Mindful Outdoor Guide through the Kripalu School of Outdoor Leadership and a New York State volunteer Master Naturalist. She is certified in wilderness first aid and is a Leave No Trace trainer. She is proud to serve on the Board of Directors at Wonder & Grow, a West Virginia nonprofit providing immersive and educational nature experiences for children and their parents through curiosity-driven exploration and mindfulness practices. Vanessa works to make meditation, mindful movement, and the outdoors more accessible to the disability community.

A Minnesota native, Vanessa now calls Brooklyn and upstate New York home along with her beloved partner, animals, and books. She honors her Irish heritage by supporting the Irish Arts Center and the Irish Repertory Theatre, as well as Irish authors and artisans.

Search Naropa University


This is where experiential learning meets academic rigor. Where you challenge your intellect and uncover your potential. Where you discover the work you’re moved to do—then use it to transform our world.

“*” indicates required fields