Mindfulness, MOOCs, and Money in Higher Education

Contemplative Possibilities and Promise

March 18–21, 2016
Register Now 

What you need to know

Public Talks Sold Separately

Friday, March 18, 7 p.m.: Opening Panel: "Higher Education Today: Challenges, Opportunities & Contemplative Possibilities" with Mirabai Bush, Laura Rendón, Judith Simmer-Brown; Moderated by Daniel Barbezat. 

Saturday, March 19, 7 p.m.: "Higher Education and the Human Future" with David Korten.

Sunday, March 20, 9:30 a.m.: "Toward A Contemplative, Culturally-Validating Pedagogic Imaginary" with Laura Rendón.

All Talks held at Nalanda Events Center, 6287 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder. 

Conference Cost

$490 Regular Rate
$175 Student Rate
20% Group Discount for 5 or More
*Price includes tuition only.

At its best, the university serves as a vibrant ground for the development of knowledge and wisdom, personal and social transformation, and deep engagement with the questions of meaning and purpose. Higher education’s ability to fulfill this mission is currently challenged by skyrocketing student loan debt, the corporatization of the university, the advent of massive online courses, and the marginalization of low-income students. Against this backdrop, contemplative educators ask how can a meaningful, affordable, and impactful university education be fostered for everyone?  How can our changing demographics that diversify student populations become opportunities for creative change?

This conference explores core questions about the place of college in American life, and examines how mindfulness, contemplation and compassion might bring greater well-being, resilience and creativity to students and educators alike.  How can we cultivate wisdom at the heart of our educational enterprises through creative technologies, innovative curriculum, and visionary leadership? And how can our institutions of higher education actively contribute to building a more inclusive, just, compassionate and awakened human society? 

Designed for educators—educational leaders, administrators, and policy makers—as well as faculty and students, and anyone interested in these key questions, this gathering will offer inspiration, methods, and practical insights that will inform your daily work and/or teaching, and create ongoing networks of dialogue.  The conference format includes keynotes, panel discussions, hands-on workshops, and contemplative practice sessions.


Daniel Barbezat, Richard Brown, Mirabai Bush, Michael Franklin, David Germano, Arawana Hayashi, David Korten, Rhonda Magee, John Pryor, Laura Rendón, Judith Simmer-Brown, Susan Skjei, Elaine Yuen, Adam Yukelson, and others. (Note: Gaylon Ferguson will unfortunately not be presenting, due to scheduling conflicts.)

Presenter Bios

Daniel BarbezatDaniel P. Barbezat, PhD, is Professor of Economics at Amherst College. Over the past decade, he has become interested in how self-awareness and introspection can be used in post-secondary education, economic decision-making and creating and sustaining well-being. His contemplative approach to economic classes has been featured in the Boston Globe, the U.S. News & World Report, and on NPR. Dr. Barbezat has worked as Board Member, Treasurer, Associate Director of Academic Programs, and currently as Executive Director, with the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.


Mirabai BushMirabai Bush was a co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and served as Executive Director there until 2008.  Mirabai holds a unique background of organizational management, teaching, and spiritual practice. She is a founding board member of the Seva Foundation, an international public health organization. She has developed educational programs for inner-city youth of color and has taught courses on spirit and action for more than 20 years. She is co-author, with Ram Dass, of Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service.


David GermanoDavid Germano, PhD, is Professor of Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia. Germano’s own scholarly background focuses on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, contemplation, and religion, but he has also worked for years on engaged scholarship, communities initiatives, and digital technology in relationship to contemporary Tibetan and Bhutanese communities. These two backgrounds have merged with his work founding and directing UVa’s new Contemplative Sciences Center, which is facilitating contemplative learning, research, and engagement in all eleven of the University’s schools. 


Arawana HayashiArawana Hayashi is a choreographer, performer and educator who brings her extensive background in the performing arts and contemplative practice into leadership training, and organizational and social change. A co-founder of the Presencing Institute, she teaches with Otto Scharmer, and has developed Social Presencing Theater. She began studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism with Chögyam Trungpa in 1974 and is an Acharya (senior teacher) in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. She is also a faculty member of Naropa’s Authentic Leadership Certificate Program.


David KortenDavid Korten, MBA, PhD, is known for his contributions to framing alternatives to our current economic, social, political and environmental challenges. He has 30 years of experience as a development professional, and served as a Harvard Business School professor and USAID advisor. He is co-founder of Yes! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, an associate follow of the Institute for Policy Studies, and a member of the Club of Rome. He is the author of numerous books, including the best-seller When Corporations Rule the World; The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.


Rhonda MageeRhonda V. Magee, JD, is Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and on the Executive Board of the American Association of Law Schools section on Balance in Legal Education. She has published on issues related to race and justice, and on the infusion of mindfulness into law and legal education. Her teaching, scholarship and service all reflect her pioneering efforts and longstanding commitment to reforming education for the full, completely inclusive and holistic needs of democratic humanity in the 21st century. 


John PryorJohn H. Pryor is a higher education professional with over 25 years of experience in using research findings to help improve the college experience. Most recently, John held a Senior Research Scientist position with Gallup, where he led the research on the Gallup-Purdue Index, examining well-being and employee engagement in college graduates. Previously, he directed the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), the largest study on higher education in the US. Click here for his TEDxUCLA talk “How to Make College Better, And Why We Need To.”


Laura RendonLaura I. Rendón, PhD, is Professor of Higher Education in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Rendón is credited with developing the theory of validation, which colleges and researchers use as a framework for working with and affirming low-income students. Her book, Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking) Pedagogy: Educating for Wholeness, Social Justice and Liberation, outlines a pedagogic framework emphasizing intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual student development along with social activism.



Acarya Judith Simmer-Brown

Judith Simmer-Brown, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies at Naropa University, where she has taught since 1978.  She is an Acharya (senior dharma teacher) of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage of Sakyong Mipham, Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, Naropa's founder. She serves on the steering committee of the American Academy of Religion's Buddhist Contemplative Studies group.  Dr. Simmer-Brown's is the author of Dakini's Warm Breath:  The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism (Shambhala).  



Susan SkjeiSusan Skjei, PhD, PCC Susan Skjei is the Director of the Authentic Leadership Center at Naropa University. Susan has consulted with leaders, executive teams and boards of non-profit organizations, businesses, and government agencies for over 25 years. She has a unique ability to create energetic and high trust learning environments that accelerate the achievement of practical organizational results while building strong, collaborative relationships. She has provided consulting, facilitation, training and coaching in the areas of leadership, organizational culture, mindfulness, and innovation.  


Adam YukelsonAdam Yukelson is an Action Research Fellow at the Presencing Institute and, along with Otto Scharmer, leads the design and delivery of the MITx course “Transforming Business, Society, and Self with U.Lab.” He has contributed writing and research for Presencing Institute programs such as the Gross National Happiness Lab, and supported Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaeufer with the research and writing of their latest book, Leading From the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies. He holds a Master’s in Sustainability Management from Columbia University.

Conference Schedule

(subject to slight changes)

The conference begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 18, and ends on Monday, March 21, at 12 p.m.

Friday, March 18

7-9 p.m.: Opening Panel Discussion: Mirabai Bush, Laura Rendón, Judith Simmer-Brown; Moderated by Daniel Barbezat

Saturday, March 19: Defining the Issues in Higher Education

8:30-9:15 a.m.: Contemplative Practice Sessions: various faculty 

9:30-10:30 a.m.: Opening Gathering: Susan Skjei and Arawana Hayashi

11 a.m.-12 p.m.: Keynote: "Redefining Success in Higher Education" with John Pryor

Why go to college?  With education costs rising and alternatives to college becoming more viable, we are being asked more and more about the benefits of college.  What does it mean for our graduates to be successful, and how will we know if they were?  John Pryor draws upon his 25 years in higher education to frame the new discussion around college impact. 

1-1:45 p.m.: Contemplative Pedagogy Sampler: various faculty

2-3 p.m.: Break-out Workshops:

  1. "The Economics of Higher Education" with Daniel Barbezat
  2. "Celebrating Body Intelligence and Presence in Education" with Arawana Hayashi
  3. "Cultivating Student Resiliencey and Well-Being in a Contemplative University" with David Germano
  4. "Let's Talk About Racism: Exploring Contemplative Anti-Oppression Pedagogy and Practice" with Rhonda Magee
  5.  "Creating a Contemplative Classroom" with Elaine Yuen
  6. "Masssive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Possibilities & Challenges" with Adam Yukelson

3:30-4:30 p.m.: Panel Discussion: "Unpacking the Crisis in Higher Education Today" with John Pryor, Rhonda Magee, David Germano; Mirabai Bush, moderator

4:30-5 p.m.: Community Harvesting: Susan Skjei

7-9 p.m.: Keynote: "Higher Education and the Human Future" with David Korten

The human future depends on us learning to live as a mature global species that meets the needs of all in ecological balance with the living Earth that birthed and sustains us. Preparing today's students to lead the cultural and institutional transformation this implies calls us to rethink and reinvent our institutions of higher education. 

Sunday, March 20: Contemplative Possibilities & Practice Solutions

8:30-9:15 a.m.: Contemplative Practice Sessions: various faculty

9:30-10:30 a.m.: Keynote: "Toward a Contemplative, Culturally-Validating Pedagogic Imaginary" with Laura I Rendón

How does contemplative education connect to students from culturally diverse backgrounds, especially those from low-income backgrounds? Employing videos of faculty who employ contemplative pedagogy, this session will address the need to work with culturally-validating contemplative practices that foster high-impact, deep learning experiences.

11 a.m.-12 p.m.: Community Sessions

1-1:45 p.m.: Contemplative Pedagogy Sampler: various faculty

2-3 p.m.: Break-out Workshops: 

  1. "Jo Ha Kyu: Rhythms and Practices for the Contemplative Classrooom" with Richard Brown
  2. "Applying Social Presencing Theater as Inquiry into Changes in Higher Education" with Arawana Hayashi
  3. "Art and Contemplative Education: A Hands-On Workshop" with Michael Franklin (ends at 3:15pm)
  4. "Technology and Contemplative Education" with David Germano & Adam Yukelson
  5. "Learning to Learn as a Global Species" with David Korten
  6. "Mindful Leadership in Education" with Susan Skjei

3:30-4:30 p.m.: Keynote: "Liberating the Ivory Tower - How Can We Help?" with Judith Simmer-Brown

The Chronicle of Higher Education has described the current crisis of anxiety and depression in college students “an epidemic of anguish.”  This appears as the latest of interlocking predicaments in our universities that call for solutions.  How can the contemplative educator meaningfully contribute to well-being and flourishing in our communities?

4:30-5 p.m.: Community Harvesting: Susan Skjei

7-9 p.m.: Contemplative Arts Evening

Monday, March 21: Next Steps

8:30-9:15 a.m.: Contemplative Practice Sessions: various faculty

9:30-10:30 a.m.: Panel Discussion: Daniel Barbezat and Laura Rendón; Judith Simmer-Brown, moderator

11 a.m.-12 p.m.: Closing Community Session: Susan Skjei and Arawana Hayashi 

  • You will have the option of ordering lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Orders must be placed by 9:30am, and be paid for in cash or by check. *Please note that conference price includes tuition only.
  • Please continue to check this page for ongoing schedule updates.


Pre-Conference: A Taste of Contemplative Education at Naropa

This pre-conference offers participants the opportunity to experience contemplative education as it is practiced in Naropa classrooms across a variety of disciplines. Enjoy a day and a half of engagement with Naropa faculty and students, and visits to a range of Naropa classes. Open classes include undergraduate and graduate level classes in the World Wisdom traditions, Arts and Psychology.

Thursday, March 17

8:30-9:30 a.m.: Welcome gathering with Naropa faculty and student ambassadors
10-11:30 a.m.: Class Visits
11:30 a.m.-12 p.m.: Campus Tour
12-5 p.m.: Class Visits (various starting times)

Friday, March 18

8:30-11:30 a.m.: Class Visits

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Closing Gathering with Naropa faculty and student ambassadors

Classes range in length.

You are welcome to attend portions of the pre-conference if you are unable to attend the entire schedule of offerings. A list of open classes will be posted shortly.

Pre-Conference Location:

Most events and classes are held at Naropa’s Arapahoe campus, 2130 Arapahoe. Some classes are held at the Nalanda campus (6287 Arapahoe) and the Paramita campus (3285 30th Street).

Pre-Conference Price: $50.

Register for Pre-conference

Logistics for Mindfulness, MOOCs, and Money Conference



Boulder has many lovely hotels. We recommend the following because they are either conveniently located to the public bus that runs to the Nalanda campus, and/or we have arranged for special rates for conference attendees:

  • Boulderado Hotel
    2115 13th St.
    Use group code 19709 to receive discounted room rates.

By Air

Fly into the Denver International Airport

Transportation from Denver Airport to Boulder

RTD Bus service
($13 each way / exact cash required)

Boulder Green Ride Shuttle
Call Green Ride at (303) 997-0238 for rates,
or visit Green Ride online.

Local Transportation

The ‘JUMP’ bus runs East/West on Arapahoe Avenue, beginning in downtown Boulder (14th St. & Walnut – Boulder Transit Station) and has a stop on the corner of Arapahoe Ave. & 63rd St., directly across the street from the Nalanda campus. Get the bus schedule.


The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism

Garrison Institute

This conference is funded in part by a generous grant from the Frederick P Lenz Foundation. 

Contemplative Practices for the 21st Century
March 10–12, 2016
Blacksburg, VA