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Living Systems

Our program draws upon living systems models for active engagement with the social and ecological  issues of our times. The curriculum develops an empirical understanding of the interconnected nature of living systems and applies this framework to change processes at different scales in social domains. Incorporating emerging developments in science, which regard the earth as a living system capable of responding intelligently to change, the program explores its cultural, social, and environmental implications. New science embraces the concept of a participative universe with self-organizing systems whose dynamics and patterns operate throughout the whole system.

Studying groups and organizations as living systems, students learn to recognize group dynamics, apply conflict resolution skills, and manage organizational change. Students develop a number of tools for generating and maintaining creative, functional groups in any organizational or community setting. Current  environmental, human rights, and sustainability policies and practices are studied and analyzed to evaluate how such practices are being designed and implemented in a variety of organizations and communities.

Contemplative Practices

One of the unique features of the MA in Resilient Leadership is the inclusion of contemplative practices such as mindfulness and listening exercises as a vital theme throughout the curriculum. The new paradigm of mature leadership requires leaders who are spiritually awake, inwardly confident, and capable of deep listening to self and others. Mindfulness practices, nature-based meditation, and ecopsychological practices develop capacities for compassion, attentiveness, flexibility, and non-judgment. Genuine self-awareness leads to an understanding of one’s personal leadership style and a basic trust in collaborative, co-creative problem solving.

These meditative practices are also offered as a key to personal sustainability as a leader in working with the complexity and uncertainties of our times. In mindfulness practices, such as sitting or walking meditation, students get in touch with their interior lives, learn to be more fully present to each moment, discover more open thinking capacities, and sharpen insight and concentration, all of which support academic study and future endeavors.

In addition, students have the opportunity to enrich their personal relationship with nature through a period of solitude and fasting (optional) in a wilderness setting. Deep connection with nature assists students in clarifying their path and integrating the first year of study.

Ecological and Social Justice

In today’s complex world, those at the forefront of institutional and social change must work across cultural, national, and political boundaries as well as be inclusive of gender, religious, ethnic, and racial differences. The MA in Resilient Leadership program recognizes that the oppression of the Earth and the oppression of peoples has gone hand in hand and that the Climate Justice movement is at the forefront of ecological transformation. The program goes beyond simply respecting diversity by bringing in critical policies, views, and transformative action into the curriculum.

Students study key theoretical perspectives in environmental and climate justice and examine personal worldviews, cultural identity and cultural assumptions, which impact their attitudes, behavior, perceptions, and skills as leaders. Through exposure to various worldviews, students learn how to assess the ethical implications of environmental policies, decisions, and actions from a multidisciplinary and multicultural perspective and build competence in understanding global justice issues.

Experiential and Theoretical Application

During the final year, students demonstrate an integration of theory, method, and leadership skills either through an Applied Leadership Project in an organizational or community setting or through a formal written thesis.

Typically, students in the Sustainable Systems track design, implement, and assess a substantial project that benefits the goals, mission, and functioning of an organization of their choice. An organization or community setting can include a business, nonprofit, government agency, neighborhood association, or other activist group. A formal, professional-level report and presentation complete the project.

Students within the Climate Justice track, who may go on to further scholarship, teaching, policy making, and organization change, typically write a formal thesis focused on a relevant topic which they hold passion for. The thesis is centered upon a unique contention that is supported by a strong narrative, review of the literature, a leadership approach to the issue, and a final discussion and recommendation.