Originally from Sweden, Pia Andersson grew up in California. She is the proud mother of three grown children who are currently attending college, 2 sons at Colorado State University and a daughter who is a freshman at Kansas State University.
Pia is an accomplished athlete who at age 40 set several ambitious goals for herself—running the New York marathon, completing an Ironman, and returning to school to complete her undergraduate education. She has successfully completed the first two goals and her first semester as a Peace Studies major at Naropa.
"I am honored and humbled to be surrounded by such bright and passionate peers and professors," she wrote after her first semester at Naropa. "My love for reading and my new found passion to become a good writer will be my next long journey."
Pia loves to travel, read, hike, meditate, and start her day off with gratitude— to remember daily acts of kindness for herself and others.
In her first semester at Naropa, she focused a peace inquiry and action project on the Living Wage campaign, including conducting an interview with a friend who had recently been laid off from a job in corporate America.
Pia worked for 15years in the pharmaceutical field as a Diabetics educator. Currently, Pia works as a study coordinator for a dermatologist and is a full-time Naropa student.
It seems I'm always reinventing myself. I've gone through several cycles of death/rebirth and find myself with a Self I really like at the age of 61. I am self-educated and never placed much value on formal education, but now that I'm at Naropa, I am enjoying the process of reviving my brain to do the work required. It is a challenge and a blessing!
I am a renegade, lover, activist and mother who wants her grandchildren to enjoy safe, abundant, and intriguing lives that are full of opportunity. Currently, we are not headed in that direction, and I hope to help turn the tide in the next 20 years or so that I have left.
I've spent a lot of my professional life helping others make changes that empower and support all of who they are and can become. I sold residential real estate for many years, which provided a unique perspective on change and security. For the last thirteen years, I've had a private practice in sexual and energetic healing and have offered events and workshops that open the heart and cultivate presence.
My life outside the usual boxes of society has not been easy, but along the way I've found ways to be of service and to offer whatever I have, even if it's only a kind word or a touch of the hand.
Cultivating peace is really what my life has been about. One thing I’m sure of—we are all in this together.
To learn more about me, I invite you to read the ePortfolio I created my first year at Naropa (Fall 2011 - Spring 2012): First Year Seminar EPortfolio.
I completed my second semester on my 60th birthday!
I am a nontraditional student returning to Naropa after 37 years. I have lived in Colorado for 30 years working and living as a mother, chef, office manager, bookkeeper, gardener, artist, medical advocate, and now as an adult English as a Second Language teacher for a nonprofit agency and a full -time obsessed student.
I bring to all my classes the courage to ask the questions that everyone else is afraid to ask: Why Peace Studies? I want to explore the wisdom of those who have focused their lives to become devoted agents of change. I want to be like them, to awaken from my frostbitten coma and contribute to the community.
The Peace Studies program is facilitating a deepening of thought and a transformation through helping me access an awareness of world order and systems. The more I learn, the more I understand that I might be of service to others in many ways—writing, teaching, listening . . . It's not done, it keeps unfolding and uncovering.
Naropa allows the room for that to happen.
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Julia is in her final year of the Peace Studies undergraduate program at Naropa University. Her love for people and for justice led her to Peace Studies and those passions have continued to shape her journey since arriving at Naropa a year and a half ago. Julia is thrilled to have found mentors and colleagues in the Peace Studies program who share her commitment to take on the issues of sustainable community development and empowerment, diversity and domination, and social justice in its many forms.
Julia's path toward Peace Studies began early on in her life. As a little girl, she remembers declaring one day, "I love everyone in the whole world, even the robbers and bad guys." While her understanding of the challenges facing the planet has since evolved, her deep-seated love for humanity—for those causing and experiencing suffering—has persevered. The ways in which she has embodied this love have transformed over the years and have included travel—getting to know and appreciate the vast range of ways to live in this world; writing—exploring her own voice as an expression of strength, inquiry, and creativity; service—applying her education to nonprofit work; dialogue—learning to listen deeply and communicate effectively and compassionately across cultural and ideological lines; intellectual inquiry—growing and refining her understanding of what constitutes effective and sustainable social change; and spiritual practice—remembering the interconnectedness that underlies it all.
Julia is grateful to have found a home-base from which to engage this education and looks forward to its continuing evolution.
Danielle Dennis hails from the San Francisco Bay area.
She is a single Mom, full-time student, activist, and singer who loves creating community. Her approaches to community-building vary —from facilitating nonviolent communication, to hosting potlucks, to bringing arts and artists into local public schools.
Her decision to pursue a Peace Studies major at Naropa University grows out of her experience of structural violence, knowing first-hand the struggle to put food on the table and to find a safe place to sleep at night. In her early twenties, she served as a witness for peace in Central America.
Danielle's Peace Studies internship is at Wild Bear Learning Center in Nederland where her focus is on nonprofit management, including fundraising and grant-writing skills. Her senior project will most likely focus on her passion for youth leadership, perhaps developing curriculum for student-lead initiatives in civic engagement and service-learning.
Danielle is the first Naropa Peace Studies student to be awarded the Mountain Forum for Peace Scholarship, awarded in January, 2012, by the Mountain Forum for Peace, Nederland, Colorado.
Erin Likins is an outspoken writer, activist, and community organizer in her senior year at Naropa University, where she studies Somatic Psychology, Peace Studies, and Writing & Literature. Frequently, she works to blend these fields and uplifts dialogue to a meta-level of cultural commentary. Her understanding of the body-as-individual contrasts the Western dominant narrative of subversion, marginalization, and demonization of body-centered wisdom and the "shared destiny" of humanity.
Erin's herstory is littered with intergenerational dialogue, ritual, and walking the path of community-founded integrity. She has consistently followed her heart into each new chapter of her life; Erin aspires to hold space for the health and healing of others, dedicating herself to intercultural dialogues and strategic transformation work.
Erin believes widely in the power of encounter, per her training in Gestalt therapy theory. At this most turbulent time in human history, Erin works with others to transform our isolated and short-sighted understandings of human independence toward a vision of planetary interdependence and well being. Erin has been and remains a vivid voice in the rising chorus encouraging contact over avoidance with respect to the most challenging contemporary issues. She is an avid consumer of post-colonial theory, genocide literature, and art that defaces our shared mask of isolation.
Food has always been a big part of my family history. My maternal great-grandfather, John (Janek) Janisheski, opened a butcher shop in Passaic, New Jersey, after immigrating to the United States from Poland. My grandfather and his brothers continued the business in their 3 locations after his passing in 1970. My mother grew up running through the butcher shop, playing games with her brothers in the walk-in freezer, always having “a drawer full of delicious snacks,” as she put it. Mom developed a deep love of cooking, eventually opening her own catering business.
While it should come as no surprise given my lineage, I have discovered my passion for working with and learning about food justice as a Peace Studies major at Naropa. With the help of my diligent and fiercely compassionate professors, I am discovering how I can become a conduit for change. I am learning about social and environmental justice, permaculture, and food systems in the United States and around the globe. I am sharpening my innate wisdom and developing the knowledge and skills to help heal our broken food system, a system so very different than the one my great grandfather encountered a century ago when he immigrated to the United States.
As a Peace Studies major, I am studying the history of nonviolent social movements while also learning about the lives and work of contemporary individuals and organizations working for social and environmental justice. I am learning to listen deeply, to be diligent in keeping my word, to act skillfully, and to maintain balance in my life through contemplative practice.
The balance between action and reflection is a way of seeing and being in the world that I will carry into my life and work beyond graduation from Naropa. I am confident that I will leave here a skillful facilitator with the ability to contribute to making the world more whole, working toward sourcing local food through sustainable systems one garden at a time.
My entire unique/strange name is Awa Faridah Ndiaye. I was born in Berlin, Germany but home is the dehydrated land of New Mexico. My mother is German-American born and raised in Germany, and my dad from a very poor family in Senegal, West Africa. I’m a life-long learner and a huge part of who I am come from the spiritual values I was raised with: compassion, love and open-heartedness.
From a very young age, I’ve felt strongly that my dharma (life’s purpose) is to work with and serve others and our beautiful mother earth.
As a teen-ager, I had the opportunity to participate in a service trip to India, which was a groundbreaking experience of heart-break and pure connection with the smiling faces of those I met. We traveled mainly in South India, volunteering at disability centers for children, visiting slums where I met people living in destitute circumstances, yet who manifested resilience and courage, creating innovative schools and dentistry offices within the slum.
We also spent some time at Amma’s and Gandhi’s orphanages where I was inspired to see service as an essential part of living in these communities. As Amma says, "One should see any opportunity to serve as a rare and precious gift...and never waste such an opportunity.” I believe it is my and our “burden” to help one another create a world of justpeace.
I am interested in the articulation and communication of the raw ingenuity of the soul and heart. While the “language of the heart” is often dismissed in politics as irrational and written off as too hippie, I believe the ingenuity of the soul and heart is the most important resource in peacebuilding.
Last semester in my “Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies” class we had the opportunity to meet Adam Bucko who works with homeless youth in New York City. Bucko asked us, “What breaks your heart and what makes you feel alive?” He challenged us to live these questions with our bodies and hearts, reminding us that we all have gifts to make this world just a little bit better. I heard Bucko’s message that we can live as an expression of what’s in our hearts a beautiful and inspiring invitation to embrace and live in this world with true presence.
While I have chosen to major in Peace Studies with a minor in Religious Studies and Sacred Ecology, storytelling and writing are an important part of my journey. Through storytelling we can empower one another and create a space for healing, creating opportunities to value and admire the beauty and struggle of every individual. In storytelling we can create a safe space to find common ground, not seeing one another as the other, but as a fellow human being, as equals, as learners and lovers of life.
Just as the roots of trees interconnect and nourish each other we can connect, nourish and love one another, creating a world that is sustainable in environment, emotion, and experience. May all beings in all worlds find happiness and peace. Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.
My name is Olivia Nielsen and I am from Minneapolis Minnesota. My first passion has always been visual art, but as I grew older I became more and more interested in human rights issues and genocide studies. Discovering that family members of mine had died in the Holocaust furthered my interest in this field. After spending time at art schools I realized all of my work focused around these issues; I was more interested in making a statement and promoting change than I was in creating something for its aesthetic alone.
Service work has also been a large part of my life starting at an early age. Before I came to Naropa I spent the year volunteering at a public elementary school and working at a nonprofit arts organization. I have also volunteered on a number of organic farms and am passionate about sustainable agriculture. I hadn't anticipated majoring in Peace Studies, but I soon realized how interdisciplinary this field is. It has become a way for me to combine my many interests in a cohesive, effective, and balanced way. I can't foresee where this path will take me, it is constantly changing, but I know that I will continue to pursue and integrate peacekeeping and art throughout my life.
Kendall Perry was born in Tampa, Florida next to the ocean as the sun was rising, and grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Longmont, Colorado. She studied music performance at University of Colorado at Denver for two years and then came to Naropa University. Her major is Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Music, Performing Arts, and Peace Studies.
Kendall has performed music in many theater, musical theater, jazz combo, and experimental settings. Her compositions and musical arrangements have been featured at CU Denver, and at Gatas y Vatas Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2011 and 2012.
Kendall is passionate about spreading peace and human connection, and after a two-month stay in Israel during the summer of 2013, she lit up about learning more about Peace Studies. For her senior thesis, she is researching how the performing arts may enhance understanding between Israelis and Palestinians and contribute to a nonviolent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As part of her thesis, she is also composing a full length concert, collaborating with dancers to tell a story that connects with the heart of the audience.
Originally from the mountainous Matanuska-Susitna Valley of Alaska, Kenni Psenak came to Naropa to fulfill an intense desire to think, study, and engage in the world collaboratively. Having been intimately involved in leadership, and law and justice programs in high school, Kenni originally pursued social change through being involved in policy decisions.
"I quickly realized that although I wanted to make a difference, I didn't feel that I was doing so in a holistic way," she says. "Before coming to Naropa, I burned myself out in the work I was doing. I didn't have the methods to resource and care for myself and the world around me simultaneously. The Peace Studies department at Naropa has not only given me the academic work to feel confident implementing conflict transformation modalities, it has given me the ability to work with compassion; for myself and those around me."
Kenni is an Interdisciplinary Studies student with concentrations in Peace Studies, Somatic Psychology, and Contemplative Religious Studies. She is passionate about equality and the complexity of human identity and experiences. Kenni created Naropa's first law group, Naropa Jurisprudence Society to support contemplative legal studies and students interested in using law to affect transformative social change.
In 2011 as part of her Interdisciplinary and Peace Studies work, Kenni travelled to India, Turkey, Slovakia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. She spent 3 months studying Odissi, a classical Indian dance hailing from the Eastern state of Orissa. She studied folkloric dance and conducted ethnographic research with the semi-nomadic Khalbeliya people of Rajasthan, India, while also completing an Honors Directed Reading course on Performance as a Means of Social Change in the Balkans.
Kenni is currently training and participating in restorative justice processes, interning with the El Centro AMISTAD immigrant social justice organization, and contemplating pursuing a degree in human rights and immigration law upon graduation from Naropa. When not engaged in activist work, Kenni can be found teaching belly dance classes with Naropa's Barefoot Soul, writing and travelling when the opportunity arises.
"There are so many things that I am interested in," she says. "At the heart of each is the desire to understand human experience, be it through conflict transformation, spiritual study, or movement expression. We are complex beings; we love, we move, we desire. The Peace Studies program prepares you for transformative work—work with yourself and work with the world."
The son of a Naval officer, Jeremy Scott grew up too many places to count—among them, Maine, New Hampshire, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Montana before he joined the Coast Guard in 2001.
During his five years in the Coast Guard, Jeremy worked in a range of jobs, including on a buoy tender in Hawaii and as an unrated enlisted personnel. From there, he moved to the San Francisco Bay area and worked on a ship that traveled from the Bering Sea to Ecuador with Jeremy working on shipboard electronic equipment.
Along the way, he took advantage of opportunities to work with children in orphanages and continued his volunteer work after leaving the Coast Guard, working with Alcatraz Garden Restoration, Montana Special Olympics, Head Start, and Habitat for Humanity.
When Jeremy made the decision to return to school on the GI bill, he took vocational and aptitude tests offered by the Veterans Administration, which indicated that Environmental Engineering would be a good match for him.
But when he discovered the field of Peace Studies, he knew that Peace Studies was true his calling.
"I couldn't believe it," says Jeremy, "when I first learned that colleges and universities offer degrees in Peace Studies."
"What I appreciate about the Peace Studies program at Naropa is the emphasis on learning and doing. During my first year in Peace Studies, I participated in numerous community-based learning activities. For example, I gained experience working with refugee youth in Denver and volunteered at Bead for Life, a nonprofit focused on bringing women in Uganda out of poverty."
Jeremy has also completed trainings in restorative justice and mediation as part of the Peace Studies major.
"Community-based learning has given me the opportunity to get to know the field of Peace Studies from the inside out. It is helping me see how I might use my education after graduation."
Recently, Jeremy formed a Naropa student group which will connect Naropa students with PeacePals, a refugee youth group at Mercy Housing in Denver.
I am a 26 year old non-traditional student, beginning my sophomore year at Naropa University pursuing a double major in Peace Studies and Religious Studies. From a very young age, I have felt a strong affinity for the spiritual, religious, and philosophical traditions of the world as they seemed to address the sense that I have long had that there is far more to life than what my senses alone perceive.
In my early teens, struggling with a volatile life at home and paralyzing depression in my internal life, I began meditating nightly and turning my gaze inward. Though, with no formal introduction to a meditation practice at that time, those brief periods spent in silent contemplation afforded me the opportunity to unravel, unpack, and most importantly feel the seemingly endless barrage of befuddling emotions I experienced—a not altogether uncommon experience for most adolescents, I would wager. In a way, the healing of my own anemic selfesteem as a young teen is what set me on the course for what has been a lifelong passion and drive to understand myself and my place in the world.
In the following years, I sought out and devoured writings from mystics and spiritual pundits. I read works from Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and absorbed teachings from eastern gurus and western philosophers alike. I particularly drew inspiration from the works of the 13th century Sufi poet and mystic, Jalaluddin Rumi as well as the works of the contemporary visionary artist, Alex Grey.
Slowly, all my studying and seeking began to deeply inform how I chose to live my life. I began to witness life—my own and that of others—as something profoundly sacred. With this realization, I began taking notice of all the ways in which my lifestyle, choices, and attitudes were not in resonance or accord with the value I had come to place on life. I started paying close attention to how I walk on this earth, with the understanding that my every action impacts others. I began to see also, the many grievous ways in which the sanctity of life is trampled upon, disregarded and abused in the world—how much needless and unbearable suffering occurs each Day.
After graduating from high school, I spent four years entrenched in a destructive social scene and the monotony of a wholly unrewarding nine-to-five job. Finally, the sense of emotional, spiritual and mental stagnation became so overwhelmingly prevalent that I simply couldn’t bare it any longer. I left my job, moved to a new city, and began my studies again. Over the course of that time I read Ram Dass’ Be Here Now, a book that ended up changing my life.
Be Here Now, the quintessential 60’s counterculture spiritual handbook, had been written and originally printed at an intentional community in the mountains of northern New Mexico, called the Lama Foundation. Though it was only mentioned in passing a few times throughout the book, I knew I had to see this place. Shortly thereafter, I was on a Greyhound bus bound for Taos, New Mexico to spend a month at the Lama Foundation—I ended up staying there for three Years.
My time at the Lama Foundation blew my life wide open. Lama is what I have come to call “omni-demominational”—nearly every wisdom tradition is honored and represented there. I was exposed to a diverse range of practices and teachings offered by sincere and devoted practitioners of many faiths. My studies continued and deepened and my spiritual life took on a lived, experiential dynamic. I learned firsthand about sustainability (and the many challenges therein), community building, consensus, tools for effective facilitation, leadership, and conflict reconciliation. I worked closely with multiple youth groups, and even organized, promoted and facilitated two youth-based retreats with a focus on tapping into the unique gifts we each have to offer to the world. I also learned how to cook a damn fine yellow curry for upwards of seventy People.
For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by individuals who trusted me with important roles and responsibilities and encouraged me to rise to the occasion—and I did. I was elected by fellow community members as well as the Lama board of trustees to serve in numerous positions, including Secretary of the Foundation, as well as a member of a two-person committee charged with mediating interpersonal conflict as they arose in the community.
I came to Lama as a 22 year old lost in the thick of it all, struggling to find a direction and a means to live a life of spiritual integrity amidst a woefully materialistic sociocultural climate. I left with a deeply established emotional and spiritual fortitude, a previously unimagined faith in my own abilities, and an unshakable will to be of service to creating a more just, equitable, sustainable, and loving world.
This desire to be of service is what compelled me to leave Lama and ultimately what drew me to Naropa. I could have happily spent many more years on that mountain in northern New Mexico, but I have to ask myself, what good is all this insight, development, and growth if I spend my life isolated on a mountainside? I know I have to get in the world, put some feet under my prayers, and offer myself in service, lest my spiritual life be little more than a shallow, self-serving, preoccupation.
For this reason, the synthesis of spirituality and activism is of particular interest and inspiration to me. Perhaps then, it is easy to see why I have chosen to major in both Peace Studies and Religious Studies at Naropa. I hope to investigate and deepen my understanding of this synthesis during my time at Naropa, to envision ways in which our spiritual ideals, values and practices can infuse and permeate our desire for a more beautiful world and how we go about creating it. How can religion unite us, not divide us? How can activism unite us, not divide us? I think the answer lies in the marriage of the two.
Though what it will be specifically is still unclear to me, I feel strongly that what I have to offer to the world exists somewhere within this inquiry, for my inner compass points unmistakably in this direction. Through it has been brief, the introduction I have received to the field of peace studies has already been a source of tremendous inspiration and insight, and I have a nascent sense that it will help introduce me to, and clarify the ways in which I can best be of service in the coming chapters of my life.
I am a second year student entering Naropa's Peace Studies program after changing my major from Early Childhood Education to Peace Studies.
I came to Boulder from San Diego, California, to explore educational opportunities at Naropa and to transform my ways of thinking.
I've found that the Peace Studies program offers a deep analysis into the views of nonviolent resistance and dialogue. The contemplative classroom atmosphere allows a genuine camaraderie between peers that conveys love and strength while using critical intellect.
I am currently teaching at a preschool in Boulder, looking forward to the conversations we will have in Peace Studies.
I am a First-Year student from London, England. Naropa captured my imagination when I read in the prospectus about the Buddhist-inspired teachings that come from a holistic contemplative perspective, something that I longed for and would not have gotten from a traditional university.
Last semester I took a Peace Studies course ("Conflict Transformation: Theory and Practice") and immediately realized why I had chosen Naropa—the integration of contemplative inquiry, creative process and social action. I was amazed with the care, depth and the acute sensitivity with which we explored seemingly insurmountable complex social issues, some of which had troubled me for a long time.
Among the books we read for the course was John Paul Lederach's The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace.
For my moral imagination class project, I explored the concepts of peace and peacebuilding by interviewing people from diverse backgrounds —from "ordinary" citizens to prominent figures in the fields of social justice and consciousness studies such as Deepak Chopra, Arun Gandhi and Major Tim Cross.
I have been inspired by this class to actively participate in both new and ancient ways of perceiving peace. Working on the film ignited a passion from within and gave me confidence to explore real meaningful ways I could actively make a contribution to building peace both locally and globally.
Naropa continues to support and challenge my growing awareness in consciousness at the level of Head, Heart and Soul and I no longer feel alone in fully embracing the big questions life asks of me, with all of its demands and changes.
I feel encouraged, inspired and excited to continue exploring what is needed to participate in the evolving story of our Planet and to navigate these tumultuous times of crisis and opportunity. I am now asking the question daily, "What does it really mean to be human at this present moment in time?"