Sherry Ellms | 303-245-4679

Associate Professor
Core Faculty


BA in Environmental Studies - Core Faculty
MA in Resilient Leadership - Core Faculty


MA Environmental Leadership, Naropa University
BA Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

From the heart

Naropa is a place where students can re-discover their true nature, to reconnect with their fundamental wisdom and gifts and offer that to the world.  They discover the radical interdependence with all that is planet earth - the natural world, its human and other than human diversity and the psychological, ecological and social justice challenges that requires resiliency in these times of uncertainty.  


  • Vice-President, Board of Directors, Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
  • Faculty Grant - investigate impact of climate change and oil extraction on indigenous cultures of Ecuador
  • Faculty Grant - Investigate elephant sanctuaries in Thailand

Recent presentations/papers

  • Bioneers Conference Workshops
    How to Face the Mess We are In Without Going Crazy - Joanna Macy's Work That Reconnects;
    The Importance and Joy of "Being in the Dark": How Light can Blind us and Fear can Enlighten Us
    Radical Joy for Hard Times – Finding Beauty in Wounded Places
  • Nurturing a Culture of Possibilities
  • Monteverde Ecological Institute – Costa Rica –Training community leaders in the Work That Reconnects
  • Speaker – Shambhala Meditation Center – Climate Change and Society
  • ACMHE (Association for Contemplative Mind and Society) “Practices to Cultivate Transformative Environmental Engagement and Personal Sustainability”
  • Green Paper on Ecological Sustainability and Contemplative Education: "Nurturing a Culture of Possibilities"

Creative activity

My interests lie in exploring the wisdom of the natural world and what it can teach us in these challenging time. I am investigating the affects of the loss of natural darkness and the increase of artificial light on the human psyche, physical health, wildlife, and spiritual connection to ourselves and the cosmos.

I am passionate about diminishing wildlife from poaching and loss of habitat and am exploring places and people who are engaged in mitigating this.

My other pursuit is to expand and adapt the ways that the Work That Reconnects (Joanna Macy’s seminal teachings) can bring a shift in paradigm to how we address the social justice and environmental issues which are inseparable. The thread through all of this includes how contemplative practices can inform and strengthen our resiliency.

Courses taught

  • Innerwork for Environmental Leader I and II
  • Applications of Contemplative Practices and Perspectives
  • Nature, Sacred and Contemplation
  • Engaged Contemplative Practices

What book do you find yourself regularly pressing into the hands of students?

Active Hope - How to Face the Mess We Are in Without Going Crazy,  by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone

Describe a moment when you helped a student reach an “ah ha” or transformational moment.

Doing an exercise teaching Non-violent Communication - The student was conflicted about an entanglement she was in with her sibling over the care of their aging mother.  She was feeling guilty about not doing more.  The exercise involved getting in touch with her needs.  She discovered that her needs were not selfish but indeed made complete sense.  She had an "aha" that allowed her to let go of her trying to please her sibling.

What does it mean to you when somebody says, “That’s so Naropa?”

That we sometimes go deeper with institutional questions and do not always take the short cut of jumping from problem to solution without the element of deep exploration (i.e. not implementing the U Theory).

On the downside it can also mean belaboring issues so that we become stuck in over-processing and just need to "get over it" and move on.