Media ResourcesPress ReleasesNaropa University Celebrates 50 Years of Transformative Education

Naropa University Celebrates 50 Years of Transformative Education

Spark the Mind. Ignite the Heart. Illuminate the World: Legendary Summer Writing Program Kicks Off Robust Event Series

BOULDER, COLORADOJune 25, 2024 – (Naropa), the birthplace of the modern mindfulness movement and one of the nation’s only higher education institutions grounded in a contemplative teaching approach, celebrates its 50th anniversary from June 2024 through June 2025. With several months of special programs that pay homage to its Buddhist-inspired beginnings, influential leaders and visionary curricula, Naropa is honoring its history and community while weaving key themes of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path throughout.

From the Beginning: Spirituality, Science, Performance, Psychology & the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics

Since its founding in 1974, Naropa University has reshaped higher education with its distinctive fusion of mindfulness, compassion and service practices inside and outside of the modern classroom. The summer was framed by the alternating nights of keynote talks offered by Naropa Founder, the Tibetan Buddhist scholar, practitioner, poet and political refugee Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), pioneering research psychologist in the use of psychedelics for healing and by then intensely trained Hindu practitioner and fierce social justice activist. Naropa welcomed interfaith dialogue among Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and indigenous leaders, an interweaving of neuro-psychology with anthropology, and the creative process including dance, music and theater.

Esteemed poets, writers and cultural critics Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman and Diane di Prima founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics that same year, fostering a vibrant literary community that inspires writers and expands on the experimental and performative legacy of the Beat Generation. The 50 years of Kerouac School audio, visual and print archives are the most significant collection of Beat, Post Beat and modern poetry from the latter third of the 20th Century to today.

“At Naropa, we’ve embraced the challenge of redefining education for a precipitous world,” said Waldman, American Poet, co-founder of Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and its Summer Writing Program who will be a featured teacher this year. “Its students explore the depths of their intellect and creativity—harmonizing academia with the generative practice of awareness and imagination to help the world wake up to itself.”

Celebrating 50 Years of Transformation

To commemorate the milestone anniversary, upcoming special events at the Boulder campus include:

  • Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics’ Summer Writing Program (June 9–29): Open to writers, artists and students of all backgrounds, this event offers a unique opportunity to participate in workshops, readings and lectures from Naropa teachers, guest artists and musicians.
  • Interreligious Dialogue with Judith Simmer-Brown and Netanel Miles-Yépez (Aug. 30): In commemoration of Naropa’s historic Buddhist-Christian dialogues in 1981 that included a visit from the Dalai Lama, Professor Emeritus Judith Simmer-Brown, who led those dialogues for eight years and Professor Netanel Miles-Yépez will guide a modern interreligious conversation while exploring why these dialogues are needed now more than ever.
  • Maker Day (Sept. 6): Housed within “Right Intention Week,” Naropa alumnx and community members can participate in a day of live, free-form art making where creativity and mindfulness converge.
  • 50th Anniversary Gala (Sept. 24): Celebrating and reflecting on Naropa’s journey and future direction, the gala is the signature fundraising event of the anniversary year and will honor the students, faculty, staff, alumnx and friends who have given their time, talents and resources to support the college.
  • 24-Hour Sitting Meditation (Oct. 3): Dedicating a day of practice to the next 50 years of Naropa, this meditation marathon can be joined in person under the sycamore trees of Naropa Green or online.
  • Alumnx Reunion Weekend (Oct. 18–20): The Alumnx Reunion Weekend is an opportunity for alumnx from the past 50 years to return to Naropa University and connect with fellow alumnx, faculty, staff and current students.
  • SparkTalks (Oct. 18): SparkTalks, dynamic presentations that share the wisdom of Naropa University’s alumnx, will open your heart, broaden your perspective, and enliven your spirit, are bigger than ever before.

“For 50 years, Naropa offered a radical approach to higher education in the U.S., by integrating academic study with contemplative disciplines which hone critical intelligence, compassionate action and a fervor for social justice,” said Charles G. Lief, President of Naropa University since 2012. “Our commitment to nurture minds, grow hearts and spark passion for service in students whose journey brings them to Naropa has not wavered in a half century and will serve a world in need of healing into the future.”

“In the last few years, Naropa has increased enrollment by 30% and retention by 9%, which was no small feat during the pandemic,” said Naropa Vice President for Development, Enrollment and Student Success Ann Marie Klotz. “Our faculty and staff have remained committed to expanding our university community in innovative ways, so it is not surprising that the mission and vision of Naropa continue to resonate. We are sending healers, mental health professionals and artists into a world that is in need of those talents. The future of Naropa is bright, and with the continued addition of our online programs, the university community is expanding to every corner of our country.”

Naropa’s 50-Year Impact

Over the last five decades, Naropa’s students took their education far and wide as award-winning musicians, artists, writers, activists, chaplains and entrepreneurs, including author and psychotherapist Arielle Schwartz; acclaimed author and Guggenheim Fellow, Laird Hunt; and Fortune 500 entrepreneur Matthew Bellows.

Naropa continues to break new ground in its curricula and fields of study. Among its notable achievements in the past decade:

In 2013, Naropa implemented an Investment Policy Statement avoiding investment in weapons, companies with egregious environmental records, tobacco, alcohol and gambling, nuclear power facilities and enterprises primarily involved in resource extractive activities.

Naropa was recognized on its 40th anniversary in 2014 by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who proclaimed September 18 as “Naropa University Day,” acknowledging Naropa’s leadership in contemplative education and its significant impact on Colorado’s cultural, academic and economic landscapes.

Naropa established a Medicaid-licensed community counseling center in 2015 to provide low-cost mental health services while training therapists across the Front Range, and continues to grow its services.

In 2020 with the launch of the Center for Psychedelic Studies, Naropa became one of the only universities to offer professional training certification and expanded its offerings in 2024 with an undergraduate minor in psychedelic studies and a concentration for chaplains earning a Master of Divinity degree.

In 2023, 78% of incoming undergraduates this past fall were transfer students, making it a university where populations at risk of not completing their degree can do so.

In 2024, Naropa is quickly becoming an accessible college for working adults, with 43% of its students enrolled in a low-residency or online program.

For more information on Naropa University’s 50th anniversary celebrations, visit

About Naropa University

Naropa University, nestled in Boulder, Colorado, was established in 1974 by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Drawing its name and inspiration from the teachings of the 11th-century Indian Buddhist sage Naropa, this private university stands out distinctly among America’s higher education landscape in its effort to integrate eastern wisdom with traditional western scholarship. Recognized as the pioneering force behind contemplative higher education and the start of the modern mindfulness movement, Naropa University is the sole institution to integrate a university-wide contemplative pedagogical approach. At Naropa, education transcends the ordinary; the institution embraces the entirety of its students—mind, body and spirit—augmenting traditional methodologies with practices like meditation. Since receiving its accreditation in 1986, Naropa University consistently upholds the exacting standards for quality and accountability set by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Learn more at

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Naropa Campuses Closed on Friday, March 15, 2024

Due to adverse weather conditions, all Naropa campuses will be closed Friday, March 15, 2024.  All classes that require a physical presence on campus will be canceled. All online and low-residency programs are to meet as scheduled.

Based on the current weather forecast, the Healing with the Ancestors Talk & Breeze of Simplicity program scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday will be held as planned.

Staff that do not work remotely or are scheduled to work on campus, can work remotely. Staff that routinely work remotely are expected to continue to do so.

As a reminder, notifications will be sent by e-mail and the LiveSafe app.  

Regardless of Naropa University’s decision, if you ever believe the weather conditions are unsafe, please contact your supervisor and professors.  Naropa University trusts you to make thoughtful and wise decisions based on the conditions and situation in which you find yourself in.