Art, Sustainability, the Materials Economy and More with Nicolette Stosur-Bassett

NSB_charity1I’m fortunate to have been raised in a family environment that really valued education. I was privileged growing up to attend a variety of learning institutions where I was exposed to diverse pedagogies, many of which valued independent study and self-learning at their core. That being said, 4 years of public high school left me jaded and disappointed by years of forced learning and irrelevant expectations; I didn’t know what t I was learning or why, and was left wanting with questions on the application of my learning in real world (and its even real-er job market).

I was living in Vermont when I found out about Goddard. Attempting to explain Goddard’s IBA program, someone told me, “You can study whatever you want!” “Whatever you want?” I asked in disbelief. That spring, I attended the graduating presentation of a student whose work explored the female orgasm. The presentation traversed her own sexual history, the politics of women’s bodies, historical medical research informing popular understandings of women’s health, and the cultural context of women’s sexual liberation. Her presentation was interesting, well-researched, and strikingly original and I was proud to see her graduate at Commencement.

Whatever you want, really.

NSB_charity3I was drawn to Goddard for its opportunity. The opportunity to study and explore topics of personal interest, the opportunity to engage with your learning in the real world, the opportunity for self-development that independent study forces students to confront.

As an undergrad in Goddard’s Individualized Studies program, I was first interested in exploring alternative business structures; I wanted to develop a cooperative business that championed a convergence of the arts, performance, community space, skills-based learning, tool-sharing, and a shared commitment to sustainability. I integrated my creative energies into my studies through academic research on design, color theory, creating spaces, place-making, set design, and the built environment. Seeing economic sustainability as a central tenant of my work, I began to explore unique business models, taking queues from the corporate world, nonprofit sector, sustainable innovators and small community businesses. I attended conferences and lectures, organized internships, took a job in the industry and was able to incorporate all of these lived experiences into my Goddard curriculum.

I had envisioned my undergraduate thesis as a month-long, community-based, pop-up art emersion in New York City, where I was living at the time. Unable to accommodate my ambitions in the city’s competitive rental market, I instead focused my efforts on writing a comprehensive exploration of sustainable business in the United States. I conducted interviews with business owners and thought leaders around the country, researched the capitalist economic paradigm, explored government subsidies to industry, challenged dominant forms of economic measurement (GDP) and offered my take on sustainable alternatives that benefited people, planet and profit.

Not only did I graduate informed by a wealth of practical, relevant and timely knowledge (that I sought out and thought through myself), but because of Goddard’s Being, Knowing, Doing pedagogy, I also graduated with professional experience in my field, something very few Bachelor’s graduates can say. Goddard prepared me for the professional world by providing invaluable opportunities to see how my ideas translated into potential career paths. The college’s independent study approach has prompted me to question, with academic integrity, the very foundations of my personal and professional ambitions. Through the accountability, determination, clarity of thought and perseverance necessary to conduct an independent study, I have become much more thoughtful in my considerations, confident in my ability to integrate insights across diverse disciplines and take pride in my time/project management skills – all of which were a direct result of my learning at Goddard. I know how I think, how I learn, the time it takes for me to complete projects, how to draft a course of study – all skills that have translated seamlessly into my professional career.

Left with questions unanswered, I recently enrolled in the Social Innovation and Sustainability MA program and am excited to explore topics that emerged during my undergraduate coursework. After careful consideration in selecting a Master’s program, I chose Goddard because it was the only institution that would let me study my passions and provide a healthy work/life balance. So far, my SIS work has involved academic 1925283_10152415935785172_1524247482458486679_nresearch on the materials economy, creating/curating a waste-based photo series, event production, professional outreach and development, personal branding, web design, designing an economic impact study, application design – and I’m only halfway through my second semester! (More info at

At this point, I plan to pursue post-graduate doctoral research and know with absolute certainty that without Goddard, I probably would have never even graduated undergrad. Goddard has given me opportunities to rigorously explore my own learning and provided me with a community that’s worth its weight in gold. I have learned to be a better person: to be more patient, more understanding, consider unknown positions, be respectful and think systemically because of Goddard. This experience has been one of the best of my entire life.

Posted in Activism, Creativity & Imagination, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Sustainable Businesses and Communities | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Power of Words Conference Celebrates Transformative Language Arts


Jimmy Santiago Baca and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

The 12th annual Power of Words conference, held Sept 17-21 at Unity Village in Kansas City, MO., brought together over 110 writers, storytellers, artists, activists, educators, change-makers, health professionals and visionaries to explore how writing, storytelling, performance, and other arts can change our world, our communities, our lives for the better. The conference, founded at Goddard College, is now a project of the Transformative Language Arts Network, which has a partnership with Goddard that grants scholarships for any Goddard program to people who complete the TLA Network’s certification program.

The conference featured over 50 presenters, including one of the world’s most beloved poets, Jimmy Santiago Baca, who himself found the power of words when many years ago, in the middle of a botched robbery and about to kill someone, he heard a voice that told him not to or he would never be a poet (read TLA founder and coordinator Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s account of his story and other such turning point stories in the Huffington Post).

Sha Cage performing

Sha Cage performing

Other highlights included a mesmerizing performance by Sha Cage and E.G. Bailey, founders of the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, actors, producers, writers, activists, and musicians who presented not only their stunningly-embodied spoken word work but a mosaic of projects in their community, particularly with young people. Darren Canady, an award-winning playwright, acted out scenes from his work, bringing us powerful portraits of what it means to be African-American in rural America as well as how issues of race and power effect gay and trans people in various situations. Xanath Caraza performed her poetry in three languages: English, Spanish, and her native Aztec, and even led the audience in calling out Aztec goddesses in a particularly musical poem.

Laura Packer (photo by Kelly DuMar)

Laura Packer (photo by Kelly DuMar)

The conference kicked off with “Songs and Stories from the Heartland: Take Five,” featuring a combination of seasoned and young performers sharing their work. Michael Murphree and Natanyael  each shared their original music, a combination of rock, folk, and jazz. Jazz singer-songwriter Stephanie Moore dazzled us all with her off-the-charts scatting and wide vocal range. Storytellers Priscilla Howe and Laura Packer performed original stories of great wit, creativity, humor, and surprise. On the other end of the conference, the closing performance featured poet Annette Billings and her life-giving, passionate and vivid poetry as well as singer-songwriter Joy Zimmerman, who brought many of us to our dancing feet with her powerful and lyrical music. In between, there were dozens of workshops and

Unity Village

Unity Village

performances that explored topics such as how to make a new life in song, dance and writing after a debilitating and catastrophic health issue (Amy Oestreicher in her one-woman show); re-envisioning democracy (Diane Silver in a thoughtful workshop); grief, ritual and improvisation as a creative and political tool (mia susan amir and Freddy Guiterrez in an interactive performance), and hidden storytelling skills for right livelihood and community (Doug Lipman). See all the workshops here.

Stephanie Moore and Natanyael

Stephanie Moore and Natanyael

Held in a stunning location featuring many fountains (Kansas City is known for its fountaions), rose gardens, and trails, conference attendees also found moments of replenishment and beauty. Goddard College was proud to underwrite a reception and meet with alumni, prospective and current students thanks to admissions counselor superb Chip Cummings, and the TLA coordinator and Goddard Graduate Institute faculty member Katt Lissard.

Information on the next conference, on the coast of Maine, can be found here.

Posted in Arts-Based Inquiry, Community Building, Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Creative Writing, Creativity & Imagination, Cultural & Cross-Cultural Studies, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Feminism, Women's & Gender Studies, journal-Writing, Memoir, Life Writing & Autobiography, Multiculturalism & Diversity Studies, Narrative Medicine, Narrative Therapy, Poetry, Poetry Therapy, Power of Words Conference, Queer Studies, Singing & Songwriting, Spiritual Memoir, Transformative Language Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty, Practice, and Enlightenment: Justin Kagan and Consciousness Studies at Goddard

IMG_9247I started thinking about the traditional relationship between beauty and practice and this unintentional detour gave way to the path I’m on now. By the end of this thesis, I intend to produce a theory to contribute to the immense body of knowledge that is Consciousness Studies, a theory that identifies the aesthetics of our consciousness and how different forms of practice, often informed by world traditions, develop consciousness differently.

My study began with some very big questions: What is enlightenment? How do we achieve it? How do we teach it?

My thesis is focusing on the relationship between consciousness, practice, and aesthetics. Specifically, I’m engaging the idea that there is something we can do to develop our consciousness and that the aesthetics of this practice have an affect on our experience. I am pulling from various world traditions to help elucidate this idea, identifying the aesthetics of their practices to provide commentary on how we approach our own ongoing development. For example, Zen meditation and New Age meditation  look and feel different. I am seeking to show how differences in aesthetics of practice like this change the context of our development and therefore affects the aesthetic of our developed consciousness. In short, the context of our practice determines the entire look and feel of the consciousness we develop from it.

Initially, the low residency model is what drew me to Goddard. I think a related question worth answering is what kept me at Goddard. The first residency was the coldest winter Vermont had seen in a some time and although I was prepared with all my gear, it was still a very foreign experience for this Florida grown boy. On top of the weather, I was working through my own issues of physical injury from a very recent car accident and the emotional questioning that comes with any significant investment of time and money. Anyone who has been to a residency at Goddard knows the ineffable magic of the space created there. Every single encounter is filled with the opportunity to discuss something interesting. Goddard students aren’t just studying the knowledge in their field; we’re creating it! So a meal at residency isn’t just sitting down to eat with friends — it’s an open discussion of interwoven scholarship giving rise to new views on old subjects and application of traditional knowledge to new views.

The most important thing I learned about myself at Goddard is that I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Goddard gave me the opportunity to explore my own interests and find their intersection in the academic world. I was able to study religion, culture, art, aesthetics, consciousness, philosophy, alchemy, meditation, pottery, yoga, and so much more. This has shown me how much I want to continue on this path, but also how much I want to share with others. I am working towards a college teaching position where I can help others find their paths and passions.

In a sense I feel I have answered some of my initial questions, at least as they pertain to my own experience: Enlightenment is awareness and knowing — knowing who I am and being aware of my place in this world. We each achieve it on our own path and in our own right. To be taught enlightenment is to learn how learn openly and consciously.

Posted in Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Philosophy & Neurophilosophy, Spirituality & Religion, Yoga | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bioneers’ Cultivating Women’s Leadership Training and Our Collective Power: Sarah Bobrow-Williams

10505616_10204715569545760_7509515869597883328_nSarah Bobrow-Williams, founder of the Social Innovation and Sustainability MA program and a faculty member, was part of a small group of women selected for Bioneers’ 2015 Cultivating Women’s Leadership training, held July 20-25 in Northern New Mexico, led by Nina Simons, Toby Erzlich, and Elsa Menendez to bring together women of diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds. The training combining contemplative, interactive, creative and ritual practices emphasized finding ways to move through obstacles and to gain greater self-awareness, power and sense of purpose in a community of women. Although Sarah has done extensive trainings, workshops and study in women’s, community and environmental leadership and related topics, she found this training particularly good at helping her and the other women find the time and space for personal reflection as well as community-building. Sarah writes of her experience:

Rooted in values of respect, humility, creativity, intentionality and inquiry, CWL created a space for me to look at my relationship with myself and with other women in ways that made my purpose more vivid and enabled me to see how to strategically move beyond the legacy of bias and devaluation of woman (and all marginalized people) that prevents me from fully knowing myself and others and embracing our collective power.

Sarah found the daily integration of art, movement, mindfulness and storytelling with guided discussions on both internal and systemic challenges further developed her ocamorafacilitation and leadership capabilities. She says, “I experienced profound connections in both group and personal interactions that allowed me to lean into my own vulnerability and the vulnerability of others and to explore and embody new forms of leadership and self-identity with greater ease, in fact with joy; I experienced new sources of inner strength and inspiration from others.”

The training specifically connects “personal awareness practices with increased capacity to be bold and effective multi‐cultural leaders in the world,” according to its website. See what alumus have to say here.

Posted in Community Building, Deep Ecology & Bioregionalism, Environmental, Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies, Faculty, Feminism, Women's & Gender Studies, Multiculturalism & Diversity Studies, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Sustainable Businesses and Communities, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

From Consciousness Studies to the Circus with Hillary Webb

Hillary-e1406706649473Hillary Webb has been studying human consciousness for a long time. Before she came to Goddard to complete a MA in Consciousness Studies (a concentration in the Individualized MA program), she worked as a writer, traveling around the world to interview shamans, resulting in her powerful book, Traveling Between the Worlds: Conversations with Contemporary Shamans. She also wrote Exploring Shamanism, and since she graduated from Goddard, she turned some of her Goddard thesis project into the book, Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World: Complementary Dualism in Modern Peru. On top of that, she earned her PhD in Psychology from SayBrook University, and served as managing editor of Anthropology of Consciousness.

Where does one go from interviewing Peruvian shamans and editing scholarly articles on intricate theories of consciousness? The circus of course! Hillary is now vice president and academic dean of the Circus Conservatory of America, located in Portland, ME. The conservatory’s working definition of “contemporary circus” or “circus nouveau,” is a distinct genre from the traditional three-ring (i.e. Ringling Bros.): “The multi-disciplinary exploration of the body’s movement in space, individually and with others, the body itself and its interaction with objects, utilizing the five traditional circus skills categories of acrobatics, aerials, balance, manipulation, and physical theater.”

Hillary maps the journey that led her from shamanism to the circus, consciousness studies academics2guiding her all the way, in these words she shared with us:

I saw my first contemporary circus performance back in 1993—Saltimbanco by Cirque du Soleil. I was riveted by it. I was awed. I was transported into a state of non-ordinary reality, one very much like the shamanic states of consciousness that I would later dedicate my life to exploring. The things that these artists did with their bodies … with light, with sound, with costume … became for me a symbol of what we human beings are capable of when we put our hearts and minds and spirits into what we love and seek to go beyond our assumed limits. It was this passion for exploring the non-ordinary potential of the human being that brought me to consciousness studies. I am fascinated by what consciousness is, what it does, and what it is capable of, beyond our “ordinary” understanding of it. Circus arts, like consciousness studies, has given me a ‘laboratory’ in which to consider and reconsider what it means to be human. My work in consciousness studies and my role in designing a college for aspiring circus artists have both been incredible opportunities to deep dive into the question of what we human beings are capable of when conditions are created to harness our greatest capabilities.

Read an interview with Hillary and the president of the conservatory, Peter Nielsen here.


Posted in Anthropology, Arts-Based Inquiry, Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Embodiment Studies & Body Image | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Visiting Scholar Ralph Lutts

156461_10151322402642684_161915370_nThe Goddard Graduate Institute was happy to host Ralph Lutts, EdD, as one of our visiting scholars for the August 2015 residency of the Individualized MA, Social Innovation and Sustainability MA, and Health Arts and Sciences programs. Lutts is faculty emeritus of Goddard College, having taught for over 20 years in the IMA, Sustainable Business and Communities, and undergraduate programs. An environmental historian whose work bridges science, environmental studies, literature and popular culture, Ralph has taught environmental history and literature at Hampshire College; American history, environmental history, and Appalachian history at Virginia Tech; and presented many classes, talks at workshops at conferences and in various communities. He is author of The Nature Fakers (Fulcrum, 1990) and editor of The Wild Animal Story (Temple University Press, 1998). His publications include a paper, “Like Manna from God,” on the history of the American chestnut trade in southwestern Virginia. He also worked as a Naturalist in Hampshire College’s Outdoors Program, directed the Outreach Division of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, was director of the Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton, MA, and curated the Boston Society of Natural History collections at Boston’s Museum of Science. He earned his doctorate in Environmental Education from the University of Massachusetts/ Amherst, and a BA in Biology at Trinity University.

51dhYOdhlZL._SX299_BO1,204,203,200_In his Goddard College profile, Lutts writes, “I am an environmental historian who has studied the history of sustainability, semi-subsistence living in the Appalachian Mountains, and environment and popular culture, and who is now examining the history of violence in appropriating natural resources from African Americans. In addition, I am a naturalist who delights in helping people to read the stories in the landscapes around them. I believe that effective efforts to promote sustainability work on the levels of both personal practice and public policy. The ultimate solutions to our problems lie in a complex mix of natural and social science approaches to understanding, personal practice community mobilization, and transformations in social values and spiritual roots. These solutions also need to respect and reflect the rich diversity of cultural values and practices throughout our nation and around the world. Each person can contribute to this effort in ways that work best for themselves.”

At the residency, Ralph presented, “A Brief History of Sustainability in the USA,” which he described this way:

Sustainability is a hot topic today, but it is not a new one. Its history goes back to ancient times. In this workshop we will briefly examine sustainability as practiced by native peoples and ancient civilizations. (This will also include examples of their failure to live sustainably.) We will then examine beginnings of sustainable practices in Europe, as well as in the United States in the 19th century. Moving closer to the present, we will review the rise of the present movement later in the 20th century, the conflicts between the concepts of sustainable development and sustainable communities, and the interplay between sustainability as personal practice and social policy.

Posted in Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies, History & Political Science, Multiculturalism & Diversity Studies, Sustainability & Place Studies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Sample of Faculty Workshops at a Residency

100_3210Are 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird Enough? with faculty member Jim Sparrell. We will meet for several bird walks and discussion of knowing and nature, considering how the different ways of knowing and looking at the natural world (mostly birds) illuminate how we know ourselves. We will discuss our experiences in the context of relational epistemology of place and reflections on indigenous knowing from the work of people like Linda Hogan, Mary Oliver, and Jon Young. This perspective provides an interesting alternative to conservation or objectivist paradigms, can help to counter cynicism and indifference, and has implications for our construction of concepts of “health.”

Challenging Dominant Stories as a Path to Healing, with faculty member Jim Sparrell. We will consider the challenges and importance of escaping from stereotype, assumption, and simplifying schemas in our research and writing. Viewing brief TED Talks from Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Adichie and one from Aimee Mullins will provide a context for our discussion. From a neurocognitive perspective, Charles Fernyhough’s book, Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts provides accessible insight related to the processes of narrative and autobiographical memory in reconstructing stories. We will also review the Goddard IRB process for how you submit your own research proposal for review.

Critical Writing for Activism Workshop, with faculty member Karla Haas Moskowitz. This is a hands-on lab where students will choose an individual social justice topic, discuss with the group, share ideas for a written piece, and then write!  During this workshop we will share our critical writing pieces with each other and apply a lens that will guide our deconstruction for the purpose of personal and social transformation. This is a chance to engage as a critical thinker and activist writer.

IMG_4709Environmental Health, with faculty member Bindu Panikkar. This workshop enables students to understand and evaluate contemporary and emerging environmental health issues. We will review the scientific understanding of causes and possible approaches to control the major environmental health problems, and the scientific basis for policy decisions. The various means by which environmental health is evaluated employing disciplinary tools from natural science, social science, environmental justice, and ethics will also be examined. We will end the workshop with a discussion on the major social movements that have shaped the field of environmental health and regulation in the US.

HAS Graduate Seminar: Information and Planning Session (Parts 1 and 2), 3100_67090926234_165631_nwith faculty member Sarah Van Hoy. This semester, the Health Arts and Sciences program will offer a graduate seminar in “health and culture.”  This seminar will provide an opportunity for faculty facilitated group study and will serve students who are seeking better ways to understand and articulate the intersections of “health and culture” so that they can more effectively serve in the role of change agents in the health field.  In the process of stepping into our biggest vision and purpose, community is vitally important, and this seminar will serve to support each student in a deeper sense of HAS community.   There are two planning sessions for students who are or who might be interested in this seminar to co-design our experience:  choose topics, craft our interactivity, etc.

Neuroscience and Consciousness: Mapping the Brain, with faculty member DSCN1680Francis X. Charet. In recent years there has been a growing interest in neuroscience and the phenomenon of consciousness, causing a flurry of theories and speculation about its root causes and its possible extension. This workshop will go over some of the territory, drawing material from the neurosciences to touch on a number of fascinating discoveries about human cognitive processes.

“Othered” Forms of Knowing, with faculty member Lise 45768_477089016176_7186500_nWeil. Knowledge that comes to us through forms of perception that cross over into nonconscious, chthonic or invisible realms is not generally recognized or validated by the assumptions of Western mind. This workshop will be an opportunity to share vital information that has come to us through such knowing, which may take such forms as clairvoyance, intuition, dreams, meditation, dance, artmaking or communing with nonhuman beings.   Of interest to students in health arts and sciences, embodiment studies and consciousness studies.

Phenomenology, Portraiture, Critical Auto-Ethnography, with faculty member Karla Haas Moskowitz. This workshop will explore the methodology and lenses associated with Phenomenology, Portraiture, and Ethnography to support undergraduate and graduate learners as they construct packet work, final projects, and thesis papers. We will discuss how these methods and lenses compare to Participatory Action Research and other more conventional approaches. Additionally, we will look at artistic ways to demonstrate learning as well as celebrate the community-based processes and accomplishments inspired by these research methods.

10505616_10204715569545760_7509515869597883328_nSocial Innovation and the Circular Economy: Exploring Sustainability Intersections, with returning student Nicolette Stosur-Bassett and faculty member Sarah Bobrow-Williams. This workshop will explore intersections between the emerging fields of and ideas surrounding Social Innovation and the Circular Economy. Through the workshop, attendees will be introduced to global innovations that address human well-being, economic resilience and environmental stewardship through a reimagining of our linear economic paradigm. Facilitated discussion will probe a common understanding of “sustainability” and seek to introduce a broad dialogue on the act of “sustaining” across Social Innovation and related fields, over time.

Thinking through the Body or: How to write critically without boring your readers – and, more importantly, yourself, with faculty member Lise Weil. In arguing that we have by no means yet explored or understood our biological grounding, the miracle and paradox of the female body and its spiritual and political meanings, I am really asking whether women cannot begin, at last, to think through the body, to connect what has been so cruelly disorganized-our great mental capacities, hardly used; our highly developed tactile sense; our genius for close observation; our complicated, pain-enduring, multipleasured physicality.

304631_10150380193407744_264370680_n!W.A.R.! Women Art Revolution – Documentary Film Series, with faculty member Katt Lissard. Come spend your first evening at Goddard with the underground, radical Guerilla Girls and Judy Chicago’s “39 elaborate place settings depicting female vaginas” (as described by the Congressional committee called to assess the exhibit ) — in this entertaining and revelatory “secret history” of Feminist Art. !W.A.R.! Women Art Revolution deftly illuminates this under-explored movement through conversations, observations, archival footage and works of visionary artists, historians, curators and critics. Starting from its roots in 1960s antiwar and civil rights protests (D.I.Y. before social networking and crowdfunding), the film details major developments in women’s art through the 1970s and explores how the tenacity and courage of these pioneering artists resulted in what is now widely regarded as the most significant art movement of the late 20th century.

Posted in Anthropology, Community Building, Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Creative Writing, Creativity & Imagination, Cultural & Cross-Cultural Studies, Deep Ecology & Bioregionalism, Economics, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies, Feminism, Women's & Gender Studies, Health Arts & Sciences, Memoir, Life Writing & Autobiography, Methodology, Multiculturalism & Diversity Studies, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment