Former Founding Program Director, Dalai Lama Fellows
Professor of Law, University of San Francisco
Professor of Practice for Public and Private Sector Partnerships, McGill University
Co-founder and Director, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth
Co-founder, LifeWorks, Stanford University
Professor of Psychology, Virginia State University
Core Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Counseling and Psychology, Naropa University
Assistant Professor, Higher Education & Student Affairs, University of Vermont
Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies, Naropa University
Keynote Descriptions & Biographical Information
Saturday Evening Keynote
Restorative Justice: Mindfulness, Radical Healing and Social Transformation
Fania Davis will discuss Restorative Justice’s indigenous origins and its principles, practices, and critical issues, with a focus on the work in Oakland, California. The talk will also explore RJ’s intersections with mindfulness, #BlackLivesMatter, and the bourgeoning social movement to transform historical harm and create just new futures through truth-telling, racial healing and reparations.
Fania Davis is Co-founder and Director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY). A national thought leader in the field, she is a long-time social justice activist, a restorative justice scholar and professor, and a civil rights attorney with a Ph.D. in indigenous knowledge. Coming of age in Birmingham, Alabama during the social ferment of the civil rights era, the murder of two close childhood friends in the 1963 Sunday School bombing crystallized within Dr. Davis a passionate commitment to social transformation.
For the next decades, she was active in the civil rights, Black liberation, women’s, prisoners’, peace, socialist, anti-imperialist, anti-racial violence and antiapartheid movements. After receiving her law degree from University of California, Berkeley in 1979, Dr. Davis practiced almost 27 years as a civil rights trial lawyer with a subspecialty in academic discrimination. During the late 1990’s, she entered a Ph.D. program in indigenous studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and apprenticed with traditional healers around the globe, particularly in Africa. Dr. Davis has since taught Restorative Justice and Indigenous Peacemaking at graduate and undergraduate levels. She has also served as counsel to the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. Dr. Davis speaks and writes on the subjects of School-Based Restorative Justice, Race and Restorative Justice, the Indigenous Roots of Restorative Justice, Social Justice and Restorative Justice, Truth and Reconciliation, Youth-based Restorative Justice, the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Mass Incarceration, and other topics.
Numerous honors include the Ubuntu Service to Humanity award, the Maloney award recognizing exceptional contributions in youth-based restorative justice, World Trust’s Healing Justice award, the Tikkun (Repair the World) Award, the Bioneer’s Changemaker Award, and the LaFarge Social Justice Award. She is also a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. The Los Angeles Times named Dr. Davis a “New Civil Rights Leader of the 21st Century”. She is a mother, grandmother, dancer, and yoga and qigong practitioner.
Friday Evening Keynote: Revolutionary Mindfulness
How do mindfulness and compassion practices support us in the work of educating for not merely radical but revolutionary social change? In this presentation, Professor Magee identifies research and practices that support the communion of inner work, interpersonal work, and systemic change. She challenges contemplative educators, administrators and leaders to make revolutionary mindfulness the foundation of our work.
Rhonda V. Magee, (M.A., J.D. Sociology) is Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco, a teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and a student Buddhism. She is a facilitator of mindful and compassionate communication. In April 2015, she was named a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute.
Her teaching and writing is inspired by commitments to compassionate problem-solving and presence-based leadership in a diverse world, and to humanizing education. She sees mindfulness and compassion practices as keys to personal, interpersonal and collective transformation and is a nationally-recognized thought and practice leader in the emerging fields of contemplative legal education and teaching mindfulness and compassion in higher education.
Rhonda is the author of numerous articles on mindfulness in legal education, including Educating Lawyers to Meditate? 79 UMKC L. Rev. 535 (2011), and The Way of ColorInsight: Understanding Race and Law Effectively Using Mindfulness-Based ColorInsight Practices, 8 Georgetown J. of Mod. Crit. Race Perspectives 251 (2016). Rhonda is a nationally-recognized thought and practice leader in the emerging fields of contemplative legal education and teaching mindfulness and compassion in higher education.
For more information, see https://usfca.academia.edu/RhondaMagee.
Teaching and Learning Track Keynote
The Future of Contemplative Education: Transforming Spiritual Bypassing Culture?
In twenty years of the work of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, the contemplative education movement has grown in scope, vision, and purpose, demonstrating the dramatic impact that first-person inquiry brings to the educational enterprise. What began as a few moments of mindfulness inserted into a conventional college curriculum has now grown into a redefinition of learning, and has shown how interiority can shift the focus of what it means to be fully educated.
In the process of deepening inquiry, CMind has grown to understand that contemplative pedagogy opens learning to a larger world of social concern, in which racism and other oppressive forces cause genuine harm that manifests as injustice in our universities. In recent years, the mission of the CMind has increasingly addressed social justice issues in higher education.
This keynote celebrates these accomplishments of CMind, while suggesting ways for continued growth, especially addressing the higher education structures and cultural norms that keep contemplative perspective and social justice work as separate, sometimes competing agendas. How might contemplative practice in our classrooms be “spiritually bypassing” the suffering of intersecting sociocultural locations/identities (e.g.: racism, sexism, heterosexism, and genderism, classism, ableism, etc.)? How does social justice work become divorced from contemplative perspectives that can support transformation?
In a new application of this analysis, presenters consider whether the contemplative education movement may be bypassing issues of social justice and racism in a form of institutional, structural spiritual bypassing. Examining institutional symptoms, presenters posit that contemplative education often ignores sociocultural location, and accompanying power dynamics and privilege in curriculum, policy, and practice, subverting the overall societal benefits of contemplative pedagogies. They explore the benefits of an integrated contemplative social justice perspective, and discuss how this integration might manifest structurally in our institutions.
Carla Sherrell, Ed.D., is Core Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Counseling and Psychology Somatic Counseling Department at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. The focus of her work is the integration of the theory and practice of counselor, social justice, and contemplative education in service to personal, interpersonal, community, and institutional transformation in the 21st century. She is a member of Naropa’s Center for the Advancement of Contemplative Education (CACE) steering committee, and the faculty Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group. In private practice, Carla is a social justice consultant working regionally and nationally supporting educational institutions, other non-profits, and businesses in becoming vibrant socially just communities. She has presented on social justice education at conferences sponsored by the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, International Symposium for Contemplative Studies, National Association for Multicultural Education, National Coalition for Equity in Education, Metropolitan Community Churches, University of Colorado, and the Colorado and Wyoming School-University Partnership for Educational Renewal. Carla is in discernment preparing for ordination in the Metropolitan Community Churches.
Judith Simmer-Brown, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies at Naropa University. She has practiced Tibetan Buddhism for 45 years and is an Acharya (senior dharma teacher) of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage of Sakyong Mipham, Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, Naropa’s founder. As a Naropa Institute founding faculty member in the late 1970s, she and her colleagues pioneered contemplative pedagogy and meditation in the college classroom, and they continue that work with Naropa’s Center for the Advancement of Contemplative Education (CACE) that she founded.
Dr. Simmer-Brown lectures and writes on Tibetan Buddhism, American Buddhism, women and Buddhism, interreligious dialogue, and contemplative education. Her book, Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism (Shambhala), models contemplative scholarship of an esoteric religious tradition, skillfully integrating first-person inquiry with respected third-person research. She has been active in interreligious dialogue internationally for decades, and as a Board member of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, she is a frequent contributor to their Journal.
With colleague Fran Grace, she edited a groundbreaking collection of articles called Meditation and the Classroom: Contemplative Pedagogy for Religious Studies (Religious Studies Series, State University of New York Press), demonstrating how contemplative teaching can be introduced to classrooms across the higher education perspective. Her own focus has been the ethics of contemplative teaching, contemplative academic writing and reading, and integration with social justice education. She co-chairs the steering committee of the American Academy of Religion’s Contemplative Studies group. She is married to Richard Brown, a Naropa University contemplative education professor; they have two children and three grandchildren.
Leadership Track Keynote
From Entitlement to Accountable Reciprocity: Transformative Leadership in the Global Context of Higher Education
This keynote reflects on contemplative social justice leadership in the context of higher education through the lens of the international exchange of students and innovators. Currently, there are over a million international students in the US comprising one in every 20 students on American campuses. Africans are the fastest growing subpopulation among international students studying in the U.S. At least a quarter of tech founders in the US over the last decade have been immigrants. In 2005, alone their companies produced 52 billion $ in sales and generated close to 450,000 jobs. A lot of this wealth is excluding women. The number of women in computer sciences in the US has halved in 30 years despite growing numbers in other science disciplines. Women only get 2% of venture capital funding while African-American and Latino founders are also undercapitalized. The flow of brains across the globe highlights tensions between those who feel entitled to higher education and financing and those who see both as a privilege and responsibility whether in the context of race, ethnicity, gender, ability, age, class, urban versus rural upbringing or other considerations. As academic leaders seek to prepare students to face the global challenges of the 21st century, how do we encourage students to stay grounded in their own humanity and recognize the relative privileges and disadvantages of their own social locations while opening up to the humanity of those different from oneself in a world obsessed with competition and getting on top? Grounded in her own contemplative journey as a Rwandan woman, scientist, refugee, Canadian citizen, and leadership practitioner, Dr. Ubalijoro will share what she has learned about border crossings and the possibilities opened through contemplative practice of experiencing differences as gifts to share and enrich each other rather than sources of division, domination, or exclusion.
Éliane Ubalijoro, PhD is the founder and executive director of C.L.E.A.R. International Development Inc., and a professor of practice for public and private sector partnerships at McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development, where her research interests focus on innovation and sustainable development. She is a member of Rwanda’s National Science and Technology Council. She has lead and been a co-investigator on grants funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations program.
Prior to going back to Academia, she was a scientific research and development director in a Montreal-based biotechnology company for five years. She is a member of the Presidential Advisory Council for Rwandan President Paul Kagame, a member of the board of the International Leadership Association, and a founding signatory of the Fuji declaration to ignite the divine spark for a thriving world.
Éliane has contributed to several recent books on transformational leadership, including The Transforming Leader: New Approaches to Leadership for the 21st Century (Berrett- Koehler Publishers, 2012), Becoming A Better Leader (Routledge eBook 2015) and Leadership for a Healthy World: Creative Social Change (Emerald, 2016). Eliane is currently involved in the establishment of a start-up in the area of neglected tropical diseases.
Student Affairs Track Keynote
Toward A Transformed Vision of Contemplative Education: Student Development, Intersectionality and Social Justice
Bidisha’s work navigates between the wisdom of traditional life-affirming cultures and the challenges and opportunities of contemporary scientific and economic systems. For five years, as a former founding Program Director for the Dalai Lama Fellows, Bidisha created the Heart, Head, and Hands curriculum, which trained emerging leaders worldwide to connect with themselves, collaborate across differences, and work for our common humanity at the intersection of justice, peace, and ecology. She is currently working as a somatic leadership coach grounded in the principles of aikido and neuroscience while finishing Superhuman River: A Biography of the Ganga. This book documents her pilgrimages along the river, which is worshipped as a living goddess despite being highly polluted.
She has convened interdisciplinary workshops on fast-track responses to climate change through the Yale Climate and Energy Institute, and received the Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize for a clean technology start-up she co-founded; it was inspired by indigenous soil management practices in the Amazon. She is also a co-founder of the Geoengineering Scenarios Group. Her writing on innovative responses to the intersectional impacts of climate change has appeared in the Stanford Journal of Law, Science and Policy, Slate, and elsewhere. She has received Fellowships from Indicorps, the Balaton Group, Hedgebrook, and Mesa Refuge. She enjoys walking in her communities: Lawrence, Kansas; Kolkata, India; and Oakland, California. Follow her on Twitter: @bidishabanerjee