Becoming Sofia University
- Chris von Bogdandy's Commencement Speech 2012
- Statement from the Board of Trustees
- The Initial Schools of Sofia University
- ITP Becomes Sofia University
- ITP / Sofia University Name Change -- FAQ 2.0 / May 2012
- An Historic Moment for the ITP Community
June 17, 2012
First, I would like to acknowledge my fellow board members, who for the love of the school are devoting their time, efforts and funds to the school:
- Yangchen Lama
- Jeff Keimer
- Terry Connelly
- Rick Hesel
- Peter Coughlan
- Jackie Moore
Thank you all for serving on the Board of Trustees.
I would like to go back in time a little bit.
In 1989 I lived in Berlin. I spent my days organizing student demonstrations and nights playing in punk bands. Berlin was a cozy place at that time. The wall was intact, cost of living was low and a bohemian lifestyle easily accomplished.
That year a friend of mine came to visit from Barbados. In San Francisco you take people over the Golden Gate Bridge for sightseeing. In Berlin, you take people over to East Berlin. For those of you who have never visited East Berlin in these days let me explain what to expect. The first thing you notice is the absence of colors. Everything is grey. Then you notice the smell. Most homes are heated with lignite coal and most cars are two-stroke engines. Especially in winter it can take your breath away. Then you notice a difference in how people interact, especially with strangers.
All in all, he found it very interesting but at the end he told me that he strongly believed the wall would come down within a year. I thought he was wrong and obviously I stand here corrected.
When the wall came down on November 10 millions of people from the East flocked to the West. It was a big party. The only problem was that folks from the East only knew about West Germany from Socialist Propaganda and secretively watching West German TV. Imagine you moving to the United States and the only thing you know about the place is from watching Baywatch and listening to Hugo Chavez.
It comes at no surprise that many were disappointed. They did not realize that with capitalism came accountability. In the old socialist Germany things like employment, education and housing were guaranteed. The government took care of people and made all critical decisions for them. As long as you did not speak up, you were ok. Today there are many who are missing this.
While millions of East Germans moved West, I moved East. Together with some friends we squatted an empty, old Jewish Warehouse at the center of Berlin to create a space for art installations and music. We called it Tacheles, which is Jewish and means 'Straight Talking'. The place is still there today.
At one point we were able to obtain two Russian Migs, courtesy of the Russian Air Force. We turned them into art installations. I showed these Migs to my farther. It is the only time I remember seeing him cry. He told me that for him these aircrafts are symbols of destruction and death and that seeing them as art installations in our squat made him understand that the Cold War was finally over. I was stunned. I had no idea that he was still hanging on to this.
The reason I am telling you this story is because it is a story of transformation: my transformation, my father's transformation and the world's transformation. William Bridges defines individual transitions into three stages: ending, exploration and beginning. We are also going through a transformation at the school. While the board is strongly committed to the core aspect of a transformative, transpersonal education we are also committed to creating a sustainable organization with global recognition and impact.
The board worked extensively on this topic over the past year. We conducted a comprehensive scan of our competitors, suppliers, customers and regulatory environment. Bob Johansen from the Institute of the Future in Palo Alto advised us on trends in the world and what this means to higher education. He told us that in his 40 years of forecasting, this is the most frightening – and at the same time, hopeful – forecast he has ever done.
Our strategic planning process, the new name, the new building, the new school for undergraduate studies and the public programs are just some of the many materializations of the strategic direction the board has set. I would like to point out that the board is only setting the strategic direction. The development of the strategic plan is driven by the administration, which has created a very inclusive process with the whole community. Many committees have been formed with students, alumni and administration. Thank you for participating in the strategic planning process and for taking responsibility in the shaping of our future. (There is no secret plan here from the board!)
At the same time we have to work hard on not losing sight of the value of our community and helping each other go through the process of ending, exploring and beginning. The board has vowed to make a better effort of inclusion and communication. In our last board meeting this month we already had productive conversations with the SLB and the Faculty Senate. The outcome was to introduce a 'healing dialogue' on the premise of the upcoming changes. Just this Wednesday we met with a small group representing the residential and global students, administration, alumni and board to discuss how we can best engage with our community in order to embark on our journey of transformation together.
So graduates, as you go out into the world to bring healing and peace and you don't have a perfect plan, don't worry. Rely on your intuition to guide you. As you are transitioning out of your current role as a student, be mindful about the endings you are going to experience. However, at some point you need to shift your energy to exploration and beginning.
Sofia will always be there for you, her wisdom will always be at your disposal. I hope that you are staying connected to this community, which can give you much inspiration and fulfillment in your future ventures.
Getting back to what Bob Johansen said about the future: "This is the most scary and the most hopeful forecast I have ever done." The difference between these two scenarios will be you.
I would like to close with a short poem, one that you all know:
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
– It's easy.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney
June 4, 2012
Dear ITP/Sofia Community
The Board of Trustees has listened diligently and respectfully to the full variety of responses to its decision changing the name of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology to Sofia University, ranging from excitement and enthusiasm to grief and disenchantment.
We accept the integrity and legitimacy of the full scope and dimensions of these responses, and acknowledge our accountability not only for this decision but also for any deficiencies in our communication that may have contributed to the very strong feelings and concerns regarding the name change.
The Board met last Friday with representatives from the Faculty Senate and the Student Liaison Board. We enjoyed open and heartfelt conversations. Our discussion focused on how we can bring the community together again against the backdrop of our recent strategic decisions. We all agreed that better engagement between the Board and all constituencies will be critical to accomplish this task. To this end, the Board committed to make a best effort to create an open session in regularly scheduled Board meetings, where student and faculty representatives will be invited for regular dialogue.
In addition to the above we also discussed engaging in a process of healing dialogue with faculty, staff, alumni and students on the issue of the recent name change of ITP to Sofia University. As we transition to becoming Sofia University effective July 1st, we will work together on defining a safe container for these discussions on the premise of mutual respect and the acknowledgement of the governing responsibilities of the Board. Details and timing of these discussions will be provided by the administration.
May 22, 2012
Dear ITP/Sofia Community,
I am pleased to announce a next step in our development as a University.
One of the many benefits of our becoming a university is that we can broaden our programs to disciplines other than psychology and into undergraduate study, while maintaining our historic mission and core values. We are now able to situate our programs in a way that will make us more visible to the public, more coherent in our program offerings, and better able to diversify our programs in alignment with our values.
We will begin our new "institutional architecture" with the establishment of three schools within Sofia University. This initial structure grows out of our consultation with the community over the last several months, including all constituents in the strategic planning discourse, the Academic Excellence Strategic Planning subcommittee, the Program Chairs and Directors, and members of the Faculty Senate.
While we have not worked out all of the details, the basic structure will be the following:
- The Graduate School of Transpersonal Studies
- This school will likely house the following programs:
- The on-campus Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology (or Transpersonal Studies)
- The on-campus MA in Transpersonal Psychology
- The online Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Transpersonal Psychology
- The online MTP/Certificate
- The Low Residency Women's Spirituality MA
- The Graduate School of Clinical and Spiritual Psychology
- This school will likely house the following programs:
- The on-campus PsyD
- The MACP in all of its delivery modes (on-campus and low residency)
- The low residency MA in Spiritual Guidance
- The School of Undergraduate Studies
- This school will house the following low residency programs:
- The BA in Psychology
- The BA in Liberal Arts with concentrations in:
- Transpersonal Studies
- Business and Leadership
- LGBTQ Studies
All programs, in every school of the University, will have a transpersonal emphasis, i.e. all programs address the traditional six areas that have been part of our school for many years: intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, somatic, and creative.
As we move forward and grow as a University, we will be able to add new programs to these schools, and likely in time develop new schools, which will allow us to expand our development and teaching of the transpersonal and to become better known as the best transpersonal university in the world.
We will keep you informed as we further develop the architecture of the emerging Sofia University.
All best wishes,
Neal King, Ph.D
What's in a name? Pretty much everything.
The name change decision caught everyone by surprise, probably including the two faculty who had, independently, suggested "Sophia": Rosemarie Anderson and Kartik Patel. (If this catches you by surprise, click on "An Historic Moment for the ITP Community"). It certainly caught me by surprise, has made me face my own laziness in the years I had been neglecting Sofia/Sophia—hmm. Isn't she a saint or something connected to Eastern Orthodox Christianity? And she is, and oh so much more.
Having the opportunity, okay, the necessity, to research this topic has turned into a rich collaborative meeting of minds and traditions among about a dozen ITP/Sofia University faculty who gathered last month in person and on conference call to share stories.
The facets of Sofia are quite diverse. For example, Lisa Herman emailed me the morning of the meeting: "I can't attend but don't fail to take note that Hokhmah is wisdom in the Jewish Tree of Life, and it is a letter, not a picture; it is not iconized—no depiction!" The Hebrew word hokhmah, meaning wisdom, was rendered into the Greek for wisdom, "Sophia" when the biblical texts were translated. Lisa's email reminds me that the first meaning of Sofia is "inner knowing" or intuition, knowledge based in anomalous events, dreams, visions, altered states, visitations, and synchronicities.
But why is this a feminine noun, with female depictions and associations? The most obvious answer is linguistic: The Greeks also had the word Sophos, "male" wisdom acquired from craft, and the learning of trades. Sophos is measured, physically objective learning, the truth of crafts and the outer world. Sophia is "female" wisdom acquired from inner knowing, intuition. They saw two distinctly different ways of becoming wise, and gendered them. In our brave new postmodern world we don't divide knowledge this way. Unless, of course, we are Jungians.
Most of us are aware that Jung posited anima and animus as female and male psychological constructs within each individual, and assigned them developmental levels. What most of us may not know is that the fourth and most complete, the integrated level of anima, he named "Sophia," emphasizing the importance of this personal growth and capacity to individuate, in men. In animus this level is called "Hermes".
Thanks to Nick Kardaras (Ph.D 2008) for taking the time to explain that Greek philosophers were influenced by the wisdom traditions and schools of Northern Africa, particularly the Nile Valley. Scholars and spiritual teachers from as far away as India and other parts of Asia comingled with Mediterranean intellectuals and seekers in Egypt's great metropolitan centers at Alexandria, Memphis, and Thebes. Elaine Pagels has suggested that Buddhists also came to the area to teach and exchange knowledge.
Millennia before Alexander the Great made ancient Greece synonymous with empire, the great wisdom goddess and god of the Land of Khem, were Auset (later "Isis") and her husband Auser, later "Osiris." She accessed wisdom through dreams and trance states, he travelled widely teaching the civilizing arts of agriculture, trade, and shipping that they had both developed. (Once again, inner and outer knowledge were mythologized along gender lines—for the sake of a good story.) I am reminded that the roots of western psychology have always been mythology, and surfacing of additional stories keep the field evolving.
Wisdom, of course, belongs to all cultures, and has often been iconized—an excellent tool for meditation and for reminding. In our faculty seminar, Mark Gonnerman gave out copies of a gorgeous poster: Prajñaparamita, whose name means: "Perfection of Wisdom" and "Mother of All Buddhas." Admiring the poster leads us into a discussion of beauty and creativity, and Saraswati of India as a wisdom goddess. Mark informs us, "She is first introduced in the Vedic hymns of the second millennium B.C.E., and her name means 'Lady of the Waters' or 'Flowing One' (after a river that is no longer extant). In Tibetan her name is Yangchenma, which means 'Goddess of Melodious Voice,' a patroness of poets and musicians. A poster of Samantabhadra whizzing along on a bicycle, is at the student entrance of our building, one of Mayumi Oda's imaginative, whimsical offerings. She is wisdom as a shining practice Bhodisattva, teaching that wisdom is only valuable when it benefits all living beings, and as Oda describes, "She turns meditation into action and dream into reality."
I am excited by all there is to learn about the ways knowledge and in particular "inner knowing" has been carried, even in cultures, areas, and eras known for their suppression of transpersonal experiences. Perhaps this is one reason to study all the aspects of Sophia, including deliberately associating her with Egypt's Ma'aat, goddess of wisdom as justice, who weighed souls with a feather. Sophia, as author Caitlin Mathews says, "speaks with the voices of the humble, the weak, and the oppressed."
I have to conclude that I have neglected Sophia to my own loss. Our faculty Sofia Study Group promises to teach each other. I want to learn about her as the mind of nature and as the earth, as sound and space, as the sefira or energy essence Hokhmah in the Tree of Life, as the Dark Mother, as androgynous, as the Bride of God and the twin of Christ, as the "philosopher's angel" of Sufis, and as Gnostic heretical creator of the material world. As anima. I want to know what the wisdom traditions of the North and South American continents say; are there distinctions between inner and outer knowing? And yes, I want to know Sofia as winged and fluffy too. I want all the wisdom I can get.
Call out (if there's room):
[Sophia is "female" wisdom acquired from inner knowing, intuition.]
The ITP Board of Trustees voted unanimously at its February 24, 2012 meeting to change the name of the school to Sofia University, effective July 1, 2012. This decision was announced to the school's faculty, staff, students and alumni on March 1, 2012, by the chair and vice chair of the board together with the ITP president. What follows are recurring questions and responses related to this change
(1) Q: Why did the board decide to change the school's name?
A: The idea of a name change for the school has been under consideration for years. As part of its summer 2011 Strategic Directions Initiative, the board conducted comprehensive research and consultation on social and economic trends that are forecast to impact Higher Education as well as trends within Higher Education, Transpersonal Psychology and Transpersonal Studies more broadly defined. All data pointed to the school being best served to remain a sustainable and impactful institution for today and future generations by defining itself as a university and broadening its offerings according to the same mission and values.
(2) Q: What was the board's process? Who was consulted?
A: In addition to surveying faculty, staff, students and alumni on the question of changing the name, a number of naming, higher education, transpersonal and futurist experts were consulted in the board's process. There were more than 200 possible names submitted for consideration. Three community meetings were held with faculty, staff, students, and alumni in the fall of 2011 to discuss and describe the process. The board deliberated and consulted over a period of several months before making its final decision. This process was communicated to the ITP community in the fall 2011 community meetings.
(3) Q: Will the word "transpersonal" remain in some way as a part of the school's future identity.
A: Yes. There is a rich discussion currently underway in faculty, Strategic Planning and administrative processes about identifying distinct schools within Sofia University. One of these schools will include the word "transpersonal."
(4) Q: Why wasn't there a vote of the community?
A: Only the Board of Trustees has the authority and responsibility to make a decision of this magnitude. Though the board consulted widely over a period of several months, and the community's points of view were important amongst those considered, this process was never intended to be democratic or determined by a vote outside the board.
(5) Q: There are clearly differing points of view within the school community about how decisions are – and should be – made. How will we reconcile these perspectives?
A: The governance subcommittee (composed of faculty, staff, students, alumni and administration) of the Strategic Planning steering committee is working on a model for governance for ITP/Sofia that will be presented to the community for reaction/ input and to the board for approval in fall of 2012.
(6) Q: The Board of Trustees decreased in size in the last year. What are the board's plans to increase the size of the board?
A: The board is actively at work recruiting and vetting new members, including alumni of the school.
(7) Q: Do the mission and core values of the school change along with the name? Are we still a transpersonal school?
A: We are still a transpersonal school with our same historic core values.
(8) Q: When does the new name take effect?
A: The new name takes effect July 1, 2012.
(9) Q: There are rumors that the board is planning to sell the school. Is this true?
(10) Q: Can one choose between an ITP diploma and a Sofia University diploma?
A: For a degree conferred within three years of the effective date, one may choose whether the diploma reads ITP or Sofia University. A degree conferred before the effective date cannot read Sofia University. If, after the three year period, one wishes to convert an ITP degree conferred after the effective date to a Sofia University degree, one may petition the Provost's office with this request.
(11) Q: What are the new directions that are envisioned as Sofia University?
A: Sofia University will offer degree programs in multiple disciplines (rather than only psychology), will offer undergraduate completion degree programs (rather than only graduate degrees) and will include a Public Programs division that sponsors non-degree offerings (lectures, film series, workshops, conferences, certificate programs, etc.) for the general public as well as the Sofia University community.
(12) Q: Will the new Bachelor Completion degree programs being planned for 2013 have the same values at their heart as all of our other degree programs.
A: Yes, in fact a concentration in Transpersonal Studies is being planned as part of the Liberal Arts degree. Undergraduates in all programs will complete a capstone project which demonstrates the integration of transpersonal values with the individual student's chosen area of focus.
Dear Friend of ITP,
We are pleased to announce that effective July 1, 2012, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (ITP) will become Sofia University.
Our mission and values remain the same. What changes is that we are preparing to offer undergraduate programs (BA Completion/Fall 2013), a Public Programs department (film series, workshops, certificate programs, conferences), and academic programs in additional fields of study, together with our historic focus on transpersonal psychology.
Our historic commitment to whole person education (mind/ body/ heart/ spirit), spiritual development, and personal transformation remains exactly as it has been since 1975.
Those of you joining the ITP/Sofia community in 2012-2013 and beyond will be pioneers, creatives along with the rest of us, in bringing this new manifestation of our distinctive and vital institution to our communities.
We welcome your participation in ITP/Sofia as we continue to evolve and become more fully ourselves – and invite you to engage in that very same process yourself.
Please watch our site for announcements and developments as we mature into this new identity.
All best wishes,
Neal King, Ph.D.