Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Stay Weird and Stay Different


by Diana Rivera

The Academy Awards could be a time to honor professional artists who have impacted the entertainment industry and the world.  Many have told stories that have challenged history, defied reality, and surpassed former limitations of storytelling and technology.  In some cases the awards have become a who-is-who industry game, a competition between artists, and the focus on glamour and parties that celebrities attend often overshadow the powerful vehicle of human expression that is film.

This years award program proved to be a space for artists social and political commentary.  Patricia Arquette spoke of wage increases for women, while Alejandro Inarritu made a shout out to improvements in the Mexican government.  The stage became a soap box to those who were honored, allowing them to highlight areas of deep personal concern.  Graham Moore’s speech also illumined some important humanistic concerns: suicide, authenticity and human potential.            

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Listen to an interview with Ruth Richards on the ethics and psychology of creativity!


Saybrook alumna Dr. Dr. Aurora Sidney-Ando isn't the only member of the Saybrook community to be interviewed on ServiceSpace. 

Dr. Ruth Richards, a legendary scholar on the creativity of everyday life and member of our faculty, has also been profiled and interviewed there. 

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Diversity through a Different Lens


by JoAnn McAllister, PhD, Director, Human Science Program

The last few weeks I have received several announcements from organizations that I belong to about Black History Month. This includes PBS, NPR, San Francisco Friends of the Library, education and non-profit organizations. The last one asked me to speak to the “themes of diversity and Black History Month.” Even though I have done my share of civil rights actions for a variety communities and causes over the decades, I felt alienated from this request. Wondering what was at the core of my angst, I started to pay more attention to what was going on in the media, especially the ones I pay attention to most:.  Every forum had stories connected to Black History month (officially African-American since 1982); some stories were even critical. Wow, I thought, that takes courage in this day of instant backlash if one “mis-speaks” about a social or cultural issue.

The various designated cultural heritage months are the result of Congressional legislation in a long history of attempting to recognize and reconcile the many ethnic/racial and cultural communities that make up the American stew. Note, I didn’t use the proverbial “melting pot,” since it is plain we haven’t melted.

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Nurturing the Arts and Creativity as a tool to help others grow


As a child, Saybrook alumna Dr. Aurora Sidney-Ando was so shy she used to hide behind books.  

But it was the arts - especially painting - that helped her overcome that burden.  At Saybrook, she studied how the arts can be used to help others, and worked to help teenage girls express themselves through paintings.

Dr. Sidney-Ando tells us all about it in a moving interview she gave, which you can read here.

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Learn the principles of "Open Source Politics" from this RC lecture by Dr. Joel Federman


We see new forms of protest, powered by social media and a new approach to art, popping up around the globe.  What are they?  How do they work?

At the January 2015 Saybrook Residential Conference, Dr. Joel Federman, director of Saybrook's graduate program in Transformative Social Change, gave a 20 minute lecture explaining this phenomenon, what he calls:  "Open Source Politics."

We've put it up online, complete with slides.  View Open Source Politics here.

Of course, anyone can take these principles and participate.  That's the point.

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Thrive Wisely: Human Science’s Guiding Principle


With problems such as climate change, unsustainable population growth, and increased disparity between the economic classes staring us in the face, it seems obvious that a new social conversation is needed. We no longer have time to argue the details; it’s all to clear that we need to change our behavior as species without delay or all could be lost.  The trans-disciplinary Human Science approach to studying our problems is urgently needed in order to understand how we got here and how we are going to fix it.

Regardless of culture, religion, race, or political leanings, all humans love their children and hope for a better future for them. To understand the obstacles that may stand in the way of that, research that strives to shed light on the human condition and understand the why of financial systems, philosophies, societies, governments and individuals is needed. Broad-mindedness and ingenuity in exploring new solutions will bring the best and brightest to the foreground. This is precisely what Human Science scholarship and research does. The common thread that runs through all areas of study in H.S. is the goal for humans to have a more meaningful, gratifying experience of their lives.

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How to measure the intangibles: What Human Science has to offer


One of the first programs of study offered at Saybrook University was Human Science. Grounded in European social science theories, Human Science is a lens that focuses on a holistic understanding of human behavior rather than reductionist explanations. It approaches inquiry about the human condition through questions about the nature of knowledge, how it is acquired, and who controls it. Researchers from a wide variety of disciplines may benefit from exploring their areas of interests through this lens.

Most important things about human behavior cannot be easily measured. Under the umbrella of Human Science, researchers across many fields have developed, and are continuing to develop, trans-disciplinary ways of studying these intangibles. A Human Science degree allows students to approach areas of research that interest them, but do not fit neatly into predetermined boxes. Current Saybrook Human Science students are researching subjects as varied as ethics, sex trafficking, dream therapy, diversity in higher education, women’s education in the Middle East, and the intersections of art, justice, and social change. These are wildly diverse topics, but what they have in common is the 360-degree way the researcher is approaching them. Each of these students is considering the beliefs, historical influences, systems, and global contexts of their topic in order to develop an understanding of the issues and the meaning that people attribute to their experiences.

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An inadvertent anti-war film: Stanley Kripper examines "American Sniper"


"American Sniper" - seen through the lens of humanistic psychology

by Dr. Stanley Krippner

“American Sniper” made a record-breaking $105.3 million dollars over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Why is “American Sniper” setting box office records? Why is it one of the most popular films of the year? From the perspective of humanistic and existential psychology, there are several reasons.

The movie tells the story of Chris Kyle who reputedly became “the deadliest sniper in American history” with 160 confirmed kills. Clint Eastwood directed the film and Bradley Cooper played the role of Kyle. The movie was largely based on Kyle’s autobiography, which became a best-seller. The audience follows Kyle from a deer-shooting lad to a US Navy SEAL recruit, to four tours in Iraq, to a homecoming marked by PTSD and a tragic death. In this review, the Kyle character will be referred to as “Kyle” not “Cooper,” even though subsequent analysis has indicated inaccuracies and distortions of events portrayed in both the book and the movie.

The script does not make it clear that Kyle is perceived as an invader by the Iraqis he kills, only that if he does not erase them here, troops will have to erase them in San Diego. Thus the audience is persuaded that the war was justified, despite the ambiguities they might have picked up in the media before seeing the film. Existential psychology emphasizes the importance of meaning in people’s lives, and Kyle’s purpose is put into stark and simple terms.

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Meet Creativity Studies student Glenn Graves


What made you decide to apply to the Creativity Studies program at Saybrook University?

I received my Master’s in Human Science from Saybrook in 2002, while I was living in Asia. At that time I had been working in film production and creative directing in the advertising world. Once I received my Master’s I began working as a psychotherapist and have since been Managing and counseling in private practice in Singapore. However I have continued my creative work in the advertising industry.

What do you plan to do with the knowledge and experience you're getting in the program?

I really value working as a psychotherapist and feel it is a great opportunity to get people connected to the creativity that each of holds for healing ourselves. I incorporate as much of the unconscious in to my therapy work as is appropriate by using EMDR, or dream working but I also believe in the power of perspective shift and like to work with this as well.

In addition I hope to use creativity to enter into other arenas of change management or innovation, be it the corporate sector or inventing products or leading creativity experientials.

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Teaching Creativity: Is the Tyrant Teacher in Whiplash a Good Role Model?


by Steven Pritzker, PhD

Whiplash, a movie nominated for best picture this year, is about a drummer in an elite music school’s relationship with a strict highly demanding teacher who runs the schools premier jazz orchestra. The teacher is played by J. K. Simmons who won a Golden Globe for the role and has been nominated for an Academy Award. No question that Simmons does a very good job in the role.

The teacher he plays is a sadist who tortures his best students by belittling them. He mocks their families, uses homophobic slurs, makes fun of their physical appearances, mercilessly pits musicians against each other and even slaps them. All this is done, the character claims, in the interest of achieving excellence. And of course, in true Hollywood fashion, he drives his prize student to almost quit but them come back and find true greatness fulfilling his own dream as well as that of his student.

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