Interdisciplinary Inquiry

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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Saybrook psychology professors use poetry to engage cross-cultural understanding


The struggle to understand diverse populations –and for them to connect with each other – is more important than ever in a globally interconnected world.

Everything from business seminars to academic papers to documentary films has tried to bridge the gap.  Now Saybrook psychology faculty Louis Hoffman and Nathaniel Granger are suggesting:  poetry.

Their new volume “Stay Awhile: Poetic Narratives on Multiculturalism and Diversity” is an edited collection of poems with some content to help frame the poems at the beginning and a number of exercises to use the poems in teaching, healing, or growth settings.

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Thinking - and feeling - our way to social justice


Do the ways we choose to protest the exploitative systems in the world actually contribute to them?  Does an effective protest movement require an expansion of consciousness? 

These are among the challenging questions posed by Dr. Marc Pilisuk, a faculty member in Saybrook’s Transformative Social Change program, in his afterwards to a recently updated Praeger Handbook on Social Justice and Psychology.  (2014)

Drawing on his own experience as a Vietnam war protestor (Pilisuk helped organize America’s first “teach in”), Pilisuk – editor of the 3-volume “Peace Movements World-wide,” and author of “Who Benefits From Global Violence and War: Uncovering a Destructive System” – suggests that in our efforts to understand and alleviate systemic oppression, we must expand both our capacities to think and to feel. 

An excerpt is below.

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Creativity in the Classroom: a big push on arts and creativity in California Schools


by Diana Rivera

Creativity studies students balance their academic interests with a strong mission toward social and organizational change.  They are conscious of the lack of quality experiences related to creativity in many social spheres, specifically in education.  Many Saybrook students work in or are familiar with the lack of arts education for primary, elementary, and high school level students throughout the country, and can carry eloquent conversations to assert the reasons why it is important.  There have been some notable nation-wide and state-level attempts to turn around the situation as a result of data suggesting higher grades and increased self-esteem for students who are part of arts integration programs.

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Adventures in Creativity: A Venture, A Block and A Breakthrough


by Linda Riebel

Last year, I boldly went where I had never gone before. In the beloved tragic French opera /Carmen,/ there is a gorgeous instrumental melody in the overture to Act III, an air that appears nowhere else in the opera. I wondered, Why has it never been given words and made into a song of its own? As my tenth wedding anniversary approached, I did exactly that as a surprise gift to my opera-loving husband.

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Meet Creativity Studies PhD Student Melinda Rothouse


Tell us a little about your background.

I’m a singer, songwriter, and bass player and I work as a writing and creativity coach and consultant, working with individuals and organizations to deepen their facility with the creative process, through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and retreats. I have a B.A. in Biopsychology, as well as Master’s degrees in Religious Studies and Performance Studies, and have worked as a professor and writing center tutor in a number of colleges and universities. I also practice and teach Buddhist meditation and contemplative arts programs.

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

I had been flirting with the idea of doing my Ph.D. for a long time, but knew that I wanted to find a non-traditional, low-residency, and very progressive program. When I discovered the Creativity Studies specialization at Saybrook, I knew I was on to something, and once I spoke with Steve and Ruth, I decided to go ahead and apply (it was the only program I applied to in the end). Once I arrived at my first R.C. I knew I was in the right place.

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Meet Creativity Studies student Anthony Julius Williams


Tell us a little about your background.

I am an African-American multimedia theater artist who creates work about social justice and sustainable communities. I’m currently collaborating with OutLook Theater in San Francisco on an immersive theater piece that explores the theme of belonging. I am also teaching storytelling skills to young Black men in a community program that teaches leadership and science skills to underserved youth.

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

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