Saybrook University


A totalitarian regime's enemy number 1: Human Science


As Iranian civil society reels from the impact of illegitimate elections, the Chronicle of Higher Education noticed a fascinating, if disturbing, trend:  a disproportionate number of dissidents put on public trial have been students of the human sciences … and they have been forced to denounce their field.

“The number of social scientists in Iranian prisons has multiplied,” the Chronicle says (where the Iranians use the European term “Human Sciences,” the Chronicle prefers the Americanized – and more limited – “Social Sciences”).  Meanwhile, members of the regime’s senior leadership, including the “supreme ruler” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have publicly called for human science to be discussed only among trained elites … or not taught at all … lest ordinary people be encouraged to doubt the legitimacy of the theocratic government. 

The Chronicle quotes from the forced confession of Saeed Hajjarian, a leading advocate for reform and a political scientist by training:  “Theories of the human sciences contain ideological weapons that can be converted into strategies and tactics and mustered against the country’s official ideology.”

At Saybrook University, the only university in America to offer graduate degrees in Human Science, the response has been “absolutely right.”

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Shaping the University's response to the crisis in Haiti, students led the way


 On February 2, Saybrook Interim President Bob Schmitt issued a statement expressing Saybrook’s solidarity with the people of Haiti and describing the steps that members of our community are taking to address their suffering. 

 At many institutions statements like these are drafted only at the highest levels, with the people they purport to represent not finding out about them until long after the fact.  In this case, however, the statement was conceived of by students, and a diverse spectrum of the community was instrumental in its development.

 The Haiti earthquake took place on January 12, just as students and faculty were beginning to travel to the Residential Conference of the Graduate College of Psychology and Humanistic Studies.  The idea of issuing a statement about  earthquake was first brought forward not in the boardroom, but in a classroom, by Janine Ray, a PhD student in Human Science with a concentration in Social Transformation.  She walked into the January 2010 Residential Conference intensive on Global Citizen Activism, Theory, and Research (co-sponsored by the Social Transformation Concentration and the Human Science degree program), knowing that she couldn’t pretend the earthquake hadn’t happened.

 “It turns out we were all feeling that way,” Ray says.  “We’re the Social Transformation concentration:  we all thought we should be doing something.”

 So the participants in the session began to ask themselves:  what realistically could be done? 

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Saybrook co-sponsors this month's ATP conference


Saybrook University is proud to co-sponsor this month's Association of Transpersonal Psychology Conference, entitled "Spirituality In Action:  Bringing Transpersonal Psychology to a World in Crisis."

Held from Feb. 12 - 14 at Menlo College, in Atherton, CA, the conference features speakers including Charles Tart, Fred Luskin, Jenny Wade, Olga Louchakova, Ed Bruce Bynum, Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, Dean Radin, and Donald Rothberg.

For more information call 650-424-8764,or email


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We've got a new plan for sustainability


Sustainability means more than new technology to save the environment.  It’s about communities, about culture, about people making big changes and thriving as they adapt. 

While there are dozens of masters degree programs around the country that focus on sustainability as a business decision, or a new technological response, there’s no place to go to learn practical tools to tap into the human side of sustainability.

 No place except Saybrook.  The Organizational Systems masters degree specializing in sustainability leadership that’s offered by the Graduate College of Psychology and Humanistic Studies is a unique program that goes where other programs don’t:  it looks beyond new technology to address human systems, how people adapt effectively to change, and how organizations can creatively bring out the best in people.

 That program is now set to grow and expand, and has new co-directors who will focus on its development.

 Kathia Laszlo, a Saybrook human science alumna who co-founded the international think-tank Syntony Quest, is joined by new faculty member Erica Kohl-Arenas, who received her PhD in education from UC Berkeley and her MA in community development from UC Davis.  

 They say Saybrook’s MA in sustainability is poised to play an instrumental role in helping the world transition – in big ways and small – to new models of sustainable practice.

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The ingredients of innovation


When Americans think of innovation, we tend to think of Silicon Valley.  We don’t think about Israel or India … but we should. 

Recently a host of articles, in the New York Times, in Business Week, and elsewhere, have begun praising the new innovation-driven business cultures of up-and-coming countries like Israel and India.  These cultures, and other smaller markets around the globe, are grabbing headlines and investment dollars for their ability to come up with creative solutions that their bigger competitors … even in Silicon Valley … are missing. 

What happened?  How did corners of the world once better known for conflict and poverty suddenly turn into champions of original thinking?  

The same way Silicon Valley did, says Prasad Kaipa, a respected global consultant on business innovation who teaches Organizational Systems at Saybrook’s Graduate College of Psychology and Humanistic Studies and is the executive director of the Center for Leadership, Innovation, and Change at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India.  Whether in Boston or Bangalore, the process for creating “clusters” of innovation is fairly similar across the board. 

“You can’t just order people to be innovative and expect it to work in a meaningful way,” says Kaipa (who is also quoted in the Business Week article as an expert in India’s culture of innovation).   “You have to have an ecosystem for innovation, and that ecosystem has got several elements.”

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If you don't want therapy, don't get it


 “I have a pretty good marriage,” author Elizabeth Weil wrote late last year in the New York Times.  “It could be better.”

It was the first line in an article about how she and her husband tried to improve their marriage – which they were already pretty happy with – through therapy.  It didn’t work out. 

“My marriage was good,” she writes, “utterly central to my existence …” until therapy.  As therapy went on, things changed. 

“Over the months Dan and I applied ourselves to our marriage, we struggled, we bridled, we jockeyed for position. Dan grew enraged at me; I pulled away from him,” she writes. “I learned things about myself and my relationship with Dan I had worked hard not to know.” 

In the end, they decided to abandon therapy, and the idea of marriage improvement, and settle for a “good enough marriage.”  Weil is now working on a memoir about marriage improvement.

Since the article was published, it’s been the subject of ongoing conversation.  What happened?  What does her experience say about therapy … and about marriage? 

Actually very little, says Ann Bernhardt, who directs the Marriage and Family Therapy program at Saybrook’s Graduate College of Psychology and Humanistic Studies.  Reading Weil’s article, she wasn’t reminded of any therapy sessions she’s seen … but she was reminded of an article she read that came out on the same day. 

It was about the White House dinner crashers.

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Vince Pellegrino named Saybrook's interim Vice President for Academic Affairs


As a doctoral student in Education Law and Policy studies, there was no need for Vince Pellegrino to push any boundaries with his dissertation.  He could have done something rote, conservative, and safe.
Instead, he found himself working on a qualitative, humanistic, study of symbolic language in the civil rights movement, viewed through a feminist perspective. 

“Plato describes the context for learning as other people, because learning involves understanding, deeply understanding, what other people mean,” Vince says.  “So I examined speeches from the civil rights era to capture the context of meanings about words used like color or gender, and the symbolic issues they raised during that time.”
Why did he do it?  Why did he go so far out of his way to write a dissertation that involved qualitative research and potential political ramifications? 
“It was having good faculty members push me along to do deep exploration of my topic, and at the end still love it, not hate it,” he says.  “That made all the difference.  I value that engaged learning, and the way it was made available to me.”
Today Vince Pellegrino is Saybrook’s Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, and he says the experience of his dissertation helps him understand the value of Saybrook’s values, and its model of education.

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Come celebrate with us


The Saybrook community will gather together to formally celebrate the inauguration of the new Saybrook University at this week's Residential Conference.

Come join the festivities at the Bayshore Ballroom of the Westin San Francisco Airport Hotel from 7 - 10 p.m, on Friday, January 15.

Look for the balloons - along with your friends and colleagues.

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Good businesses; great reputations; very bad decisions


The economy is still in a shambles after many of the world’s most prominent firms engaged in financial shenanigans that a sixth grader could see through – so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by a new study showing that there’s a strong correlation between a corporation’s prominence and its willingness to break the law.  

The study is presented in the Academy of Management Journal.  Of the 469 incidents of illegal activity sampled in the study, 382 (81 percent) were committed by firms on Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” list and were considered “high performing.”

Why?  According to a review of the study “It's not that poor firms necessarily have more scruples or that prominent, high-performing companies are inherently evil (or that Fortune magazine is playing a cruel joke on its readers), but that management teams at more prominent firms feel more pressure to do something — anything — to increase the bottom line and maintain their preeminent position.”

It is, in other words, the nature of the system:  the more successful a company is, the more it’s pressured to outperform expectations, and that leads to increasing pressure to cut moral corners. 

Marvin Brown, a respected business ethicist and member of Saybrook’s Graduate College of Psychology and Humanistic Studies Organizational Systems faculty, says that the very foundation of capitalism as we understand it – going back to Adam Smith – involves turning a blind eye to the ethical questions involved in corporate success.

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How not to grow old in the 21st century


There may never have been a worse time to grow old than the 21st century. 

That’s the contention of MIT computer scientist Philip Greenspun, who recently suggested in his blog that a combination of modern technology and new prejudices “reduces the value of old people.”

“An old person will know more than a young person, but can any person, young or old, know as much as Google and Wikipedia?” Greenspun asks. “Why would a young person ask an elder the answer to a fact question that can be solved authoritatively in 10 seconds with a Web search?”

Worse is the fact that the skills that it takes a lifetime to develop are now rendered obsolete within years by new innovations in technology – meaning that the young often know more than the elderly about how to get by in the world.  This, Greenspun suggests, has never before happened in human culture.

As for wisdom?  Greenspun doesn’t discount it, but says that there’s a paradox here:  “Unfortunately, the young people who are most in need of an elder’s wisdom are the least likely to realize it.”  The end result is the same:  this is a terrible time to grow old.

Doris Bersing, a psychology faculty member with Saybrook’s Graduate College of Psychology and Humanistic Studies, doesn’t disagree with that basic conclusion, but thinks Greenspun has left one critical element out of the equation:  the elderly themselves.

Even if a young person wanted to receive guidance from knowledgeable elders – and don’t be mistaken, many of them do – where would they find one?  How would they connect?  Too often, they can’t.

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