Saybrook University


Saybrook Save the Dates


Saybrook has some great community programs coming up in the months ahead.


Thursday, April 2

The Saybrook Dialogues kick off 2009 with “Leadership, Wisdom, and Making a Difference.” Organizer Marc Lesser, the founder and president of coaching and facilitation company ZBA Associates and the former director of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, will focus the conversations on making meaning of our personal and professional lives during uncertain and challenging times.

For more information, or to RSVP, call Terry Hopper at 415-394-5220


Tuesday, April 14

An Alumni Community Web-Cast Gathering featuring Saybrook faculty Don-Moss, who will present on the new Mind-Body Medicine degrees and college at Saybrook, followed by a Q&A. 

To sign up Contact:

Saturday, June 13

Alumnus Brian Kolodiejchuk, PhD ’01, Author and Editor of Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light and the Superior General of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Fathers, and Alumnus Joseph Bobrow, PhD ’80, Zen Roshi and Founder and Director of the Coming Home Project will give a joint talk at the Saybrook Residential Conference.



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Emotion is at the heart of the heart


It seems that anger really can kill you:  a furious heart can burst, and a sorrowful heart can break.

That’s the result of recent research published in the latest issue of The Journal of the American College of Cardiology.  According to the research, anger leads to irregular heart rhythms, which increase the chance of mortality, especially among those with already weak hearts.  The effect has been observed, according to the researchers, across whole populations put under stressors – like the loss of a World Cup match. 

That may be news, but it’s not a surprise to scholars and practitioners of complimentary medicine.

For decades Mind-Body Medicine has been following the way that both emotions generally, and in tandem with the heart specifically, really do impact health and mortality, according to Donald Moss, director of Saybrook’s program in Mind-Body medicine. 

In fact, as Moss wrote in a chapter of a forthcoming book on anger and heart disease, the idea goes back a lot farther than that. 

“This is not a new perspective,” says Moss.  “Aristotle believed that the heart was the center of the human body, the seat of the soul and the emotions, and a primary sense organ of the body. For example, he defined anger as a seething heat in the region of the heart.  The ‘cardiocentric’ theory was widespread in the ancient world, and included an assumption that the heart was the seat of mental processes including thinking and memory.”

Okay, clearly they got some of that wrong – but not as much as cardiology once thought.  Research has shown for some time that there is a clear two-way communication between the heart and the brain – and the effects can be big. 

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Bargain hunting for religion


First the Obamas had the country in a tizzy over what dog they were going to pick.  Now they’re looking for a church. 

You better believe that’s getting press coverage. 

But amid the clamor and hype about the first couple “church shopping,” a fundamental truth about American life is being brought into focus:  people really do “shop” for their places of worship today in a way that they never did 50 years ago. 

The very idea that selecting a family church could be viewed through the same lens as selecting the family dog is a difficult one for many places of worship to swallow:  it puts them in a “marketplace,” a competitive, sell-or-die, environment where their parishioners are “customers” – and they can’t count on customer loyalty.  In fact, 44 percent of American adults have switched churches and even religions, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life. 

“Constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace,” their survey says.

Lois Koteen, a Saybrook student getting her PhD in Organizational Systems, is familiar with these trends:  her consulting work specializes in helping synagogues change their governance structures and staff approaches to better serve and attract congregants.  In her experience, places of worship greet these with a sense of panic.

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Meet our new students


Saybrook held its spring Residential Orientation for new students last week, and forty two new students enrolled at Saybrook for the Spring Semester, coming from California, Canada, Switzerland, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Colorado, New York, Michigan, Maine, New Jersey, and other points across the globe. 

They come to Saybrook with experience at a variety of schools, including Seton Hall, Kent State, Mills College, St. John’s University, Naropa, the Bangalore Theological Seminary, San Diego State, UC Berkeley, Syracuse Unviersity, and more. 

The average age of the spring class is 40, befitting a graduate school most focused on established career professionals, and a slim majority – 22 – are pursuing PhDs. 

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Does that compute? Saybrook seeks community input on instructional technology


A school is defined by its people, yes: but at Saybrook, more than many schools, technology impacts how much access we have to our learning community, and how we can interact with it. 

That’s why Eric Fox, Saybrook’s new Dean of Instruction, is conducting a survey of faculty and students to find out how they use and relate to technology.  What do they want, what do they need, and what’s the best way to connect them to their peers?

“This survey is designed to give both faculty and students a voice in the use and selection of educational technologies at Saybrook,” Fox says, “and the results will inform an educational technology plan being developed.”

It will also outline current and future needs – giving Fox a heads up if there are needs not being met, or challenges appearing on the horizon. 

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How to pick a cabinet that's ethical AND effective


It stunned a lot of us:  no sooner had President Obama begun nominating people to fill his top posts, than stories of scandal began swarming around his choices.  No one, including some of the most respected names in contemporary American politics, seemed immune:  from tax problems to lobbying concerns, nominees began dropping out almost as fast as they took the call.

It was, many observers agreed, a profound indictment of a Washington culture that assumed perks and privilege come with power. 

But it also put President Obama in a bind:  on the one hand, he’d vowed an ethical and transparent administration.  On the other hand, the nation is facing big crises:  people with experience in government could be key to getting desperately needed work done. 

When it comes to making a choice between ethics and experience, how do you choose?  How important is it that the people making decisions pay their taxes properly, and how much does it matter if someone called upon to make fundamental change is a system is a product of the old, failed, culture?

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Mi casa su casa: Visit Saybrook's open house this week


Saybrook will be holding a spring open house for prospective students in its San Francisco offices on Thursday, March 12, from 5:30 - 8 p.m.

Accessible in person, by webcast and teleconference, the open house will feature presentations on:

  •  Saybrook. LIOS, and the new University structure;
  • Academics at Saybrook, including our humanistic tradition and our model of community-based distance learning;
  • Overviews of our degree programs (psychology, mind-body medicine, organizational systems, and human science)
  • Financial aid

In addition, there will be break out sessions on specializations and concentrations.  Snacks will also be served, and the admissions staff will be available to answer questions. 

For more information, or to register, email   

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There is no substitute for solitude. Is it gone for good?


Meister Eckhardt, the 13th century mystic, once said “There is nothing so near God as silence.”  But he never had to deal with somebody text messaging in church.

Technology has not only improved our ability to communicate with one another:  it’s allowed us to communicate at all times, wherever we are.  The result, for many people, is a cacophony of personal connections that never stop.  We’re never out of touch. 

Now, for the first time in human history, a whole generation is coming of age having never had to be away from their friends;  for whom the very idea of being “alone” is alien. 

A recent essay in the Boston Globe’s Sunday Magazine put the issue in stark terms.  The “never off” nature of communications technology “is dulling our very capacity to ever be alone, or alone in our thoughts … we're seeing this capacity weakened, whether we're in public places known for contemplation, like churches and libraries, or whether we're just sitting by ourselves at home, losing the fight to resist answering our BlackBerries (just ask our new president) or checking our laptops for Facebook updates.”

Writer Neil Swidley says there is now a gripping terror of being alone among many people who have never had the experience of solitude, and wouldn’t know what to do with it if they did.  “This is particularly true among young people,” he writes, “mainly because they don't know life when it wasn't like this.”

Is that true?  Saybrook psychology faculty Eugene Taylor says yes – up to a point. 

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Leading political ethicist to offer internships to Saybrook students


Students join Saybrook’s Social Transformation Concentration because they want to make a difference in the world:  now Saybrook can offer them an opportunity to help reform government while they study. 

This month Saybrook, the global leader in humanistic education and thought, has announced an agreement with Public Citizen, one of America’s leading consumer advocacy organizations.

Dr. Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s Legislative Representative and an ethics consultant for the Obama Administration, has agreed to take on interns from Saybrook for his office.

“I research and manage issues in lobbying, campaign finance, and government ethics, so an intern for me would do work in these areas,” Holman said.  “That sort of research invariably is used to make policy recommendations. Hopefully, we’ll have Saybrook students helping improve our understanding of these issues in a way that will impact the way government operates.”

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Saybrook announces agreement with TRANSCEND Peace University


Saybrook students now have the opportunity to learn with some of the world’s leading scholar-practitioners in peace and development. 

In an agreement signed February 3, Saybrook will incorporate into its Social Transformation Concentration curriculum two online courses developed for TRANSCEND Peace University (TPU). Based in Austria, TPU  draws faculty from among the leading peace scholars and practitioners in their fields internationally. It is the educational arm of the TRANSCEND Network –connecting 350 individuals and institutions from 80 countries working to reduce structural violence through action, education, dissemination, and research. The two courses, which will be available to all Saybrook students, are  Peaceful Conflict Transformation – the Transcend Method, taught by Drs. Johan Galtung and Sara Horowitz, and The Human Right to Adequate Food, taught by Dr. George Kent.

"This is an extraordinary opportunity for Saybrook students to explore the cutting edge of conflict transformation and global social justice issues with stellar faculty who have world-wide reputations in their areas of expertise,” said Joel Federman, who directs Saybrook’s Social Transformation Concentration.

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