Fall 2012
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Charles Lief, Naropa University President, at the Naropa Greenhouse

Photo: Jack Greene

From The President

Naropa, Contemplative Education, and the Cultivation of the Social Entrepreneur

For almost four decades, Naropa University has been deeply exploring the transformative possibility of contemplative education. Measuring "transformation" is a tricky business. Each of us enters Naropa carrying unique histories, personalized baggage and aspiring to achieve different goals. We move along the path diving into a vast array of experiences, opening up and shutting down unpredictably and at different times.

Nevertheless, there is a "know it when I see it" aspect to assessing the meaningful growth and accomplishment of the Naropa student. Perhaps no anecdotal evidence of the value of the Naropa experience is more significant than looking at the journey, which begins following graduation and which defines a life. Clearly there is no "right way" to live one's life, but I think that engaging our world with wisdom, compassion, and clarity is a shared aspiration. There are countless ways to be in the world and Naropa's obligation is to offer the tools, both academic and contemplative, to support any number of choices.

A growing number of our graduates have elected to start or join a social enterprise as a means of expressing their passion. Precisely defining social enterprise or social entrepreneurship will need to wait for another time, but the walls narrowing and separating the traditional ways of engaging the world have broken apart over the past ten years or so. The graduate with good academic training and a personal connection to contemplative practice brings value to for-profit enterprise; grassroots, national, or international nonprofits; government and public service; as well as to meaningful life in the community. In this issue, you will be introduced to a number of alumni who are social entrepreneurs—innovative individuals who have elected to be effective problem solvers across sectors. They are committed to balancing sustainable and ethical economic action with concern about the effect of that action on all people who are directly or indirectly impacted by the work. They demonstrate respect for diverse perspectives and diverse experiences, and the toll on the environment.

Contemplative education at Naropa offers a home for the emerging social entrepreneur. The work we seek to do together, infusing contemplative practice into the curricular array and the life of our university community is the first step. The ways in which our alumni bring a contemplative mind to the world is the next. The ability to spend a few years at Naropa is a remarkable opportunity—being part of a supportive learning community in which to learn and grow personally and professionally. The test of our value as an institution is the impact our graduates have in the world. It has been a treat during the early days of my work in the President's Office to meet with a number of alumni who have generously reaffirmed their commitment to, and concerns about, Naropa. They have also shared their remarkably varied stories of post-Naropa successes and challenges. Hearing from alumni directly impacts the decisions we will make as we allocate our resources to deepen and broaden courses and programs so that they may be the best vehicles possible, to ensure that Naropa graduates may continue to make a big mark on the world.

Charles G. Lief signature

Charles G. Lief, President