Naropa Magazine Spring 2014
Home / Naropa Magazine 2014 Spring / Alumni Notes

Alumni Notes

Naropa University alumni are frequently featured in the news for the inspiring ways they contribute to the bettering our world: Alumni in the News.

Tree Bernstein (MFA ‘92) is area coordinator for California Poets in the Schools, coaches for Poetry Out Loud, and chairs the Literary Branch at the Ojai Art Center. She teaches writing and literature at the Brooks Institute.

Bill Keys (BA ’94) recently won the Elevations Credit Union "Funding the Extraordinary" contest. This $5,000 award will allow him to move to Brooklyn to work on a performance piece and bring it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.

Kevin MaysKevin Mays (MA '95) works with executives to develop high-performance leadership teams. He shares, "Naropa taught me to uncover the hidden potential of every group. I've written about it in my new book, TOTEM: Mastering the Art of Team Performance, where I apply Tibetan Buddhism to team dynamics in the corporate world." Through his Totem Model, he creates transformative experiences to help leaders tap into their authentic intentions, build exceptional team dynamics, and achieve optimal performance. Read more about Kevin's work.

Kevin will also be presenting a discussion on leadership to the Naropa community as part of a brand new webinar series, ASK: Alumni Sharing Knowledge. Throughout the year, Naropa alumni will be sharing their powerful expertise through an online forum so the community can participate from anywhere in the world. 

Christopher Luna (MFA '99) was named Vancouver's first poet laureate by the Clark County Arts Commission last year. In his second year of service, Luna has received grants to help him promote poetry as an art form and mode of self-expression throughout the county. Five art groups have joined Luna to launch the campaign "Enriching Lives Through Words: Poetry in Clark County." Read "The Poet Laureate of Ghost Town, USA."


Mae Lee Sun (MA ’00) co-authored a new book Brumby: A Celebration of Australia’s Wild Horses. She has worked as a freelance journalist/photographer, editor, and animal welfare advocate for more than fifteen years. Mae Lee is currently the editor of Wild Horse Journal. While originally from the United States, she now resides in Victoria with her partner, Bruce; her Brumby Trooper; four domestic horses, Charlie, Tex, Max and Shadow; three dogs, Coco, Milo, Zach; and two cats, Raskull and Sabbath.

Penelope Lanphier (MFA ’03) has a self-published book, Magrete, about “an eighteen-year-old Danish girl struggling with mental impairment and troubled by her parents’ conversion to Mormonism in 1857.” The book is available on Amazon and Lanphier was a finalist in one of Glimmer Train’s Short Story Contests. 

McCormick Templeman (MFA '03) has a novel, The Glass Casket, which was published by Delacorte Press/Random House on February 11, 2014. “Death hasn't visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills.” The second of her novels, The Glass Casket is available to order online. Templeman lives and writes in California.   

Michelle Auerbach (MFA '04) recently published a book, The Third Kind of Horse, through Beatdom books. The novel, "set in 1987 New York's East Village, follows the story of Lyssa as her world implodes against the backdrop of sexual politics and personal tragedy." Additionally, Auerbach recently had an essay published in the Modern Love section of the Sunday New York Times. Connect with more of Auerbach's writing on her website

Paul Burnstein (MA ’04) joined MDI Achieve in November of 2013. Paul is the product manager for interoperability for the flagship product MatrixCare, an electronic health record for long-term, post-acute care.

Sarah Lipton (BA '04) has been editor-in-chief of the Shambhala Times ( for nearly three years and is working hard to build the online news magazine into a viable, sustainable news organization for the global Shambhala community. She is also writing a book and starting a business called, The Presence Point, an investigation of embodiment and creative process. She lives with her husband, Scott Robbins, in the quiet mountains of Vermont when she is not traveling the world.

Jonathan Hamilton (BA ‘05) is marrying his long time sweetheart Emily Susan in a small ceremony in Seattle Washington in June.  They are excited to start this next chapter of their life together along with their two cats, Pippin and Cosette.

Alyson Duffey (MA’06) is the development & marketing director at Growing Gardens of Boulder County. Growing Gardens cultivates community through sustainable urban agriculture and education programs for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Rev. William Ashton (BA ’07). On February 8, 2014, surrounded by family, friends, alumni, former professors, and current Naropa folk, under the brilliant Sun, on the grounds of an organic farm in Boulder, William became an ordained priest of his religious order. Of the near-thirty priests, he is one of four West of the Mississippi. Blessed, indeed.

Randolph Curtis Rand (MFA '07) received outstanding reviews for his show (Three Man) Tempest, which played at the Burning Coal Theatre in Raleigh, NC, in late 2013. Find out more about Rand’s work at  

Adrean Louise Dills (MDiv ’08) along with her husband, Prabhu Tirumanedi, and two-year-old daughter Claire, moved to Coeur d'Alene in December to work as the spiritual care coordinator for Hospice of North Idaho.

Michael D'Alessandro (MFA ’08) is the editor and founder of bedouin books, small press publishers of literature. Founded in 2003, bedouin books continues to build on its fifteen titles of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and translations, with the express mission to keep the books IN PRINT, as part of commitment to new and established voices contributing to the literature of today. Many of bedouin books are hand bound with letterpress-printed covers in a limited first release. The books are re-released every five years with newly designed covers in short run digital editions.

Angela Kleespie (MFA '08) known by her pen name Anna Klay, released her novel Broken Wing in paperback in October 2013, and it is now available in digital form on Amazon. As the author, she gives much credit to her characters who led her down a dark path to the light of awareness and her instructors at Naropa for their expertise in writing and instruction. Find out more about Anna Klay's books at

Shirley Rivera (MA ’08) is now a certified grief recovery specialist, sharing her talents involving grief work at the Women's Community Correctional Center, as well as with adults at a local church center. Currently, in addition to teaching Peace Education for fifth graders at the Mid-Pacific Institute, she also does counseling for preschool through grade five, and facilitates an afterschool support group called "Heart-to-Heart with Kids" for children grieving a temporary or permanent loss. Shirley enjoys hula and Zumba during her free time, and playing with her cat, Maluhia (which means “peace” in Hawaiian).

Jenne Vargas-Maes (BA ’08) shares “Marriage is amazing!” Having earned a Master of Library and Information Sciences in 2010, she is spreading efficiency, positivity, and kindness throughout the University of California serving as the EA to the systemwide CFO at the Office of the President.

Chaunesti Webb (MFA '09) recently revived her show "I Love My Hair When It's Good: And Then Again When It Looks Defiant and Impressive," two years after it originally premiered at the Manbites Dog Theater in Durham, NC. Find out more about Webb's work at


Alex Palecek (MA ’13) began a PhD program in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he's studying the intersectionality of Buddhism, queer theory, psychology, complexity, the meaning of contemporary scholarship, discourse studies, and activism.