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Why Naropa? Why Now?

Photos by Jacob Marty

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Finn Woelm, BA Interdisciplinary Studies ‘18

I had a few formative experiences before college, including a year-long volunteer service program in Ghana. These experiences made me determined not to accept the status quo and made me want to contribute to making systemic change on this planet. I was determined to study at Princeton, because I believed it would help me make change in the world. I came to Boulder to go to Watson Institute, and after my first year at Watson, I came to Naropa. I wasn’t sure about Naropa at first, but I quickly realized what a magical community I had just stepped into. I made some of the best friends of my life and really got to know myself—what makes me come alive, what I’m afraid of, and what limiting narratives I’m telling myself. My education at Naropa has become the foundation for the work that I’m taking into the world.

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Woodzick, MFA Theater: Contemporary Performance ‘18

After auditioning for graduate schools as only an acting candidate and not finding a placement, I was disheartened. I took a year to reflect on my goals, and it became evident that I needed an interdisciplinary graduate degree in theatre to fulfill my creative and professional needs. Naropa’s MFA in Theater: Contemporary Performance is one of the only interdisciplinary graduate theatre degrees in the country. Also, as a non-binary student, it seemed like an environment that could support a gender non-conforming student. In my time at Naropa, I have played and written roles of all genders. A phrase you’ll hear a lot in the department is one coined by Barbara Dilley: “Not too tight, not too loose.” Naropa provides academic rigor, but also a sense, a container of possibility, so students can choose to follow their highest level of excitement. For me, an MFA from Naropa paved the way for a PhD at CU Boulder.

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Sierra Hofstatter, BA Interdisciplinary Studies ‘18

I came to Naropa after I’d convinced myself I would never return to conventional schooling. I’d come to deeply value living as consciously as I could, which didn’t seem in alignment with any traditional school I knew of. I became inspired and confident in my ability to learn on my own and create a career for myself. Once I heard of Naropa though, the seed was planted. I came to realize that it was possible to have a structured learning container without it being out of alignment with my heart and my truth. There wasn’t a whole lot of ‘mental’ activity that went into my decision to go to Naropa; it was mostly synchronicity, and so much has come of it that I didn’t know was possible when I started.

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Marina Batah, BA Contemplative Psychology ‘20

I decided to come to Naropa after I attended one year at a traditional university. I did not feel like the ‘traditional’ education I was getting was serving my greater purpose or the vision I had for my future. Something inside me knew that there was something deeper and more relevant to be learned. When I heard about Naropa, I immediately knew it was the right school for me. The contemplative approach, in my opinion, is more effective to the learning process because it touches other layers of our consciousness that go beyond the thinking-mind. What I experience here is permanently imprinted in my being, because I do it with enthusiasm and use the integrity of my being to present for classes—I always show up with my body, mind, and spirit.

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Joshy Vang, BA Yoga Studies ‘19

I made my decision to attend Naropa University through an uncanny coincidence of recommendations, personally and professionally. I was attracted to the Naropa faculty and staff fostering a delicate investment in their students—mentally, emotionally, spiritually—and academically encouraging awareness of self and community engagement through interpersonal academic work. I’ve always had a passion for dance and a knack for psychology. I sought to combine these two passions and nurture their potential to revolutionize my skills to better serve the community. The knowledge I continue to lovingly discover allows a professional and emotional development of capacity for compassionate commitment that most traditional schools do not offer. Most importantly, Naropa graciously welcomed and acknowledged me in full support of my multi-faceted identity as a Person of Color, LGBTQ individual, and United States Army Veteran.

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Carla Mueller, Master of Divinity ‘16

I chose to come to Naropa University because I wanted my education to have a deeper impact on who I was and how I could feel more confident in all aspects of my life. Naropa felt like it was alive with the possibility to enrich my current endeavors and to reach for what it was that I desired out of life. I wanted to feel the freedom to be able to do what I knew was best for me, to discover my true purpose and the modalities that would best fit this endeavor. Ultimately, I wanted to know how to genuinely help myself and others. I knew that in order to do this, not only would I need to engage with curriculum, but I would also need to spend time with myself and have guidance in how to uncover my own intuition and sense of self-worth. For me, this is at the core of life and something we all deserve to experience and unravel, so that we can bring our true aspirations and inspiration into whatever it is that we are doing. That being said, the education at Naropa was far more reaching than a degree—it was the fulfillment of my divine inheritance and work worth doing.

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Chris Cole, BA Contemplative Psychology ’10, MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling: Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling ‘19

Our world needs compassion along with intellect. At Naropa, I learned to take contemplative learning into every aspect of my life, and began digesting the intricate interconnections between bodies and systems, how those systems came to be, and how they inform and shape my experience of the world. I came to Naropa University amid immense personal suffering, much of which I did not understand. I learned tools to feel into my life and the ways in which I learned to live. Without Naropa University, and this great lineage of embodied wisdom and secular enlightenment, I would not be doing the work I do today—working toward informed, compassionate theories and models of mental health. Naropa didn’t just give me the best chance to learn; I was welcomed into the space of unlearning, which births the spontaneous arising of truth and allows the opportunity to feel into the timeless reality of warriors throughout space and time.


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Ina Sajovich, BA Religious Studies ‘12

I chose to come to Naropa over other schools because I knew what I wanted to study (Asian Religions and Sanskrit). I knew that a more ‘traditional’ environment wouldn’t feel as satisfying to me. I was also—perhaps naively—confident that if I focused on creatively engaging my academic field of choice, I would be able to apply the skills I learned to whatever industry I eventually entered. I see a lot of the work I’m doing now—the unique approaches I take to business—being positively disruptive within my career field; I hope that my involvement and impact will continue to ripple out and affect further positive change in my industry at large.

I always made great grades in school, but I always felt like something really integral to the human experience was lacking in AP U.S. History, for example. It was the urge to pinpoint this ‘elephant in the room’ that inspired me to find another approach to education. These days, I often find myself amazed and further inspired by how business-as-usual companies are leaning more towards themes like authenticity, diversity, and civic engagement as unique value propositions—precisely the areas Naropa excels in teaching. purple naropa seal to end article