Monday, March 30, 2009

Graduation in Goddard's IMA Program

Just about anyone who witnesses a Goddard graduation walks away thinking it was unlike any graduation they ever saw before. That's because each of our students is, in effect, his or her own valedictorian, sharing his/her story of finding a focus of study of great meaning individually and communally. During a typical graduation, often held in the winter in the Haybarn, a grand old theatre, or during beautiful summer days, in the garden, surrounded by lilies and pines, we of course begin with a speech, or in the case of this last February, a commencement performance by Bread and Puppet during which time, many graduates, students and faculty got to take flight.

Then instead of graduates streaming across a stage, the stories begin. Each graduate is presented by a faculty member, who tells the tale of how this study came into being, what it meant for the graduate, what it means for us, and how it can help change the world in some vital way. The graduate then gets to make his/her own speech, which may entail everything from crying and laughing while thanking a list of family, friends and faculty to playing wooden flute to leading everyone in a sweet old folksong. But in just about every speech and for just about every graduate, we hear how this degree is life-changing, helping students find their callings, do something they didn't think they were capable of, and finding a new way to energize their life, shape their work, and find greater life, spirit, connection and joy.

Graduation is nestled into a weekend of activities, bringing together graduating students along with continuing and new ones, with plenty of time for improntu jam sessions, the student-faculty reading, presentations by graduating students on what they studied that often are some of the most inspiring and mind-blowing moments of all, and lots of time for people to share experiences, encourage one another, and build community.

All photos from February, 2009 graduation weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Mystical Road: Read a Thesis on Pilgrimage

Angela Mullins, featured several entries back on this site, has just posted her entire IMA thesis, Awakening to Awakening: Journeys Along the Pilgrimage Road. To read about her study -- which encompassed pilgrimages around the world along with investigating the cultural, psychological and spiritual road map of pilgrimage -- please see
Her work also demonstrates one way to create your own world-changing study.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Three Peas In A Pod: Faculty At Play

In February, at the last Individualized MA residency, which we share with the Health Arts and Sciences program, faculty often met in the dorm each night to visit, relax, and, quite obviously, keep working. The three peas in a pod here are, from left, Sarah Van Hoy (HAS faculty), Francis Charet (IMA faculty and coordinator of Consciousness Studies), and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (IMA faculty and coordinator of Transformative Language Arts). Jim Sparrell, IMA faculty, was the photographer.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Transformative Language Arts and Reclaiming the Erotic: Jen Cross and Writing Ourselves Whole

Jen Cross began with a hunger to study transformative writing, especially how it could help people, particularly sexual trauma survivors, reclaim the erotic and live more vibrant lives. Her passion led her to write this manifesto now posted on the website of her writing workshop business, Writing Ourselves Whole:

A Manifesto I believe...
  • that writing has the power to affect transformation, to spell out not only how we feel now but how we want to feel, how we believe we can feel.
  • that we expand in our erotic possibility when we become deeply aware of one another's truths and desires.
  • that there’s a power in writing about sex explicitly and in community, using charged and taboo language – we take that charge and make it our own electricity, utilizing it for our own ends instead of remaining subservient to it.
  • that much of our sexuality and our erotics is manifested through language–one of the ways to alter our reactions to all the sex-negative messages we are force-fed from birth is through practice and play with new language, in a less-charged space than a bedroom, alone or in the presence of others struggling and playing similarly.
  • that we all need safe space in which to be our whole, complete and complex erotic selves – to delve into the desires that we've learned or been told don't "go with" our particular identities.
  • that, finally, when we risk empowering and transforming ourselves, we transform and empower the communities we exist within–and changing our communities means that we are changing the world!

With such an expansive view of writing, spirituality, sexuality, the body and the body politic, it's no wonder that Jen is a gifted workshop facilitator in San Francisco who has helped many people create communal change through individual transformation. She credits Goddard with helping her articulate a theoretical framework for these workshops as well as Amherst Writers and Artists and Pat Schneider for giving her an ethical framework for non-clinical writing workshops.

Like many students, what Jen ended up studying wasn't what she initially planned. “When I began my studies, I had a deep desire not to focus my studies on sexual trauma survivor communities – I was still battling that internalized shame, of course, and a sense that real academics don't talk about their experiences of trauma. Where do these ideas come from that they get so lodged in us? However, midway through my second semester (it never takes long at Goddard), I finally allowed myself to hone in on the issues of sexual trauma, creative writing, and access to erotic language.” The essay she wrote on this topic become the first of many essays that composed her powerful thesis project that also included her poetry and prose.

“I am deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to dig into those difficult places of my history during my work at Goddard, and I am thankful, too, for the ways that the program encourages intimate and personal interaction with academia, ideas, theories, so-called certainties -- I got to experience that inevitable and beautiful tension upon realizing that I had to bring myself into all the work that I do. Disconnecting through some veneer of 'objectivity' just doesn't fly -- not at Goddard, and not in the real world of transformative/expressive arts and, you know, that other real world of true human connection and love.”

In addition to her writing workshop business, Jen has published in many journals and anthologies. See, and her blog for more information. See an audio piece by Jen at the Arts and Healing Network.