Current Students in the Transformative Studies (PhD) Program

Bessie Katsilometes

"The TSD program models creative inquiry and transdisciplinary learning for integral education. The online doctoral program is academically rigorous, yet honors many ways of knowing in the scholarly discovery process. The outstanding quality of faculty members, the support of staff, and the depth of experience and wealth of knowledge shared by students are hallmarks."

Bessie was a first-generation college student when she attended Idaho State University (ISU) in 1970. She earned her Master's Degree in Public Administration and Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology/Social Work with High Honors from her alma mater.

Employed by the university for more than 20 years in a variety of administrative positions, she is now the dean of academic programs at ISU-Boise.

Bessie serves as a member of the Advisory Board for the Idaho Area Health Education Center, the Mission Committee for Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, the Meridian Mayor's Professional and Workforce Advisory Council, the Boise Valley Economic Partnership Retention Expansion Committee, and the Renaissance High School Community Advisory Council for Research and Medical Science. Bessie was selected as one of Idaho Business Review's Women of the Year for 2009 and honored with the 2008 ISU Distinguished Service Award.

Mark Kohls

"I have found the TSD program at CIIS to be academically rigorous, challenging, and continuously transformative. A tour de force in exploding mind-sets and calling forth the creative scholar within, the TSD program has provided me the inspiration, perspectives, and resources essential for the transdisciplinary perspective which now informs my life as a learner and my doctoral studies."

A former biologist, archaeologist, outdoor education consultant, and longtime educator with a love for adventure in the wilderness, Mark has bicycled across North America and Europe, rafted throughout South America, and kayaked in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia and the Andes in Peru.

With an equally strong interest in antiquities and ancient history, he has explored ruins of ancient civilizations in Asia, Central America, and South America.

In California, Mark now teaches introductory mathematics at Santa Rosa Junior College and advises student teachers in the Department of Educational Leadership and Special Education at Sonoma State University.

His doctoral interest focuses on transcendence and transformation in the context of the wilderness experience.

Nika Quirk

"I believe that there is no other academic setting where I would find this kind of support and a wealth of resources for the transformative, transdisciplinary project I'm doing. The coursework is rigorous and challenges me to fully awaken as an independent yet interconnected learner, and as a naturally curious researcher. In this rare environment, the articulation of my own unique knowledge contribution is emerging."


As a playful, effective group facilitator, teacher, and improvisational leader, Nika is a catalyst for insightful change and development. Her doctoral work bridges organizational experience and the performing arts, and follows her curiosity about the role of imagination and improvisational skills in developing leaders and alliances.

Nika is a Certified InterPlay® Leader and has been playing, teaching, and performing in this global improvisational community since 1992. She led an expressive arts session at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, in 1995; the 2006 Applied Improvisation Network conference; and Performing the World 4 in 2007.

In spring 2009, she joined CIIS as adjunct faculty to pilot a course on leading through expressive arts; and she was also elected president of the National Board of Body Wisdom, the nonprofit home of InterPlay.

Alumni of the Transformative Studies (PhD) Program

Jeanine Canty, PhD (2007)

"My experience at CIIS was extremely powerful, specifically with probing deeply into worldview construction and transformation as well as learning how to work within challenging groups. Within my dissertation I was able to integrate and apply this theory to ecological transformation."

Jeanine is employed as a core faculty member at Naropa University, teaching primarily in the Environmental Studies department, and is also an associate faculty member at Prescott College.

Her recent accomplishments include completing her PhD; moving to Boulder, CO, during the summer of 2007 to work at Naropa University; being published in Gatherings, the journal of the International Community of Ecopsychology; and serving as the featured guest for the Institute of Noetic Sciences' radio show, Shift in Action.

She presented on Diversity and Contemplative Education at NCORE (National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education) and at the Wilderness Therapy Symposium, both in 2008.

Lisa Herzig, PhD (2006)

"Enrolling in the program was a critical turning point in my life. My experience at CIIS, beginning with the first retreat, to writing and defending my dissertation, "What Is the Meaning(s) of a Menopausal Woman's Voice allowed me to move beyond the limitations of my own voice toward an understanding of a more collective voice-one that encompasses personal experiences, human connectedness, and spiritual awakening."

Lisa and her family relocated from Savannah, GA, to Fresno, CA, where she is an assistant professor in the Food Science and Nutrition department and the dietetics program director at California State University, Fresno. Lisa received her PhD in Humanities with a concentration in Transformative Learning and Change from CIIS in 2006.

She is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator. Additionally, Lisa travels around the country for CE-International providing health-related seminars to health care practitioners.

Her current research projects include evaluating the effect of pistachios on improving metabolic profiles in high-risk individuals with conditions ranging from diabetes to metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and chronic inflammation.

Additionally, Lisa is in the process of developing a Foods and Culture program at California State University, Fresno, hoping to narrow the cultural health care gaps that exist in many of the cultures within the Central Valley.

Tony Kashani, PhD (2007)

"My educational experience at CIIS introduced me to new dimensions of creative inquiry. The transdisciplinary methodology is one example. Consequently, I have been able to unlock some closed doors in my consciousness and have great success not only in my academic career, but also in other parts of my life."

Tony is associate professor of Film & Media Studies at the College of San Mateo. He holds a PhD in Humanities with concentration in Transformative Learning and Change from CIIS. He has published many articles on topics including East-West philosophy, cinema, global media, integral studies, and creative pedagogy.

He is the author of Deconstructing the Mystique: An Introduction to Cinema. Tony is an adjunct faculty member at CIIS and at San Francisco State University, and a scholar member of the Global Studies Association.

Tony is completing his latest book, Cinema and Social Change: Logic and Politics of Cinema in the Planetary Age (forthcoming 2009, Wallflower Press), based on his dissertation. Tony has lived in Iran, Germany, Turkey, and San Francisco.

Ramakrishna Movva, PhD (2002)

"The CIIS education transformed my worldview about self, organizations, and society at large. The integral approach to organizational change encompassing the reductionistic, systemic, and consciousness frameworks has definitely enabled me to develop new visions for the organizations that I work with, the family I belong to, and the country I come from."

Ramakrishna (Ramki) is the head of Group Human Resources at Emirates Bank Group in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He holds a PhD in Humanities with a focus on Transformative Learning and Change from CIIS.

Ramki's areas of professional interest are organizational learning and change, capability building, and leadership development. He has designed, developed, and executed several organizational interventions to support the transformative change at Emirates Bank during his stay, which has spanned more than a decade.

A case study covering the impact of these interventions will be published as a business case study by INSEAD, a globally reputed business school in France. His paper "Organizational Myths as a Vehicle for Organizational Transformation" was published by the Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1 (2004).

Ramki is also a certified Life Coach through the International Coach Federation and has coached several business leaders within and outside of Emirates Bank.

Ramki is a visiting faculty member at the American University of Sharjah, UAE, and an approved trainer through the Society for Human Resource Management. Ramki has lived and worked in India, Oman, and the UAE.

KimOanh Nguyen, PhD (2002)

"I recently revisited Bodega Bay, the place where our group, Cohort 7, rented houses to stay during our intensives, and it brought back vivid memories of those intense days! Up until then, I believe our group was the most vocal and diverse, in many aspects.

"The cohort experience and the commitment to 'be authentic' to one another led to many heartfelt and challenging discussions. The CIIS experience transformed me personally, professionally, and spiritually.

"Through the program's integral focus, I reclaimed my Eastern cultural background, values, and traditions, and it strengthened who I was and what I became. The knowledge base in the adult transformative learning program served me well in my professional life.

"I gained confidence and the ability to collaborate and partner with individuals and groups of diverse backgrounds and interests through conflicts and chaos, arriving at shared commitment and goals."

KimOanh is the executive director of the California State University (CSU) Consortium for the Strategic Language Initiative. She is on the Board of Trustees for the Garden Grove Unified School District, and an Advisory Council member: State Superintendent P-16 Education.

She has also served as associate director for the Center for Language Minority Education and Research at California State University, Long Beach.

Gabrielle Pelicci, PhD (2007)

"The transformative learning program at CIIS was one of the best experiences of my life. It not only taught me the academic skills that I need to be successful, but it also taught me to develop my passion, trust my instincts and intuition, and value myself more as a person. I am a totally different person than I was when I began the program. Thanks to the amazing faculty, I experienced core transformation and feel confident that I can help others change their lives, too."

Gabrielle holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology from East Stroudsberg University; a master's degree in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University; and a doctoral degree from CIIS with a dissertation on integrative medicine.

She is the academic director at Sober College, and an instructor in the Personal and Professional Development program at UCLA Extension and at UCLA Health System Ethics Center.

Gabrielle presents at national educational and therapeutic conferences, and assists individuals in creating personal and professional success through workshops and individualized coaching. She has led several kundalini yoga teacher trainings, and has an extensive background in the healing and teaching professions.

Matthew Taylor, PhD (2006)

"The emphasis on the practical application of research to real-world problems at CIIS gave me the language and skills to help bridge the dream of consumers and providers with the emerging mission of a mature organization."

Matt is the owner of Dynamic Systems Rehabilitation, PLLC, and Dynamic Systems Seminars, Scottsdale, AZ; and the president of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

Recently, Matt led a 10-week collaborative-inquiry funded study at Courage Center in Minneapolis, MN, focused on the research question, "What does it take to transform the organizational culture of a residential physical rehabilitation center to a mind-body perspective?"

The 80-year-old organization hopes to become the first facility in the country to offer that level of service to the 11,000 consumers it serves each year.

He has presented at the Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research, 2007 and 2008; Omega Being Yoga Conference, 2007; Phoenix Valley Acute Care Physical Therapy Directors Meeting, 2007; National Ayurvedic Medical Association Annual Meeting, 2007; Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC) 2007 Retreat; and Arizona American Physical Therapy Association Meeting, 2006.

Matt's published articles include "Dynamic Systems Rehabilitation: Prototype Yoga-based Physical Rehabilitation Clinics," Somatics, Vol. 15:3; 22-27 (2008); "Addressing Systems at Every Level," Impact, APTA Private Practice, April 2007: 12-15; "Research and the Feldenkrais Method: Sharing a Different Vision with the World," IFF Academy Feldenkrais Research Journal, International Feldenkrais Federation, Vol. 3, 2007; "Harvesting the Full Potential of Group Yoga Therapy Classes," International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 16: 33-37.

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