Gaia U Alumni

Gaia U Alumni 2017-03-28T21:08:47+00:00

Alumni Excellence

Below you can explore a sampling of Gaia University graduates. Read about how they joined the global Gaia University community, the projects they undertook during their program and the inspiring work they are currently doing in service to the ecosocial regeneration of our planet.

Ethan Roland is a permaculture designer, teacher, and researcher based in the Hudson River Valley in New York, USA. He has studied and practiced regenerative design across the world, from the wild apple forests of Kazakhstan to the tropical ecosystems of Thailand. Currently, Ethan builds resilience for local and global communities through the design firms AppleSeed Permaculture and Terra Genesis International, and was recently hired to work for the Lush cosmetics SLush fund, which is used to start sustainable farming and community projects. Ethan also helps to organize the Northeastern Permaculture Network and serves on the boards of Permaculture Across Borders, the Apios Institute and the Mindful Living Initiative.

Prior to his enrollment in Gaia University, Ethan received a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Haverford College and was the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study the global diversity of apples and the Ariel G. Loewy Research Award for excellence in biochemistry.

The leading focus of Ethan’s Gaia University MSc degree work was collaboration – co-creative research, design, and implementation strategies for regenerating external/physical and internal/emotional landscapes. Since his graduation from Gaia University, Ethan has remained active as a collaborator both in his design and teaching work. Ethan often teams up to co-teach with world-renowned permaculture designers such as Geoff Lawton and Dave Jacke, and successfully organized the world’s first carbon farming intensive, Broadacre Permaculture & Holistic Management for Carbon Negative Agriculture, with fellow Gaia University graduate, Gregory Landua. You can read about Ethan’s research on carbon farming and ecosystem investing on his blog, Regenerative Designs.

“Gaia U supports my work in the field of ecosocial regeneration through a dynamic mentoring system and a thriving global network. I have experienced nothing like it for collaborative learning, integrative design training, and the passionate deepening of our connection to natural systems and each other.

I love advising at Gaia University because I get to support the people behind the projects that are moving our world. Advising builds long-term mentoring relationships of mutual support and collaboration — weaving together the fabric of a regenerative ecosocial culture.”

Valerie Seitz grew up in Vienna, the cultural capital of Austria, and developed a passionate interest in the artistic, social and ecological aspects of public life at an early age. This lead to her decision to study architecture, first in Vienna and later in Innsbruck. In the nineties, she traveled to the Netherlands, then the mecca for experimental architecture, to complete her studies. In 2001, she graduated with a Master of Architecture degree from the Delft University of Technology.

Upon graduation from Delft, Valerie directly became a part of the Delft Interfaculty Research Center, ‘The Green City’, and began to do research about green living environments and ecovillages. She also played a significant role in the design and planning of Alminde, an ecovillage project north of Amsterdam.
Valerie went on to teach and advise at the faculty for architecture for the Department of Sustainable Urbanism before  making her way to the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm community in Tennessee, USA, where she soon became part of the management and development team. Valerie was co-director of the Ecovillage Training Center when she was introduced to Gaia University co-founders, Andrew Langford and Liora Adler, and has been a key member of the development team ever since.

In order to best integrate Gaia University’s thinking and systems, Valerie pursued a post-graduate diploma in Organizing Learning for EcoSocial Regeneration. The heart of her degree project was to help lay the foundation for Gaia Southeast, the first Gaia University regional association in the United States.

Since graduating from her program, Valerie has been involved in the development of the Permaculture Association of Austria, the Global Ecovillage Network, and different co-housing projects in Austria.

“For me, there is no separation between my private and work life, my life and my learning. These delineations within conventional universities feel like an artificial framework to me. Within the Gaia University system you can lay your whole life on the table and your entire life becomes your area of study.

Gaia University is a very special system with a lot of freedom that resonates with my need to think and act on my own. Yet when I need support, it is there. At Gaia University, I feel at home. I find it very inspiring – with tons of outlets for my creativity and thinking.”

Kyle Theirmann is a pro surfer and activist with a passion to systematically affect world change. His first documentary video, Claim Your Change, details how money kept in multinational banks is used to finance destructive projects all over the world. One such project, a proposed coal-fired power plant in Constitucion, Chile, is the focus of the video.

The Claim Your Change Project has had a global impact, inspiring over ten thousand account holders in South America, Africa and Europe, to move more than $110 million dollars of lending power out of centralized banks into local banks. Kyle is now developing a second video which will track a product sold in the US back to its manufacture in Sri Lanka. The goal of the project is to show people the power they have to create change – every day – by raising their consciousness about the geographical origin of the products they buy and the people who make them.

Kyle has surfed his way across Indonesia, Chile, Peru, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Mexico, Australia, Hawaii and the US. The flexible structure of Gaia University enables him to travel and surf professionally while earning a BA in Green Business by actively working on social and environmental justice projects around the world. He uses the support from his sponsors, including Patagonia, to generate publicity that encourages people to take action to transform their communities, and the world.

Kyle speaks at universities and high schools throughout California. He has been the keynote speaker at One World Children’s Fund and was the 2010 recipient of the Peter Benchley Blue Vision Youth Award. Kyle’s work has been featured in dozens of media outlets worldwide, including The Huffington Post and Surfer Magazine.

Kyle lives in Santa Cruz, California and is currently building a skateboard ramp in his backyard with friends. In 2011 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Green Business from Gaia University.

“Gaia University has given me the opportunity to design the life of my dreams in a practical way. My advisors take the well-being of my whole life into account as we design my year. It’s the perfect combination of freedom and support.

Gaia University has created an extremely effective model for learning. It’s the opposite of cramming for a test and regurgitating information – and then forgetting the information once the test is over. Gaia U supports you to follow your passion and incorporate your learning into your life.

Have you ever been sitting in a classroom and asked yourself, ‘When am I ever going to use this information in the real world?’ I haven’t once asked myself that question during my time at Gaia U. That’s because my classroom is the world, and my curriculum is learning to be an effective world-changer.

I don’t need to wait until I get out of school to be able to change the world – I can do it right now!”

Karen Stupski is a sustainability educator, grant writer, and communitarian. She currently serves as an advisor for Gaia University and Goddard College, and works as development director of the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy, a watershed organization and land trust.

Karen lives at Heathcote Community, an intentional community dedicated to sustainable living, where she practices permaculture and cooperative processes such as consensus decision making, Zegg forum, and nonviolent communication. She coordinates the education program at Heathcote, which includes permaculture workshops and internships. For Karen, living in community is a way of creating social change. She sees intentional communities/ecovillages as powerful sites of learning where people can create and experience systems and processes that are egalitarian and collaborative, gain practical skills in sustainability, and be supported in personal healing and transformation.

Prior to her enrollment in Gaia University, Karen earned a PhD in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology from Johns Hopkins University. In her dissertation, she analyzed the technologies that were used to recycle human excrement as a fertilizer in the New England and Mid-Atlantic states during the nineteenth century.

Karen received a post-graduate diploma in Organizing Learning for Ecosocial Regneration from Gaia University in 2008. During her time as a Gaia University associate she coordinated an internship program in natural building and sustainable community while living at Heathcote, wrote several successful grants for the local watershed organization, and started to earn her livelihood from her own business as a sustainability educator.

“Gaia University has connected me to a dynamic network of world changers who provide deep inspiration and support. It gave me the opportunity to earn a diploma while simultaneously developing a sustainability education business.”

Christian Schorpp is a long-time nature mentor and teacher. His passion for connecting with nature on a deeper level was born after he read Tom Brownʻs book, The Tracker, as a young man. He made his first trip to Brown’s Tracker School in 1997. In 2000 he began the Kamana Naturalist Training Program, which he completed in 2004. A year later he met Jon Young and Mark Morey at their first Art of Mentoring workshop in Europe.

Christian has been offering workshops and trainings in wilderness skills and nature awareness since 1999. Since 2005 he has been Co-director of the Corvus Wilderness School in Southern Germany near Lake Constance. In 2006 Christian started to work with troubled youth as a nature connection mentor. Since then he learned a great deal about the art of “coyote mentoring” and the negative effects our society and schools have on the healthy development of young men.

While at another Jon Young Art of Mentoring workshop in Northern Germany Christian met Katharina Weber, a Gaia University advisor with the Gaia Action Learning Academy in Germany. It only took a single conversation with Katherina for Chris to realize that Gaia University was offering exactly what he needed to bring his mentoring skills to the next level.  He has graduated with a Masters degree.

Christian is currently working on the creation of new programs at the Corvus Wilderness School that are based on cultural mentoring and the caring and tending of third and fourth generation mentors. He is also intensely focused on bringing wilderness education into the mainstream. Christian uses coyote mentoring as the primary teaching tool in work with aggressive kids in an inner city public school and also provides one-on-one mentoring program for troubled boys.

“The combination of peer and advisor support proved to be the right training ground for learning documentation and growth in my occupation as a mentor. Although studying meant hard work, it soon became clear that along with studying came freedom and creativity in the learning and designing processes of my own projects.”

Elke Loepthien works as an educator, facilitator, consultant and mentor. She is the founder of the CIRCLEWISE Center for Connection Culture, a think-and-do-tank where the insights of modern holistic human and life sciences and the ancient wisdom of indigenous cultures are synergized to create educational experiences that are innovative, timeless and transformational. It is one of her greatest passions to explore and empower connective ways of living and leadership, that are rooted in nature and that honor our human role as a keystone species on Mother Earth.

She studied and worked with indigenous teachers from different parts of the world and is a graduate of the Cultural Mentoring program for Regenerative Design and Nature Awareness at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, California. Elke holds a traditional German degree (“Dipl.Ing (FH)”) in Landscape Management and Nature Conservation from the University of Applied Sciences in Eberswalde, Germany, where she specialized in Holistic Environmental Education. In her final thesis she explored the topic of „Connection as an Aspect of an Ecology of Learning“. Elke is trained as a Personal Coach and Psychological Consultant and works with a variety of traditional and modern methods for personal growth, empowerment and transformation. She also works as a host for the international weekly Village Talk online conferences with Jon Young and Josh Lane.

She graduated from Gaia U in fall 2010 with a Graduate Diploma in Regenerative Community Design, focussing on Community Process Design and Personal Transformation. Prior to her enrollment in Gaia U, Elke immersed herself in theory and practice mainly in the fields of education, (permaculture) design, psychology, knowledge of place and nature connection. Her early research and writings have earned awards from the German Körber-Foundation, the zis Foundation for Study Travels and others. During her time at Gaia University as well as for her studies in Germany she was granted a full scholarship from the German National Academic Foundation.

“Gaia U allowed me to slow down and catch up with what was at the core of all my studies and projects – me. Having the chance to fully integrate my personal with my professional and academic life caused a quantum leap for the quality, depth and integrity of who I am being in the world. The program also opened the door for me to participate in an ongoing conversation with world changers from all over the planet, a conversation that is transforming us, our contexts and communities along the way. To continue this conversation now in the role of an advisor feels like being able to pay forward of the support and bounty that I have received.

“My commitment is to support associates in connecting with their own self, their gifts and their passions and deep longings, to find their purpose in life, one step at a time. I believe that we all have an important, essential puzzle for the grand vision of a good life for all of creation. Your piece of the puzzle is needed and awaited.

“I enjoy listening deeply, asking questions that create space for understanding, creativity, vision and forward movement. I love helping you discover your own questions, your own understanding.

“Being able to accompany and guide someone in exploring, designing and unfolding of his or her own unique life and learning path continuous to be a tremendous source of hope and inspiration in my life.”

With a name that represents the garden of gardens, heaven on Earth – humanity’s ecological potential – Eden Vardy was set up to be an ecological activist from day one! Eden was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel and moved to Aspen, Colorado with his family at age two, where he lived through high school.

Eden received a bachelor’s degree in sustainable food systems and ecological design at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, where he earned very high marks throughout his studies. He helped start a sustainable student-run café initiative at Evergreen, which is now a successful demonstration model. Eden was also managing Chez Cascadia, an eco- minded hostel in Olympia, during this time.

In 2006, Eden began to feel frustrated by his studies – too much talk and not enough action – and initiated a multiple year ecological tour of the world. Eden completed two permaculture design certifications while studying in Asia in 2007 and was accepted, on a full scholarship, as a Green Apprentice to the permaculture program on Kibbutz Lotan Eco-village in Israel. In 2008, he received a third Permaculture Design Certificate as well as an Eco-village Design Certificate.

Eden moved back to Aspen in the summer of 2008, motivated to start an organization that would integrate his values and learnings while inspiring ecological regeneration. Seeking a self-driven, ecologically oriented master’s program to support his mission, Eden enrolled in Gaia University in the fall of 2008. For his master’s project, he designed and implemented a permaculture demonstration site at a school for AIDS orphans in Uganda and started the non-profit organization Aspen T.R.E.E. This non-profit provided enough of an income to pay the first year of his Gaia University tuition, and became his full-time career during his second year. Aspen T.R.E.E. is now a successful 501(c)3, providing permaculture support for clients, and hosting year-round educational programs for kids and adults. Read more at www.re-generation.us.

Eden Vardy recently completed his bachelor’s degree from Evergreen, having worked on his B.A. and M.Sc. at the same time. In 2010 he graduated from Gaia University with a Masters in Integrative Ecosocial Design and is currently working with Gaia U associates as an advisor.

“Gaia University has given me the freedom and skill-flexes to pursue my dreams in a tangible way. The school’s action learning methodology and support network of creative leaders has enabled me to accelerate the achievement of my personal goals and fine-tune my career.”

Having traveled the world in search of wisdom, Javiera Carrion found it at home where she started: the seeds of sustainability were contained in the common sense of her own, Chilean people. Javiera studied agricultural engineering and, following her nose, entered the workforce as a grape grower and wine maker. She then began to explore agroecology, biodynamic farming and organic agriculture. Inspired, she returned to her roots and mobilized her family to begin the process of transitioning their farm to organic.

During her student days, Javiera discovered permaculture, and after a long search for the right place and time, attended a permaculture design course in New Zealand in 2006. Having resonated deeply with the idea of transition, she set out to push the development of the transition movement in Chile and Latin America.

As Javiera and her partner, Grifen Hope, looked for support to develop a regional training center for the great re-skilling, Gaia University emerged as an ideal framework within which to inspire their vision.

Now their living school, Ecoescuela El Manzana, is thriving and helping local people to develop experience in design for resilience. With the support of an international learning community, Javiera has embarked on an ambitious journey to create a transformative learning pathway  for herself and the communities around her.

Javiera lives and works on her family farm in the BioBio region of Chile with her partner, Grifen, and their son, Anaru.

“With the support of Gaia University I have organised my own learning for ecosocial regeneration. This has enabled me to learn, in action, while developing a world changing project.

“I feel more connected and resilient than ever. From the relationships that have formed with my neighbors as we explore how to reinvigorate a local economy, to the bioregional family that is growing around us and organizing for food security, to the Permaculture Institute that is stepping up to lead the transition in my country.

“Through Gaia University I am part of a global movement organizing for a paradigm shift, looking to leverage our global interconnectedness to accelerate local transformation.”

Ben Griffin is the founder and president of Greener Living, Inc. and has been involved in the fields of sustainability, natural and green building, energy efficiency and renewable energy for over a decade. Though he claims to have started his career in natural building while playing in his sand box as a child, he has since been involved in various building projects around the world. More recently, Ben has received a Certificate in Permaculture and Agroforestry from the Institute of Permaculture in Bahia, Brazil and a Natural Building Certificate from Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, VT. He has also received the United States Green Building Council’s LEED AP credential with a specific accreditation in residential homes.

Prior to his acceptance in Gaia University, Ben attended the University of Montana, studying in the Natural Resources department. Overwhelmed by a feeling that he wanted more out of secondary education, he enrolled in Burlington College’s Independent Study Degree Program. While finding delight and purpose in creating his own curriculum based on sustainable building and design, the program lacked the peer and advisor support that Ben had hoped to find. Still searching for a Bachelor’s degree that fit his interests and passions, he found Gaia University and a symbiotic, action-learning relationship began.

The overarching theme of Ben’s work at Gaia University was sustainability, on both personal and planetary levels. Much of his capstone year involved the development of an independent, small business and a substantial portion of his academic work details the processes of this journey.  Additionally, Ben focused on sustainability in personal relationships, using experiences with his life partner to share and relate ideas for healthy, personal connections. He also explored his own mind and academic habits in order to access modes of deeper and more concentrated learning.

Currently, Ben lives in Burlington, Vermont and serves on the Board of Directors for the Vermont Green Building Network. His web continues to grow as he brings varied and diverse groups of people together over the common bond of sustainability. In addition to his continuing work as a builder, Ben is also consulting with businesses on how to achieve more sustainable profits and operations. Hoping to stay connected with the Gaia U community, he is training to become an advisor and has already begun to mentor associates locally. Ben continues to weave many of Gaia University’s philosophies into the fabric of his personal relationships and professional projects.

“Gaia University offered me the perfect marriage between creative academic freedom and nurturing support. I felt completely able and inspired to design my own curriculum, while being sustained and looked after by a caring group of peers and advisors. It is the first and only higher learning institution I have found that promotes this dynamic balance.

“My experience at GU was as much a shift in my perception as it was an education. This profound movement towards a higher level of thinking and understanding has resonated deeply within my core. The concepts and philosophies introduced to me by through Gaia U have joined me on my personal and professional journeys towards planetary sustainability and ecosocial regeneration.”

Dyami Nason-Regan is a nature-based mentor, naturalist, permaculture designer and cultural creative. Before attending Gaia University, Dyami spent four years building her capacity as a mentor in nature connection. She has run programs through Wild Earth, Vermont Wilderness School and Earth Arts.

As a Gaia University MSc associate, Dyami deepened and specialized her work as a mentor. Her project work has been focused on “Restoring the Earth-Based Feminine and the Culture of Moontime Connection.” Her present work in this field is centered around the transition of teenage girls into young womanhood. She envisions a culture that supports girls to build authentic connection to themselves, their sisters and the Earth – a culture that honors menarche as a beautiful and powerful gift of womanhood. Dyami is currently collaborating on a new program for girls: Crescent Moon Girls: A Journey of Coming into Fullness, which will be hosted by Wild Earth.

Dyami is also a designer and project manager for AppleSeed Permaculture, a design and install business, which she co-owns with her partner, Gaia University graduate and advisor, Ethan Roland. Whether it is her work as permaculture designer or nature-based mentor, Dyami is passionate about fostering deep Earth connection. She believes that from this place of connection all of our relations will be healed. She received her master’s degree in 2011 and will be working with Gaia U associates as an advisor.

“Gaia University has been an incredible support in my actualization as a world-changer. What a gift to be validated by an educational institution in my passions and vision for the changes that I want to see happen in my community and in myself.”

Gregory Landua is a permaculture educator, designer, documentarian, facilitator and ecosocial entrepreneur. Gregory was the lead coordinator for the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm in Tennessee in 2008 and 2009, where he helped to coordinate, develop and deliver solutions-oriented sustainability courses on a range of topics, including permaculture and green energy. More recently, Gregory has focused his energies on entrepreneurial activities. His beyond-fair-trade chocolate business, Booya Cacao, is a working part of Running Fox Farm, a start-up ecovillage in the Berkshires, Masachussetts, and provides an excellent example of functioning regenerative enterprise.

Gregory has practiced and taught permaculture from the Ecuadorian Highlands to Alaska. He works towards local and planetary regeneration through Terra Genesis International, the Financial Permaculture Institute, the Center for Holistic Ecology, Living Mandala and the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute.

Prior to his enrollment in Gaia University, Gregory received a BSc in Environmental Science from Oregon State University, with minors in Spanish, terrestrial ecology and ethics. Before applying to Gaia University to gain skills in regenerative design he served as a translator for guides in the Amazon, studied marine ecology in the Galapagos Islands, and worked fighting wildfires and fishing for Salmon in the wilderness of Alaska.

Gregory’s Gaia University post-graduate diploma was focused on organizational design, education and network building. He worked to build action learning models, activate the permaculture and ecovillage networks of the Pacific Northwest (USA), and design coherent structures for cooperation on a strategic level. After graduation, Gregory chaneled his organizational abilities towards creating a cooperative to run the Ecovillage Training Center and convene the 10th Bioregional Congress. Additionally he organized several cutting edge design courses, including the world’s first carbon farming intensive: Broadacre Permaculture and Holistic Management for Carbon Negative Agriculture, which was a collaborative effort with fellow Gaia U graduate, Ethan Roland.

You can read more about Gregory’s work on his blog, Gaia Emerging, which explores regenerative solutions for the wellbeing of our planet.

Gaia University allowed me to learn at the speed of life. Engaging in action learning with the support of mentors and peers is a powerful way to gain skills and learn truly important lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom.

Gaia University is really a revolution disguised as a university. By working with other engaged individuals on projects of strategic importance to heal ecosystems and cultures, and sharing the learning, lessons, and best practices, Gaia U is creating regeneration, cooperation and empowerment on a global scale.

After attending a conventional college and obtaining a 4-year degree, I was barely ready to engage in the kind of learning and practice that Gaia University offers. Gaia U is not for everyone! You have to be self motivated, self aware, visionary and practical to succeed in the arduous task of engaging in strategic project work and documenting it for yourself and others. This is quite possibly the most challenging degree program you could ask for. Be prepared to grow to meet the challenge.

“Gaia University has allowed me to craft a relationship of integrity with the world and with myself. Through my Gaia University learning pathway, I deepened my understanding and practice of permaculture, and began delving into the intricacies of regenerative education.I am now utilizing skills such as group facilitation, curriculum development, organizing and coordinating group projects. Thanks to Gaia University, all of my projects are firmly grounded in the ethics of permaculture, and the organizational designs and business plans that I am actively unfolding are designed to weave together into a seamless project for strategic ecosocial regeneration.”

Monica Engel grew up in a small village in South Brazil where she learned how to read the clouds in the sky and respect the natural world. Confused with her life and the world, she went to central Brazil to study and practice permaculture and ecology in 2007 at Ecocentre IPEC (Instituto de Permacultura e Ecovilas do Cerrado). Here she completed a permaculture design certification course as well as other Ecoversity courses. Monica now works professionally as an environmental educator for both children and adults in a variety of contexts, including school gardens.

In 2007, Monica learned about Gaia University and decided to go to England and learn the English language. After two years of studies, travels and discoveries, she went back to Brazil and became a Gaia University associate. While working on her bachelor’s degree in Integrative Ecosocial Design from Gaia University she was simultaneously studying Biological Science at Unisos University in Brazil.

Monica’s many project include recycling initiatives, the development of a green business consultancy and the creation of an ecological institute which she hopes will someday become a Gaia University affilate center.

To contact Monica, email her at: monica_engel@hotmail.com

“My life has changed! A new circle began when I became a Gaia U associate. I’ve turned the page and now I’m developing my ecological intelligence as an integrative ecosocial designer. Never before have I had these feelings of connection or this level of consciousness about my acts and thoughts. Gaia U is part of my life and my growth. It is not just a University, it is the solution to the problem.”