Avital Abraham serves as the Research and Program Coordinator for the Center for Compassion Integrity and Secular Ethics at Life University. In this position, she coordinates a research study evaluating the effects of educational and psycho-social interventions in a prison setting. She is a certified trainer in the Community Resiliency Model (CRM), which teaches resiliency-focused skills to help individuals regulate their nervous systems during stressful situations. Previously, she worked a contracted mentor with domestic minor sex-trafficking victims. Avital received her Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Georgia. She is currently enrolled in the Master’s of Positive Psychology at Life University. Her research interest focuses on the connection between trauma, violence and resilience. Avital has taught CIT to peace-builders in Northern Ireland, incarcerated people at Arrendale State Prison, University faculty and staff and others. She is deeply involved in increasing access to skills that teach prosocial human values and resilience, especially with marginalized and at-risk groups. This is why Compassionate Integrity Training is so important to her. Not only is the training itself extremely valuable to her, but she believes keeping the material open-sourced and free for the public is a key component to the success of this work.
Shelly Batcher is a wife, mother of four children and creative marketing professional. She helps organizations through strategic, innovative solutions. She is a visual communicator with 27+ years of experience. Shelly began as a graphic designer and creative lead. Now, she is the Executive Director of Marketing at Life University, the largest single-campus Doctor of Chiropractic Program in the World. Her passion is visual communication that delivers strategic marketing solutions. Through watching and learning from a rapidly evolving industry, she takes pride in being a vital part of the entire creative process. Her favorite part of participating in the CIT Working Group is to use the resources and tools developed to be a better wife and mom, while continuing to grow in her professional career. Some current and previous clients and employers include: US Bank, Harley Davidson, United States Bowling Congress, Life University, Brunswick, Miller Beer, Circus Circus and Eldorado.
Dr. Elizabeth M. Bounds, who joined Candler’s faculty in 1997, is engaged in the Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation Concentration, part of the Master of Divinity degree program at Candler. She also teaches courses as part of the Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding Concentration in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion. Bounds’ interests include restorative justice and the prison system, peace-building and conflict transformation, democratic practices and civil society, feminist and liberation ethics, and transformative pedagogical practices. The core of her research, teaching and scholarship is focused on moral and theological responses to conflict and violence, whether in the U.S. prison system, ordinary congregational life, or post-conflict situations such as Liberia. She is the author of Coming Together/Coming Apart: Religion, Modernity, and Community (Routledge, 1997), co-editor of Welfare Policy: Feminist Critiques and Justice in the Making: Feminist Social Ethics (Pilgrim Press, 1999) and has authored several essays in edited volumes.
Anja Pelzer-Brennholt holds a Law Degree with a focus in International Law and Human Rights Law, a Master’s degree in Humanitarian Assistance and is a certified mediator. She has been working as a lawyer for a German Research Organization since 1999, is currently enrolled in the Master’s program in Positive Psychology at Life University and volunteers as a docent for the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. When doing project work with the Center’s CEO, she met researchers of the Center for Compassion, Integrity and Secular Ethics at Life University and has been intrigued by the power and impact of Compassion and Integrity Training (CIT) ever since then. “I really believe in CIT. Based on inclusive values it is universally applicable and can have a major impact particularly in diverse environments. Not just the people who undergo the training will profit, but the systems they live and work in!”
A graduate of University of Manchester and Queens University Belfast, Nuala Crilly began working in the community sector in Derry in 1989. After a stint working in the tourism sector in the USA, Nuala returned to Derry in 2001 and again returned to work in the community development sector. She began to focus on working with more individuals within community organisations and local areas to get their voices heard and enable them to effect change within their local areas. Passionate about ensuring those at the margins have their voices heard in decision making, which impacts on them and their communities, she has helped develop a number of training programmes, such as Taking Your Campaign To Stormont and also Clever Committees. As part of her role with St Columb's Park House Nuala continued to development training and support programmes for individual changemakers who were pursuing a campaign. This has evolved into the Compassionate Campaigning programme which holds Compassion and the Principles of Non Violence at its core with a focus on compassion for self and compassion for others. This work is developed within an understanding and appreciation of the systems within which we all exist and are connected by. Compassionate Communities aims to support a wide range of activists develop support mechanisms to drive forward individual or collective change. Nuala lives in Derry with her three children and dog and in her spare time like to relax by practising and teaching yoga!
Sholom Estrin is a rabbi, board certified chaplain and an expert in Jewish mindfulness practices. He started his Rabbinical training in the mystical city of Safed under the tutelage of some of the foremost renown scholars of the Kabbalistic and Hasidic practices, and he has brought his knowledge and skills into his non-denominational chaplaincy practice. In addition, Sholom has a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Bellevue University and is currently studying the CIT approach to ethical development. His prior experiences include a year as a Chaplain Fellow at the Atlanta Veteran Administration Medical Center, with a focus on Veterans suffering from mental health concerns, a year and a half as a chaplain resident at Emory University Hospital, as well as five years as the contract rabbi for the Federal Corrections Compound at Butner, NC. In addition, Sholom is also trained in the ancient tradition of artisan cheesemaking. He lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and four boys.
Marianne Parrish Florian is currently working on a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. In the wider field of American Religious Cultures, she specializes in the study of Buddhist modernism, Buddhism in America, and African heritage traditions in the Americas. She also looks to contemplative practices, contemplative science, and cognitive science of religion for new understandings and perspectives of what religious people do and believe. In addition to her degree, she is pursuing a graduate certificate with Emory’s Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture. She holds a Master of Arts in French language and literature from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Theological Studies degree from Emory's Candler School of Theology. Her 2012 thesis describes Cognitively-Based Compassion Training® (CBCT), a secular, contemplative approach to teaching compassion, in the context of its Tibetan Buddhist antecedents and similar meditation programs. Building upon previous work, for her dissertation research, she will partner with Spiritual Health at Emory Healthcare, the Mascaro lab in Family and Preventive Medicine at the Emory School of Medicine, and CBCT® to document the experience of Spiritual Health Clinician-Residents as they train in a new, evidence-based approach to hospital chaplaincy and care that is centered on compassion and rooted in contemplative techniques. Her role in Life University's CIT Working Group has allowed her to incorporate insights from trauma interventions and critical social theory into her own meditation practice, build relationships with dedicated volunteers and experts, and contribute to developing instructional manuals.
Thomas “Tom” V. Flores holds a PhD from Emory University in Religious Studies, with a concentration in Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding. He was heavily involved with Emory’s Initiative in Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding as its first Post-doctoral Fellow, then Visiting Professor of Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Practices at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. His research and publishing areas integrate: diversity, tolerance, and culture; peace studies and conflict transformation; expressive arts for social change; psychologies of violence, altruism and enemy construction; inter-religious dialogue; international Museums for Peace; and peace building contemplative practices. He also has degrees in Theology, Political Science, and Music. At Life University, he is serving as Assistant Professor of Positive Human Development and Social Change, where he co-conceived and co-developed, along with Dr. Brendan Ozawa-de Silva, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Positive Human Development and Social Change (PHDSC), as well as the Associate of Arts degree in PHDSC offered at the Lee Arrendale State Women’s Prison in North Georgia (a component of the Chillon Project). He teaches numerous courses for the Chillon Project. For seven years, he has taught and continues to teach World Religions for Georgia Gwinnett College. Prior to his academic career, Tom was in the music business and a professional musician in his home city of Los Angeles, California. “Practicing the skills of Compassionate Integrity Training has made an incalculable difference in so many areas of my life and understanding. I have seen it bring incredible insight and benefit to the lives of my students. Now more than ever, it is sorely needed in education and society today."
Anna Gorczynska is currently a graduate student at Life University working on her master’s degree in Positive Psychology. She is taking classes in Coaching Psychology as well as Secular Ethics and Contemplative Science tracks. Anna strongly believes in the power of education as learning and teaching are her main passions in life. Most of her background so far is related to education. She holds a Licentiate Degree (equivalent to the bachelor's degree) in Special & Early-School Pedagogies from Higher School of Pedagogy from her native country, Poland. She also received Bachelor of Science in Middle Grades Education from Kennesaw State University, GA. Back in her country, Anna was a teacher of English as a Foreign Language for several years teaching elementary and middle school children as well as adults.
Helen Henderson is the Managing Director of St Columb’s Park House, a Peace and Reconciliation centre based in Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland. In this role she oversees the running of a conference and residential centre along with the development of core peace programmes in the community. She has spent most of her working life in the community and voluntary sector and worked for many years with Children in Crossfire delivering their development /global education programme with teachers/youth workers and young people. She completed a masters in ‘Education for Contemporary Society’ and is passionate about ordinary people making extraordinary differences. St Columb’s Park House are keen to explore new ideas and holistic methodologies that further develop peace building work on the island connecting it to social justice, and ensuring it is relevant to the daily lives of people living in the margins of our society.
Michaela Maxwell holds a BA in South Asian Studies from Middlebury College. Her research spans the areas of mindfulness, cognitive science, identity, moral philosophy and gender equality in Buddhism. She has conducted workshops on mindfulness and emotional intelligence in the workplace, and has done fieldwork in India and Nepal. Interested in secularizing mindfulness practices for larger audiences, Michaela assisted in the editing process for the CIT manual. She firmly believes that the most effective way to make any change in the world is by shifting our mindsets. When we manage to do this, all else follows. Michaela is passionate about the transformative power of Compassionate Integrity Training to cultivate human well-being, as well as more fruitful dialogue in all sections of the population.
Chikako Ozawa-de Silva, D.Phil., is an Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at Emory University. Dr. Ozawa-de Silva’s research focuses on cross-cultural understandings of health and illness, especially mental illness, by bringing together Western and Asian (particularly Japanese and Tibetan) perspectives on the mind-body, religion, medicine, therapy. She is currently the Principal Investigator of an ethnographic study of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training that is funded by the Mind and Life Institute and the Templeton Foundation, and was a recipient of an NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) Fellowship in 2013-14. Her publications include one monograph, Psychotherapy and Religion in Japan: The Japanese Introspection Practice of Naikan (Routledge, 2006), and numerous peer-reviewed articles on psychotherapeutic practice, suicide, the mind-body relationship and Tibetan medicine.
Richard Shook, Ph.D. teaches psychology at Life University and has over 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist. His orientation has always included a humanistic focus which he now integrates with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Compassion work and Nonviolent Communication. Richard had the opportunity to experience the power of mind/body interventions while he served as a medic in the Air Force. His mind/body focus deepened while completing his residency and a fellowship in pain management in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center. His pain management work involves integrating hypnosis and mindfulness meditation. Richard’s work in psychotherapy and health psychology has allowed him a front row seat to the self-‐healing and self-‐regulating powers we all share. He received his first meditation training over 40 years ago. Richard is excited to be part of the growing mindfulness and compassion communities and the exciting work of the Compassion Integrity Training Working group.