In my life, my academic pursuits, and my vocation, I have taken an alternative path. As a young adult, I was compelled by early formative experiences to follow a path that had heart and soul. Guided by an inner insistence that my work be personally meaningful, as well socially additive, I sought to allow my highest values and deepest struggles to guide my engagement with the world.

karen-jaenkeThe search for a way to bring forward my unique gifts and vision led me as a young adult simultaneously to the ivory towers of Princeton Seminary and the barred cages of the state prison, where as a chaplain I confronted the underbelly of America in the faces of inmates with AIDS, mental illness, and on death row. This intense encounter with the dark side of society and the suffering face of humanity activated an existential crisis, eventually leading to my discovery of the healing resources that reside within the depths of the human soul and spirit. Asking the essential and ultimate questions about life’s suffering, deeper meaning, and higher potentials, I embarked on doctoral study at the California Institute of Integral Studies in the interdisciplinary triangle of psychology, spirituality, and philosophy—the field of consciousness studies.

Alternative paths are not always recognized or rewarded, but John F. Kennedy University provided a place to fully dive into my chosen field of work. Finding a way to participate in and contribute to the unfolding field of human consciousness studies is a special privilege. JFK University is a sanctuary for those who, experiencing their uniqueness and difference, have similarly struck out on their own, seeking to find a personal and authentic way to contribute to the greater good. To work with colleagues who share these values, and to teach and mentor students committed to discovering and developing their fuller human potential in service of collective transformation is, for me, right livelihood.

In my current role as chair of the Consciousness and Transformative Studies program, I oversee a program whose mission is to “explore and expand consciousness and human potential, and to foster conscious leadership in service of personal, organizational, cultural, and ecological change.” My colleagues and I inspire, challenge, and support students who, like us, seek to make meaningful contributions to a troubled world in transitional times. It’s an incredible privilege to teach and mentor those who seek to align their public selves with their most deeply held values and commitments. I am grateful to John F. Kennedy University for hosting this unique, leading-edge curriculum that aims to cultivate conscious leaders who apply the best of new paradigm thinking and humanity’s perennial wisdom to themselves and the complex challenges of today’s global world.

Karen Jaenke, Program Chair of the Consciousness and Transformative Studies Program at JFK University