On Friday, June 22, 2018 the Consciousness and Transformative Studies program held its graduation ritual to honor its graduating students. In addition to the graduating students, faculty, staff, current students, alumni and family members of graduates were in attendance, representing all constituent groups in the CTS community.

Room S108 had been transformed from ordinary classroom into ritual space, with the presence of colorful wall-hangings, plants and flowers, and a central altar. The altar demarcated the traditional four directions of north, east, south and west, and the respective four elements of earth, air, fire and water, with the corresponding colors of white, yellow, red and black. Symbolic objects associated with the elements adorned the four directions.

Program Chair Karen Jaenke led the ritual, welcoming the various groups making up the extended CTS community. Bonnie Johnstone, an alum of the program and new faculty member, read an opening poem. Karen provided an overview of the program’s inside-out structure, explaining that students undertake a deep dive into self-exploration, engaging holistically with the facets of body, mind, emotions, and spirit, along with attention to expressing this holistic self in the wider world through a professional path.

Graduates were then invited to share one or more transformative learning moments—events or classes that catalyzed significant personal growth and change. Graduates who shared moving stories of personal transformation included Kelly Barrett (’17), Andy Sechler (’18), Rebecca Hobbs (’18), Karen Parrish (’18), and Al Coleman (‘18). Graduates threw out their pre-planned scripts and spoke from the heart in the moment, with more than a few teary-eyed stories, recalling poignant moments of deep personal change.

Faculty, staff and alumni were invited to respond with words of witnessing and wisdom. Finally, family members shared their impressions and reflections in witnessing their loved-ones’ transformation, and pride at their accomplishment. At least one person from each family group shared, and by the conclusion of the ritual, most people in the room had spoken! Al Coleman was supported by an extensive gathering of family and friends in attendance, who also travelled the greatest distance, many from Minnesota, with mom, partner and uncle, two siblings and two life-long friends attending!

Upon leaving the ritual container of the circle, graduates were given gifts– a white rose, symbolizing blossoming post-graduation, and an ammonite stone, a spiral-shaped fossil symbolizing the ancient creative energy of the earth, evolution and change, and kundalini energy. Afterwards, food and drink were imbibed, while photos memorialized the rite of passage!