The Consciousness & Transformative Studies MA program, under various names, has been in existence since the late 1970s, offering a unique cutting-edge interdisciplinary curriculum that has successfully attracted students across a 40-year span.

In the late 1970s, Pascal Kaplan, Ph.D. and David Surrenda, Ph.D. teamed up to found a formal program in Consciousness Studies, with a primary focus on self-awareness and spirituality. Pascal Kaplan was JFKU’s Dean of the College of Liberal Studies from 1975 to 1980, and David Surrenda was Dean of the Graduate College of Holistic Studies from 1976 to 1985. Together they designed and implemented the first accredited graduate program in Consciousness Studies in the U.S., with some undergraduate course offerings. The first MA graduates in Consciousness Studies completed their degree in 1981.

Susan Galvan, MA, served as Program Chair of Consciousness Studies and Assistant Dean of Holistic Studies from 1982 to 1989. She was a real fighter and saved the program from being disbanded. She sought to bring more academic rigor into the program and added coursework in professional development. During the 1980’s, well known transpersonal teachers taught in the Paradigms of Consciousness class, including Fritjof Capra, Angeles Arrien, Ken Wilber, and Arthur Young.

The Consciousness Studies program has evolved significantly since its inception. In the early days, New Age thought was a significant emphasis. In 1989, Vernice Solimar, Ph.D. took over as Program Chair. At this time, the program carried the flavor of an ashram, functioning as a container for deep spiritual explorations. In the early 1990s, in response to WASC concerns, Vernice increased the program’s academic rigor.

In 2003, Marilyn Fowler, Ph.D., became Program Director, and in 2005 she became Program Chair. She developed the Professional Development track, consisting of 9 required units, adding career-oriented courses in the areas of business, coaching, teaching, curriculum development, writing and publishing.

In 2005, the program underwent a major year-long redesign and revision, with a name change from Consciousness Studies to Consciousness & Transformative Studies. Ten new units were added, making a 68-unit degree, with almost 70% of the courses being revised and updated. The new program was launched in January 2006. Among the changes in the revised program were the addition of four optional specializations created for students who want to focus their studies in a particular area – science, culture, healing, and philosophy and religion. This more robust curriculum made the program very viable and compelling, and enrollment increased from the mid-30s to a high of 55 students.

In 2013, due to the rising cost of higher education, a competitive analysis of other similar Master’s programs’ degree requirements, and the urging of senior administration, the CTS program was trimmed back to its former 58-unit size.

Over its lifetime, the Consciousness Studies program has also spawned various leading-edge Certificate programs:

  • Dream Studies Certificate (1998-2008)
  • Personal & Professional Coaching Certificate (2001-2008) (with the School of Professional Psychology and the School of Career Development)
  • Ecotherapy Certificate (2010-2014)
  • Coaching Certificate (2017-present)

In 2013, Karen Jaenke, Ph.D., who was then Director of the Ecotherapy Certificate, took over as Program Chair. She implemented a revision to the curriculum and Program Learning Outcomes, incorporating current emphases on human development, living systems theory, evolution of consciousness, participatory action research, and leadership development. In 2015, in response to increasing requests from prospective students for an online version of the program, she mobilized institutional support to add the online modality, to replicate and run in parallel with the existing on-the-ground program. In Fall 2016, the first online students were enrolled in the program, and the program has continued to grow in subsequent quarters with steadily increasing enrollments.

Reflecting the new needs and emphases of the 21st century for application of consciousness principles in real world contexts, the current Program Mission is Consciousness-in-Action—that is, creative action that expands consciousness and human potential and fosters conscious leadership in service of personal, organizational, cultural, and ecological change. A specialization in Transformational Leadership has also been added in 2018.

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