In its second year, the Holistic Research Center (HRC) is strengthening its mission to build holistic community and to challenge traditional research paradigms, specifically by lifting up and making space for marginalized voices. At its second Annual Symposium, held Friday, June 1st, attendees were invited to experience the HRC values by gathering together to discuss approaches to rooting research in healing.

The John F. Kennedy University Holistic Student Union offered a community-based ritual and mandela-making, infusing the evening with a spirit of reflection and togetherness. The HRC was proud to present its 2018 Research Fellows, whose projects seek to work with communities to explore questions of mental health, violence, power, and the very concept of research. Sonia Cristina Suarez, a JFKU Adjunct Faculty member and UC Berkeley PhD candidate, discussed her research project, entitled Brujeria and Psychology: Healing Practices of the Ifa-Orisha Tradition, which will explore the influence of non-Western spiritualities on psychological wellness. Nancy Pederson, our Community Research Fellow, shared about her experiences working with the Institute on Aging and how this inspired her project, entitled Power in the Voice of Elder Hispanic Women, which seeks to examine the impact of violence on Hispanic women over 60. Conversations touched on the ways in which visibility and empowerment are, in themselves, therapeutic and restorative.

HRC Program Director Zvi Bellin closed the presentations portion of the evening by sharing about his research project, Reflexive Research in Holistic Mental Health, and holding a conversation about shifting our ideas about traditional research values. The HRC believes in the power of qualitative research and community-based explorations, and believes that research can lead to not only greater understanding, but to the potential for greater wellness. With our minds on healing, Dr. Zeljko Milovanovic, an Oakland-base Naturopathic doctor, discussed the curative properties of sound healing and the principles behind this modality before leading the community in an amazing experience.

The HRC is so grateful for all of the participants in this beautiful evening of sharing, social science, and singing bowls. We are excited to continue supporting work that leads to healing for individuals and communities. Keep an eye open for upcoming HRC events, including an opening ceremony for our new space on the Pleasant Hill campus!

If you’re interested in becoming involved with the HRC or supporting one of our research projects, contact Program Manager Leyla Eraslan at