Antioch University Santa Barbara has received a collaborative grant totaling $75,000 to support the training of qualified students enrolled in the Master’s in Clinical Psychology Program’s concentration in Healthy Aging.
The Santa Barbara Foundation Family Caregiver Systems and Support Grants award is aimed at improving caregiver capacity and integrated services for seniors. The Concentration in Healthy Aging’s unique approach builds on the strengths and resilience of individuals, families and community supports to overcome the challenges of aging.
“So many families struggle with caring for an elder loved one, yet there are few professionals uniquely trained to help them. This grant offers an unusual partnership opportunity for three markedly different organizations to respond immediately to an urgent community need,” says MA in Clinical Psychological Psychology Program Chair Elizabeth Wolfson. “Through AUSB’s Concentration in Healthy Aging, graduates will begin to fill the gap as they give back to our community. As the cadre of specialists in Healthy Aging and Caregiver Support grow exponentially, our community will benefit and serve as a model to other communities seeking to fill this gap.”
This grant was awarded for a pioneering project developed in partnership with Family Service Agency and Alzheimer’s Association. The funds will be directed to the education and training of Healthy Aging students who are being trained to provide emotional and psychological support to the growing numbers of community members who experience stress as a result of caring for an elder.
Through this grant students will receive scholarships and specialized training and mentorship as they work with client population of Family Service Agency and Alzheimer’s Association. The goal is to grow the numbers of qualified practitioners who can respond to the increasing needs of elders and their families and contribute their expertise to the community as a whole.
“It’s really exciting to be in the Healthy Aging concentration because I know that it’s going to provide me some benefits as I come out of the program,” said Cindy Mayer, a current student in the Healthy Aging concentration. “One of the things I feel I’m getting from this program is a really great baseline of knowledge on older populations, specifically clinical skills … and some of the generational issues that we have to address when working with older populations.”
The opportunity to apply for a scholarship up to $4,000 for a paid traineeship will be available to any MACP student who is already enrolled in or opts to move into the concentration in Healthy Aging. The opportunity to move into the Healthy Aging cohort is open to all students who began their course of study in Fall 2015 or will begin their study in Winter 2016.
Please contact Elizabeth (email@example.com) or Mariela Marin, Director of Clinicial Training (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions. If you are ready to pursue eligibility, please immediately contact Jackie Toth, Student Advisor at email@example.com.
Posted December 11, 2015
U.S. News released a report ranking schools based on the percentage of students enrolled in undergraduate programs in the 2014-2015 academic year age 25 or older, and Antioch University’s Midwest (AUM) campus came in as number one. When all five campuses are combined, the University as a whole would be ranked fifth in the country, demonstrating that Antioch University offers a very attractive learning environment for adult students.
Antioch University has a long history of serving adult students completing bachelor’s degrees or pursuing advanced degrees. The report ranked AUM first with 95 percemt of its students older than 25. Enrollment data for all of Antioch University’s five campuses throughout the U.S. shows that more than 82 percent of the university’s students are 25 or older have ranked the university as fifth in the nation.
The recent announcement on the U.S. News website states: “Not all students set out for college immediately after high school graduation. Some enlist in the military, spend time in the workforce or take time off to travel the world. For those who choose to go to college later in life, having classmates who reflect their age, interests and experiences can help ease the transition from the ‘real world’ to the world of an undergraduate student.”
The statement mirrors Antioch University’s focus, culture and emphasis on transformative education for working adults.
“Adult learners prefer to be in an environment with other adults, especially undergraduates who are returning to complete a degree,” said Felice Nudelman, chancellor of Antioch University. “For decades, we have tailored our academic programs, course scheduling, experiential learning opportunities and student services to help non-traditional students succeed. The U.S. News data, combined with our own research, demonstrates that the environment we have created is very attractive to students who are attracted to Antioch University.”
The University has a national and international reach through its five campuses in Keene, New Hampshire, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California, Seattle, Washington, Yellow Springs, Ohio, its online programs through Antioch University Connected, and its PhD in Leadership and Change program. To learn more about Antioch University and its academic programs, visit antioch.edu.
About Antioch University
Inspired by the work of pioneering educator Horace Mann, Antioch University provides learner-centered education to empower students with the knowledge and skills to lead meaningful lives and to advance social, economic, and environmental justice. With campuses in Keene, New Hampshire; Los Angeles; Santa Barbara; Seattle; Yellow Springs, Ohio; and online at AU Connected, Antioch University is a bold and enduring source of innovation in higher education. The University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Posted December 9, 2015
Entitled “Antioch’s Got Talent: Business Ideas on Doing Well and Doing Good,” the workshop on Friday, December 4 focused on members of the graduating class of 2015 delivering a 6 to 8 minute “pitch” of the business idea they have hatched and refined over the course of their MBA studies. In keeping with the “not your average MBA” concept, these ideas run the gamut – and bring together passion, life experience, and the tools they have learned over the past 16 months.
For more photos of the presentations at the workshop, please visit our Facebook page.
The projects presented on Friday:
Krista Stafford: “Wine, Women & Shoes” – uniting the community and creating awareness to end sexual and domestic violence
Launch Within a Year
Jeff Arthur: “I’ve Got Five On It” – a business to raise scholarship funds to keep students in college
Yvette Duarte: “The Nursing Home Project” – building respect for an aging population
Joan Mayer:”TransPaw Gear” – a dog-friendly harness
Molika Oum: “CozDrvn” – a cause-driven approach to building your wardrobe
Frank Thompson: “Next Steps” – an innovative transitional housing solution
Launch Date TBA
Noelle Hallman: “Fund Your Future” – a regular checkup with the retirement doctor
Heidi Huchthausen: “Medtronic LATAM Medical Education and Innovations Center” – a collaborative education center in Latin America
Nicole Piuze: “Uncommon Grounds” – a community creative space
AUSB’s innovative, 16-month MBA experience is rooted in the strategic leadership model and the philosophy that social responsibility and civic engagement are at the heart of transformative business practices. For more information on the program, please visit www.antiochsb.edu/mba.
Posted on December 7, 2015
Educator and author David Sobel, who is core faculty and project director at the Antioch University New England Institute, will make a return visit to Santa Barbara to teach one of the courses. Sobel previously worked with AUSB on In Bloom in Santa Barbara in September and for a lecture also presented by the Wilderness Youth Project in April.
The available courses are:
EDC 528: ECOLOGY OF IMAGINATION IN CHILDHOOD
Instructor: David Sobel (1.5 Units) M-F 8:30-12:00
Course Description: This course investigates ways in which children’s nature play can be used to invigorate the writing process. Making forts, hunting and gathering, constructing small worlds, going on adventures, and fantasy play are children’s instinctive ways of being in the natural world and these activities can be used as the basis for curriculum. We’ll use the surrounding neighborhood and hills to reconnect with childhood play. Out of these natural world experiences, each participant will craft a finished piece of writing by the end of the week.
EDC 503: NATURAL HISTORY FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD
Instructor: Ellen Doris and Andrew Lindsay (1.5 Units) M-F 1:00-4:30
Course Description: The best nature-based childhood teachers are knowledgeable about early childhood and local natural history. This course will focus on the natural history of the Central California Coast that most directly relates to being outdoors with children. Participants will learn the flora, fauna and natural phenomena that intrigue young children. We’ll also consider how tracking, gathering wild edibles, crafting and telling stories can encourage exploration. We’ll discuss both winter and spring natural history with a focus on keeping children engaged under hot and/or wet conditions.
These courses are electives in AUSB’s new proposed Certificate Program, or they can be used as electives for graduate students enrolled in the Master of Arts in Education program. Those who want to take the classes as stand-alone experiences for their own interest or professional development are also welcome. Tuition is $679 per unit or $407 per unit for Antioch alumni. Continuing Education Units are available and included in tuition.
For more information or to reserve your space, please contact Kelly Pena at 805-962-8179 x5315 or kpena[at]antioch.edu.
Posted on November 18, 2015
Dr. Salvador Treviño, Core Faculty in the AUSB PsyD program, served as master of ceremonies, which focused on food, art, music, and culture. Several people took the mic and shared history and memories of family and Dia de los Muertos. Dancers from the Ballet Folklorico Alma de Mexico of Santa Barbara performed in brightly colored skirts.
The celebration featured huge amounts of food – taquitos, chips and salsa, beans, rice, guacamole, and more, all free to those who attended. The food was donated by Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant, Chipotle at La Cumbre Plaza, Del Pueblo Café, La Central Bakery in Oxnard, Lala’s Bakery in Ventura, and Maria Hernandez.
Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch ($25 gift cards), Orgullo Mexicano (three handmade tote bags), and Moum Designs (handmade earrings) also donated prizes for a raffle. The proceeds will benefit the Latino Student Association.
Earlier in the week, on Wednesday, the Latino Student Association gathered to build altars on the first floor in preparation for Friday’s celebration. See more photos from Wednesday’s altar building with more photos on the AUSB Facebook page.
The students in the second cohort of the Antioch University Santa Barbara Women & Leadership certificate program completed their third and final residency and were awarded their certificates last weekend.
The 13 members of the cohort started the program in January and have worked closely together through last weekend’s residency on personal and professional development skills and networking. Each woman produced an experiential leadership project as part of the program. This year’s projects are:
Carma Caughlan: Go Girl Equestrian Program
Andria Cohen: Andria Martinez Cohen for City Council 2015: The journey of a political novice
Le’Wanda Croft: Day of Serving
Paola Dela Cruz: Leading My Team
Jennifer Fullerton: Carpe Diem
Guille Gil-Reynoso: Evolving Latino Landscape
Shelby Harrington: Inclusivity in Academia: Creating Community by Expanding Knowledge
Sarah Hayes: Research on Global Impacts of Decentralized Textile Production
Charlene Macharia: ALL Ladies League Santa Barbara Chapter
Julie Morello: Leadership & Character Building with Children
Lesley Moss: On Site – Day Care
Lisa Myers: Patagonia Global Employee Engagement
Jessica Sanchez: Engaging and Attracting the Next Generation of Donors
Highlights from the weekend included a public presentation of all projects, a program completion ceremony, and a reception for family and friends. The program was led by instructors Carol Tisson, Jacqueline Olivera, and Cindy Levine and was supported by AUSB President Nancy Leffert, Board of Trustees member Susan Rose, W&L program coordinator Lindsay Crissman, and former W&L program director Judy Bruton.
We are currently accepting applications for our 2016 Women & Leadership Certificate Program – a unique, low-residency/virtual certificate program that prepares tomorrow’s leaders by empowering them with the knowledge, skills, and mentorship to achieve professional and personal success. Learn more about the program at www.antiochsb.edu/wal and request more information about joining the 2016 cohort.
Posted on October 27, 2015
Dr. Salvador Treviño, Core Faculty and Director of Practicum in the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology (PsyD) program at Antioch University Santa Barbara, was the keynote speaker at The Lyceum: Mental Health Awards and Education Luncheon presented by the Community Counseling Center on Friday, October 9 in Pismo Beach.
Dr. Treviño’s keynote speech focused on “Ancestral Knowledge in Dreams,” and he also led a bonus Continuing Education Workshop on “Latino Immigration, Cultural Trauma, and Cultural Complex.”
“Dreams not only have a personal domain but a transpersonal realm that moves away from the private world of the dreamer and into the larger encompassing field of culture and history,” Dr. Treviño said. “Knowledge of these realms is constructed by talking, listening, and reflecting on dream images that have captured the social, cultural, and historical experiences of a community of people.”
The event also included the presentation of a Community Counseling Center scholarship to Betty Purify, a student in the AUSB PsyD program.
AUSB’s PsyD program prepares students for multiple roles in the field of psychology while promoting self reflection, clinical and research skills, and the development of theoretical knowledge required for a successful career. Learn more at www.antiochsb.edu/psyd.
Community Counseling Center is a non-profit mental provider staffed by qualified, state-licensed volunteer therapists or graduate level, supervised interns that has been serving San Luis Obispo County since 1968. The primary purpose is to assist individuals and families to develop the ability to find solutions, makes choices, learn healthy coping skills, and initiate changes when life becomes difficult during times of transition, depression, anxiety, trauma, and uncertainty.
The event was sponsored by Compass Health, Inc. and the Ventana Grill, and all proceeds benefit Community Counseling Center training and education programs.
Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Bill Rosen, a member of the Antioch University Santa Barbara Board of Trustees since 2012, has been elected vice chair of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Region 5 Board.
His election to the ACWA board also comes with a seat on the agency’s governing board. According to its website, the ACWA is the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the country and its member agencies are responsible for 90% of the water used by cities, farms, and businesses in California.
Mr. Rosen was elected to the Goleta Water District Board of Directors in 2008 and also served as its president for five years. “This is a great honor for me and especially for the Goleta Water District to have a board member in a policy-making role on a state-wide organization,” he said in a press release announcing his election.
Mr. Rosen attended Union College where he graduated with honors in political science and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He attended Columbia Law School and received a master of laws degree in corporate law from and New York University School of Law.
He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival since 2003. From 2005-2006 he sat on the Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury, where he was principally responsible for reports on Legal Services, Guadalupe, and Santa Maria-Bonita School District.
Posted Friday, October 16, 2015
The Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology (PsyD) at Antioch University Santa Barbara has partnered with the Santa Barbara Unified School District to provide in-school counseling services for schoolchildren and their families.
The partnership was formed between Dr. Salvador Treviño, Core Faculty and Director of Practicum for AUSB’s PsyD program, and Raul Ramirez, EdD, Assistant Superintendent at SBUSD.
Beginning in the current Fall Quarter, five PsyD students are taking part. They are: Rocio Andrade, Suzanne Frost, Mazy Karandish, Francisco Ramirez, and Ray Sullivan.
AUSB’s students will be working at Roosevelt, Washington, Monroe, and McKinley elementary schools in SBUSD. The school district and AUSB also have partnered with Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara County and the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
AUSB’s PsyD program prepares students for multiple roles in the field of psychology while promoting self reflection, clinical and research skills, and the development of theoretical knowledge required for a successful career. Learn more about the PsyD program at antiochsb.edu/psyd.
Posted October 13, 2015
Antioch University Santa Barbara presented an interactive conversation with Jonathan Fox and David Studwell of the Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara on Monday, September 28.
Jonathan has been the Executive Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre since 2006 and is also directing its upcoming production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in October. David will play the lead role of Sweeney Todd in the production. AUSB’s Barbara Greenleaf served as interviewer for the event and President Dr. Nancy Leffert opened with a few remarks.
Part of the Antioch in Conversation series that has previously included television pioneer Norman Lear, Santa Barbara Symphony Music Director Nir Kabaretti, and Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, Jonathan and David spoke about the inner workings of a professional theater company and answered questions from the audience. David also slipped into his Sweeney Todd character and treated the audience by singing a few lines from the show.
“The Ensemble is all about bringing adventuresome, thought-provoking, professional theater to Santa Barbara,” Jonathan said. “The more we get the message out, the better we’ll be able to fulfill our mission. Antioch University Santa Barbara presents a perfect downtown venue to discuss our own regional theater and others around the country.”
Jonathan has directed almost 20 productions for Ensemble, including the recent Woyzeck, Amadeus, and A Little Night Music. He directed Opera Santa Barbara’s 2014 production of The Consul at the Granada Theatre. Recent European productions include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, A Streetcar Named Desire, Visiting Mr. Green, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the English Theatre of Frankfurt, and Old Wicked Songs, Crimes of the Heart, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Vienna English Theatre. His upcoming production of Bad Jews will transfer to Frankfurt, where it will be the play’s German premiere.
Previously, Jonathan spent 12 years with Two River Theater Company in New Jersey, which he helped establish in 1994. He served as managing director of the company from 1994-99, and subsequently became its artistic director. His directing work has been seen in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Cologne, and Jonathan has received critical acclaim in The New York Times, Variety, The Los Angeles Times, and other publications. Jonathan received his MFA from Columbia University and is a recipient of the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship. He has served as an adjunct faculty member in theatre departments at UCSB, Columbia University, University of Utah, and Monmouth University.
Antioch in Conversation is a series designed to foster public engagement about the issues and inspirations that shape our community, society, and world.
Carol is an instructor for the program, teaching the Gender and Leadership course. She has been with the Women & Leadership program since its launch in January 2014.
“I am delighted to announce that Carol Tisson, our wonderful faculty member, has agreed to serve as our Interim Director of the Program,” outgoing Program Director Judy Bruton said. “Carol is an outstanding leader who is ready to serve the Program. We are delighted and quite lucky to have her step into this role.”
Carol is a management consultant and executive coach with nearly 30 years of experience in organizational effectiveness, leadership development, and culture change.
“As an Antioch graduate and one of the founding instructors in this program, I’m so proud of Women & Leadership,” Carol said. “Over the past two years, we’ve put together an outstanding ten-month process that awakens and develops conscious leadership, builds a sense of community and support, and generates results in the lives and careers of our students and for their sponsoring organizations.”
Carol enjoyed a 20-year career at Intel Corporation, during which she was a two-time recipient of the Intel Achievement Award for her groundbreaking work in executive development, and has since supported clients across technology, healthcare, financial services, and non-profit sectors.
Carol’s personal passion is empowering women’s leadership, and she is proud to count many executive women from across sectors as her clients, in addition to having this as the focus of her community and philanthropic work.
“I’ve been so inspired by the women who participate in this program, as students, as faculty and staff, as speakers, mentors, sponsors, and advocates,” Carol said. “We’re a living demonstration that ‘it takes a community to develop a leader.'”
Dr. Nancy Leffert, president of Antioch University Santa Barbara, announced to the AUSB Board of Trustees that she would retire as president on June 30, 2016.
The seven years that Dr. Leffert has been at AUSB’s helm have been marked by notable accomplishments, most visibly the renovation and repurposing of the building at Anacapa and Cota Streets into a stunning modern facility that became AUSB’s new campus. She also was responsible for the development of two important new programs, the MBA in Social Business & Non-Profit Management, and the Women & Leadership certificate program. Thanks to her stewardship, the university also will roll out its new MFA in Writing & Contemporary Media next fall. During Dr. Leffert’s tenure, AUSB was named a Hispanic Serving Institution and was awarded a federal Title III grant, $1.6 million to launch AUSB’s College-to-Career initiative. The program is intended to increase Latino students’ access to higher education. It focuses on undergraduate degree completion and career success of Latino students.
“Nancy Leffert was the right person at the right time for AUSB,” said board chair Victoria Riskin. “She infused the institution with excitement, direction, purpose, and academic integrity. She increased enrollment and the endowment, and raised significant scholarship funds. She made good on her promise to make higher education available for students who would otherwise miss out. Not only has Nancy been a highly effective president, she has been wonderful to work with. She will be sorely missed.”
Dr. Nancy Leffert has had a long and distinguished career in higher education and social service administration, and as a scholar, author, and speaker. An internationally recognized expert in the field of child and adolescent psychology, she created the Developmental Assets Framework that reshaped the dialogue around the development of healthy children and youth that is in use in over 500 communities across the country. After obtaining her BA and Master’s degrees from San Diego State University, she was awarded a PhD in Child Psychology from the renowned Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota.
“My years at Antioch University Santa Barbara have been the most significant and fulfilling of my professional life,” Dr. Leffert said. “I am honored to have had the opportunity to lead the campus during a challenging period for all colleges and universities, and yet despite those challenges, AUSB has experienced enormous growth in enrollment. That growth means that our focus on increasing access to higher education has been successful, and the collaborations and partnerships we have developed has resulted in new programs that are both relevant and responsive to the needs of students in our community. There is more I want to accomplish in the next nine months, but I will leave knowing that AUSB is thriving.”
Brock, renowned former television star of Wild Kingdom and humanitarian, founded Remote Area Medical, a relief organization that is featured in Jeff Reichert’s and Farihah Zaman’s exceptional documentary, “to bring free medical care to inaccessible regions of the Amazon rainforest.” Today the majority of their work is concentrated somewhere less secluded because the need is so great in the United States. The film makes clear why.
In April 2012, RAM volunteers, doctors, dentists, nurses, and general volunteers descended upon Bristol, Tennessee, in the heart of Appalachia to orchestrate an elaborate three-day clinic at the Bristol Motor Speedway, the city’s gargantuan NASCAR stadium. Thousands of Bristol’s ill and injured attended, eager to receive the urgent treatment they’d been unable to receive or afford.
For more information on the event, please contact Susan Gentile at sgentile2[at]antioch.edu or 805-962-8179 ext 5178. Visit www.remoteareamedicalmovie.com for more information on the film and filmmakers.
The Environment in Focus series is part of Antioch in Conversation, an event series designed for public engagement and dialogue about environmental and social issues that affect us on a local, national, and global basis.
David Studwell – who has been cast in the lead role in the Ensemble Theatre of Santa Barbara’s production of Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – will be joining Executive Artistic Director Jonathan Fox in appearing in the next Antioch in Conversation event on Monday, September 28 from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.
Fox is also directing the Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd, which runs from October 8-25 at the New Vic Theatre in Santa Barbara.
Part of the Antioch in Conversation series that has previously included television pioneer Norman Lear, Santa Barbara Symphony Music Director Nir Kabaretti, and Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, Studwell and Fox will speak and answer questions from the audience in Community Hall at AUSB’s downtown campus at 602 Anacapa Street (map). The event is free and open to the public.
“We are thrilled that David Studwell — the Sweeney in Sweeney Todd — will be joining the conversation on September 28,” said Barbara Greenleaf, AUSB’s Director of Institutional Advancement. “He’s won both an Indy Award and an Irene Ryan national acting award for a previous performance as the ‘Demon Barber of Fleet Street.’ How lucky are we to go behind the scenes with this accomplished actor and singer to learn how he’s getting in character to become a monster?”
Studwell has been a professional actor for over 30 years, working first at major theaters around Chicago then moving west to appear as a resident artist at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as well as at PCPA Theatrefest with locations in Solvang and Santa Maria. He has won two Indy Awards in Santa Barbara.
In 2007, Studwell moved to New York where he has performed in productions of Applause, Fiddler on the Roof, Falsettos, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, South Pacific, and Chess. He has previously starred as Sweeney Todd in a production by TheatreWorks.
Studwell appeared in the movie Dave Berry’s Complete Guide to Guys and made a guest appearance on the TV series Crime Story.
Antioch in Conversation is a series designed to foster public engagement about the issues and inspirations that shape our community, society, and world.
Anna Kwong, who has been an adjunct faculty with the Antioch University Santa Barbara MBA program since its inception in 2014, has been named interim program director as the second cohort begins this Fall.
Outgoing program director Judy Bruton announced Anna’s appointment during the program’s residency last weekend that brought together for the first time the first MBA cohort, which will graduate in December, and the second cohort just starting. After a round of applause, Anna addressed both cohorts and praised Judy’s role in the creation of the MBA program.
“Judy was a wonderful person to work with and work for. For the MBA program to come to this stage, I give Judy 99% of the credit,” Anna said. “We’ll continue to take care of our current students and make sure our incoming second cohort gets off to a great start.”
“You still have to do all your homework,” she added, drawing laughs from the students.
Judy said Anna would be part of the committee to hire a permanent chair for the MBA department, and that Anna will continue teaching in the program while serving as interim program director.
“Anna Kwong is an extraordinary teacher who is passionate about our unique MBA program, with its focus on social businesses and strategic leadership,” Judy said. “She has been an invaluable partner in the launch and first year of the program, and I could not feel any more comfortable with our leadership transition. I know that our students and faculty will be in excellent hands, with Anna serving as our interim chair, and Lindsay Crissman, who does an amazing job, remaining as our MBA department’s program coordinator.”
Anna was born and raised in Hong Kong during the time it was a British Colony and has lived in the UK and in Canada before becoming an American citizen in 2002. Her professional expertise includes international business management, leadership and trade. She also has taught at Santa Barbara City College for over 16 years.
Dr. Don Fineberg, an adjunct faculty in the PsyD in Clinical Psychology program at Antioch University Santa Barbara, recently led a continuing education workshop in conjunction with the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico.
Dr. Fineberg’s workshop was on August 1 and was entitled “From the Novel through the Opera: Narrative Continuity and Ethical Dilemmas in Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain,” was part of Santa Fe’s Opera and Psychology series, which he has been involved in for almost 20 years.
Dr. Fineberg also conducted a conversation with the source novel’s author, Charles Frazier. The news program PBS News Hour was on hand to film a behind-the-scenes segment on the production, although Dr. Fineberg does not appear in the finished piece.
The Psychology of Cold Mountain’s Narrative: From Novel to Libretto, by Don Fineberg, MD
Lessons learned from teaching for 20 years (mostly psychology, oft times English) converged in the year’s Opera and Psychology seminar. The seminar focused on Charles Frazer’s best-selling novel, Cold Mountain, as interpreted in the world-premier opera of the same name and capped off a whirlwind week with the author, including a discussion with students at the opera and an hour-long “conversation” at Collected Works bookstore. This presentation before a SRO crowd also included Gene Sheer, who converted the novel into the brilliant libretto. A PBS News Hour crew videotaped the event. The Opera and Psychology seminar investigated the powerful narrative at the core of both the novel and the opera.
When asked about the story of your life, what crosses your mind? Most people reflect on biographical highlights: when you were born, where you grew up, what school you attended, who you married, or how you make a living. That’s one kind of story. Yet, each one of us lives a second, even more important story – the “narrative” of our life.
Narrative informs our every thought, feeling and action. It remembers our past and anticipates our future. Consider this: if Hollywood made a movie of your life, starring YOU, the director would proclaim you the greatest acting talent ever to appear on screen. In every scene, the way you talk, act, express emotion is a perfect you! Put in an unexpected situation, you respond completely as you. Surely, you would be a favorite for the academy award. How do you do it? How does anyone do it? Simply put, our brains reinforce our personal narratives 24/7. It is our personality. It is how we live our lives.
The opera, Cold Mountain, sheds light on this process. The music, through-sung text (without spoken dialogue), acting and direction translated the lush, descriptive novel into a powerful evening’s performance. It narrated the same story: a tale with archetypal power, about a Confederate soldier’s longing for and travels towards home after he deserts in the closing months of the Civil War. The story detailed his trek, as well as the challenges experienced by Ada, his love at home awaiting his return. Reminiscent of Homer’s Odyssey, but not exactly parallel in content, this core human longing vibrates in each of us as we chart the course of our life, emancipating from mother, parents, family and community and carve a life uniquely ours.
Unlike the real world, opera must make clear the motives and feelings of the characters that inform their actions. Opera has the unique capacity to express all of these for characters as individuals, in duets, trios, quartets, quintets and of course moving chorus pieces. Sometimes, the music itself reveals the character’s inner life. Sometimes, the music weaves together the thoughts sung aloud simultaneously by several characters. In Cold Mountain, for example, one dramatic passage uses the symbol of “fences” – literal and psychological. The barriers we construct as well as those erected around us. The “fences” clearly represent something different to each character, even when they sing the exact same text. As with every great work of art, we find that the opera reflects, informs and sometimes inspires our quest to fulfill our personal longings for love and achievement.
Psychology brings a perceptive lens to opera narrative. With a variety of psychological approaches, we can deepen our appreciation of the narrative that unfolds before our eyes. WP Inman, the protagonist, has suffered terribly with physical and psychological wounds. How do the symptoms of his post-traumatic stress inform his actions, his character and ultimately his fate? Ada, his love, has chosen to survive the hardship of subsistence farming rather than return to the genteel life of the city where she was educated and raised. Through the opera’s story, we can better understand the motivations that lead to these decisions. As psychotherapists we ask, how do people’s experiences determine their life choices? What shapes their narratives into adaptive and functional lives? Or, what parts of their own stories undermine their striving for health and personal growth? The Opera and Psychology seminar had the advantage of asking these questions of fictional characters without conflicts of confidentiality.
Cold Mountain’s narrative invites us to explore relevant personal and social issues: Security – too much is confinement and too little is fearful chaos; Crisis – step up as a hero or shrink back as a coward; Setbacks – respond with resiliency or get mired in misfortune. Do we live in a world that makes sense or remains mysterious as we tell ourselves the story of our lives? As psychotherapists, we help others through these dilemmas. We seek ethical ways to guide people on these journeys. However, as this compelling opera reminds us, we all traverse the uncertain challenges of life. And, we all can embrace a narrative that meets these challenges.