Get to know our SMB Graduate Studies students, past and present.
Sumaya Ahmed is a coach, writer, leader, and entrepreneur. She is the eldest daughter of immigrant parents who immigrated from Bangladesh. She was raised in Queens, NY and received her bachelors in Psychology and Biology from the University at Buffalo. With years of experience in the hospital and healthcare industry, Sumaya recognized the need for deep healing from within. After receiving five unique certifications, she launched her first business, Mindfully Sumaya LLC., through which she coaches souls to breakfree from subconscious blocks and align with inner peace. Sumaya means exalted, which is why the name was chosen to inspire others to elevate mindfully and to recognize the power of the subconscious mind.
Sumaya’s purpose is to empower souls to live authentically and to align themselves with love, peace, and freedom from within. As a first-generation Bangladeshi woman, Sumaya’s mission is to bring mental health awareness to minority communities, and to provide mindfulness practices along with other techniques to help people that are stressed, anxious, or depressed.
Sumaya is also the co-founder of FirstGenCEO LLC., a company designed to support first-generation souls to launch a successful business while receiving both mindset and business strategies. Currently she leads mindfulness workshops and meditation classes for corporate clients such as Google, Morgan Stanley, Uber, LinkedIN, and more.
Sumaya aims to live in a world where the youth is aware of mindfulness and spirituality. Through the SMBI Psychology in Education program she seeks the intellectual rigor and perspective required to bring these teachings and learnings to the generations to come.
You can connect with Sumaya by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Show-Me State native based in Brooklyn, NY, Nicole brings her Midwestern values to the City That Never Sleeps to offer executive leaders and entrepreneurs a fresh, creative, and inspired perspective.
As a Lecturer, Career Coach, and Industry Consultant at Columbia University, Nicole creates programs, partnerships, and career opportunities with wellness and social advocacy at their core.
While pursuing her education in the MA Spirituality Mind Body Program, Nicole is interested in strengthening the connection between corporate workspaces and our natural environment to celebrate the unity, beauty, and power inherent in the surroundings that bind us together.
She is currently editing her first book of poetry and is interested in new business ventures that protect, enhance, and promote her love of music, art, and innovation.
During his time at the University of Connecticut, Michael earned a Bachelor’s in Physics and another in Education before completing a Master’s in Education from the Neag School of Education. He taught the science of interconnection in physics and environmental science classes in Southern California and supported students in outdoor education trips to Yosemite National Park and volunteering on the Pacific Crest Trail. While utilizing classroom protocols which supported smooth-running classes and curious students, Michael helped students build habits to wash away common classroom dysfunctions. As a result, he felt surprised to witness the clarity of the only student needs which remained: healing from poor mental health. In wondering what could be done to address this crisis with broader strokes than individual counseling, Michael trained in and practiced Vipassana meditation for years and journaled daily until the dearth of self-love and connection to context in our youth came into focus. He was further blessed by a crippling motorcycling crash which granted him almost three years to explore his own relationship with himself and his body as he recovered from disuse of the right side of his body, using the focus and techniques of the Vipassana meditation he learned. He feels deeply grateful to be a part of the SMBI on a journey that has been equal parts overwhelming, informative, and transformative. Finally, as a first-generation Ukrainian-American, he hopes you consider Ukraine in your thoughts and actions as the Ukrainian people fight to recover themselves as a nation.
MaryPatricia S Brown is a cohort member at Columbia University's Spirituality, Mind, Body Institute. She graduated with a Bachelor's in English and Theology from Fordham University and Tricia later returned as a fellow at Fordham’s School of Education graduating with a M. S. in Education. A member of the Lawrence Public Schools Tricia has taught first, second and third grade and has trained in the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program and became a Trainer of Trainers. Tricia also participated in Teachers College’s Reading and Writing Project and invited to be become member of the their Leadership Group. She proudly created the Peace Begins with Me Day program in Lawrence, which promotes kindness and service. Each year students make peace blankets to be donated to children in New York area hospitals through Bundles of Love a charity created by a former student. Additionally, Tricia developed the Kindness Café at Number 2 School. The Kindness Cafe is a safe place where classes, small groups and staff come to practice mindfulness and meet for cooperative experiences in social-emotional learning competencies.
Lu Budzichowski is a multi-faceted creative, entrepreneur, event planner, and wellness
instructor. Skilled at bringing together, organizing, and unifying many parts, she could be
described as a Weaver. From creative direction and copywriting to event planning and brand
activations, Lu has a penchant for visual and experiential story-telling. Luster Studios, Lu’s
evolving creative platform currently exploring content and event production, was born of her
background in fashion and modeling. After completing her Bachelors of Science in Fashion
Merchandising Management from The Fashion Institute of Technology a year early in 2015, she
gained experience in buying, sales, new business development, branding, PR, and events. She
then went on to launch two small businesses and a sustainable product line.
As a holist passionate about movement, transformation, and connection, Lu’s mission is to open
a community wellness space. Her own experience managing chronic health conditions and
disabilities inspired her path in the healing arts. She has completed yoga teacher trainings,
sound healing and hypnotherapy mentorships, and countless studies of trauma and healing
modalities. Currently, Lu is of service to social equity through volunteering teaching yoga and
meditation for The Phoenix (Sober Active Community), participating in her neighborhood’s
Mental Wellness Committee, and assisting a local, POC-owned business that is part of a
state-run economic empowerment program with community engagement. Her aim through the
SMBI program is to make spiritual practices and wellness services more accessible by
addressing financial barriers through innovative business models and stigma with
groundbreaking science and education.
Helene is so excited to be a part of SMB and take this next step in her life journey. She has been on a holistic path since she was a young child, even teaching herself to meditate when she was 10. While following a more traditional work and family way of life, she has kept learning and studying various modalities. Helene is a Reiki Master and has studied Chakras, Feng Shui, Clutter Clearing, Life Coaching, Yoga, Spiritual Living, Satori, Karate, Wing Chun, and The Science of Well Being. She is excited to take all she has learned and tie it all together in SMB to bring it forward to help people in the future. She would love to help others find their inspiration to bring their dreams and aspirations into reality.
Helene and her family live in Connecticut. She has 2 stepchildren, 2 sons, a granddaughter, and fur babies. She has had a long career in advertising and marketing. Her love of travel has taken she and her family to the beaches of Bora Bora, the Waitomo caves of New Zealand, the libraries of Oxford, Canadian ice hotels and the restaurants of Venice and Paris. She loves to cook and in general, she’d almost always rather be at the beach.
“Come to the edge," he said.
"We can't, we're afraid!" they responded.
"Come to the edge," he said.
"We can't, we will fall!" they responded.
"Come to the edge," he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”
― Guillaume Apollinaire
Monica Contreras was born and raised in Sonoma County, CA and has served as a force of change wherever she has seen a need that has yet to be addressed. From working to provide quality tutoring and mentoring programs for middle school kids while she was in high school, to helping to provide accurate and accessible information to her community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she continues to center her community in the work that she does and aspires to do. She is a First-Gen former foster youth who graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a B.A. in Sociology and Minors in Education and Applied Psychology.
Her Spiritual Practice is rooted in her Indigenous heritage that has been fostered and nurtured by her mother and grandmother, who’s Faith and Love have served as a continuous healing and encouraging force in her life. She believes that the integration of Spirituality and therapy is vital to the evolution and healing of humanity at the macro and micro level. Through the acceptance of energy work, divination, and other ancestral indigenous practices into counseling and therapy models, Monica believes that we can reconnect to our ancestors and all their power and formulate a better world for those who come after us.
She is a writer, Tarot Reader, Reiki Master, and Akashic Records Practitioner whose work is done with the intention of providing a space for peace, clarity, understanding, and revelation to be nurtured for those who feel called to work with her. She intends to bring those same foundational values with her as she pursues her goal of becoming a licensed therapist. She hopes to be able to assist in the fight to make quality therapy services more accessible and relevant to BIPOC communities everywhere through research, activism, and practice.
I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul is a city so rich with history and culture that I had the opportunity to experience and interact with many different flavors of people from an early age. Since then, I have always had a growing curiosity and interest in how humans are so different yet similar. To look for the answers, I oriented my undergraduate studies in Psychology and Neuroscience degrees from Syracuse University. However, it was not enough to satisfy my curiosity; instead, my interest only grew more prominent. The more I learned, even more questions arose. I oriented to a place where it is not only people I am curious about, but it is the universe. I have realized that my search to understand why is an ever-going adventure. When I heard about the SMB program, it felt right that this was the next step in my search. I believe that the SMB program will not only grow my curiosity even further, but I will also learn new skills and knowledge so I can give back to the universe. I need to have the opportunity to be helpful to others, to have a function in this order because it satisfies my soul and my heart in depth. My exact path is not clear yet, but I have faith that it will clear along the way; the goal of helping others is in my mind.
Kristin Elam grew up in Houston, TX and attended public school in the suburbs. Her childhood was spent dancing and trying to be an all-A student, but ultimately, her compassion for people is what led her to study Secondary English Education at Baylor University. While studying to become a teacher, she was a member of Baylor Dance Company, served as a Residential Assistant, participated in Chi Omega Fraternity, and studied abroad in Cusco, Peru. Right before graduating in March of 2019, Kristin experienced a life-altering, mental health break due to stress, lack of sleep, and unaddressed childhood trauma. The abrupt interference of poor mental health inspired Kristin to slow down and dedicate her life to counseling, deep reflection, and reconnecting with God in a more personal way. While pursuing the inner work to heal, Kristin taught eleventh grade English for three years in a quaint, small town. She taught American Literature, AP English Literature & Composition, remedial English classes, helped with the cheer team, and coached the Ready Writing academic team.
After graduating from TC’s SMB program, Kristin aspires to instill hope in people through teaching and counseling. She plans to utilize the program to study the science of how people can fall apart from the inside-out, research methods of recovery after psychological trauma caused by psychosis, and write about her personal story.
When she is not contemplating the meaning of life, you can find Kristin dancing, admiring nature, obsessing over cats, painting, snapping photos, decorating her home, hiking, studying with a severely overpriced coffee in hand, attending art shows or concerts, traveling, reading about psychology, researching random facts, or napping. Connect with Kristin at email@example.com.
Faustine (Shu) Fu graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Economics. Previously, I worked at two newly founded international K-12 schools in China and many other educational startups and organizations. During my career and study in the education field, I’ve realized that many education problems are rooted not just in questions of curriculum and policies, but also in issues related to personal mindset. Also, as a firm Daoist believer and Buddhist practitioner, I’m reminded of a traditional Daoist medicine axiom, Zhi Biao Bu Zhi Ben—you must treat the root cause, not the symptoms as to how I see “Spiritual inner work.” SMBI represents the ideal environment for me to strengthen my foundations to come up with sustainable education and corporate solutions informed by spirituality.
Amanda Fuhrman is a non-practicing attorney previously with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Skadden Arps. She left law to pursue public service, and became the Deputy Executive Director of Millennium Promise, a nonprofit founded by economist Jeffrey Sachs & Columbia Earth Institute, philanthropist Raymond Chambers and George Soros, focused on advancement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Amanda is currently a Trustee of Edible Schoolyard NYC, the Brooklyn Museum, and a member of the Child Advisory Council at NY Hospital. She is also the co-founder of The FLAG Foundation and the FLAG Award for Teaching Excellence.
Krystal is a Trinidadian physician who in her own career has incorporated spiritual practices with allopathic medicine and desires to see this in the world. Her special interest is in women’s health and she is pursing alternative forms of medicine to support this. She believes that healing is multidimensional, and to live a healthy and happy life one must tend to not only the physical and metal body but the spiritual and emotional one as well.
Her current goal is to create a holistic medical model that encourages different forms of energy healing, breath work, plant allies and womb healing alongside western medicine. She is motivated to help others to connect deeply to themselves and to their sovereignty.
Her view is that everything in our daily life can be used as medicine, from food, to laughter to gratitude. She believes that pain and disease are physical manifestations of stagnant energy, repressed emotions and trauma that live within the body. There is innate wisdom that exists within just waiting to be remembered. Therefore, deepening a connection to intuition and spirit is an important aspect of healing and medicine.
Iman Habel is a graduate of the University of California, Davis with a dual bachelor's degree in Psychology and International Relations. She has been a trauma recovery enthusiast for many years, focusing mainly on her own personal trauma and chronic illness recovery for the last couple of years. Iman Habel discovered the power of spirituality in her own healing journey and realized that combining an active healing tool such as sensorimotor psychotherapy with spiritual practices such as meditation and yoga, highly accelerates the progress of internal healing and creates a stronger sense of self. She discovered that spirituality as a healing tool highly strengthens self-value, self-compassion, self-love, self-care and self awareness. Iman Habel uses the lessons she learned in her journey and continues to learn in her journey, on a day to day basis, to guide others in their own healing journeys.
She is the creator and author of the blog, Blissfully Healing at blissfullyhealing.com, documenting her experiences with chronic illness, mental health challenges, childhood trauma, and toxic relationships. She hosts 6 different support groups within the blog and invites people to share their stories to be featured on the Warrior Stories section of the blog. She is currently working on a podcast that will feature experts in various healing strategies and welcomes fellow warriors to share their stories on the platform.
Alexa Isenhart is a certified herbalist, Reiki practitioner, and dog mom residing in New York City. She has 6+ years’ experience working in hospice care and volunteers to provide Reiki to patients transitioning from this life to the next. She holds a B.A. in Small Business Management from Western Connecticut State University and received professional training in Human Design principles through the BG5 Business Institute.
Ms. Isenhart would like to incorporate her love for spirituality, science, psychology, and research to help others overcome their depression, anxiety, and self-limiting beliefs and step fully into their most authentic and highest selves. Alexa enjoys incorporating art into her healing practices as a way to somatically and artistically connect with consciousness and interrupt overthinking patterns. She hopes to help others recognize their greatest potential and support them in finding alignment by utilizing psycho-spiritual practices taught at Teachers College, Columbia University
Tiffany A. Johnson is a proud Detroiter and graduate of Washington University in St. Louis (undergrad) and American University (Master’s of Arts in Teaching and Secondary Education). A lifelong lover of learning, she started her career as a middle school Humanities teacher in Washington, DC. She later moved to New York City and continued to teach and became a school administrator and member of Brooklyn’s Community Education Council. After transitioning from school-based roles, Tiffany served as a leadership development coach and Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness (DEI) facilitator.
Outside of her professional pursuits, Tiffany constantly pursues her own spiritual growth and development, which has led her to recognize her passion for guiding others in their spiritual journey. Her work now centers on creating spaces for women/femmes + young people of color to heal and experience liberation in community. She also helps to lead a racial justice organization, called the Black Legacy Advancement Coalition. Tiffany is elated to join the SMBI master’s program and such an incredible community of spiritual scholars and activists. One of the quotes that grounds her and helps her love and lead through her core values of love, liberation and community is: “heal yourself to heal the world” adapted from late Detroit activist and movement leader Grace Lee Boggs.
Vyushti has had passion for understanding the mind ever since she was a young girl. Her desire to help those that were plagued by mental and emotional suffering pushed her into the field of psychology. Based on her own experience with mental health, she came to the understanding that spirituality underscored and went hand-in-hand with suffering.
After completing her undergraduate studies in Psychology, Sociology, and English, Vyushti worked as an Assistant Psychologist and Research Associate with a prominent Neuropsychologist in India. Now, Vyushti is determined to become a Clinical Psychologist that approaches the subject with a holistic perspective through the intersectionality of depth psychology, spirituality, and psychopathology.
Camille Khallouf is passionate about the intersection between individual healing and social transformation. She holds a B.A. from the University of Toronto in Political Science and Buddhist Psychology. Her entry to holistic care was through yoga but her passion lies in studying the cascade of physiological effects of contemplative practices and the implications on quality of life. She has worked as a Research Coordinator in Supportive Care (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre) and Psychiatry (Mount Sinai Hospital) evaluating the effects of mindfulness-based interventions for cancer patients and their formal caregivers. Her goal is to advance the scientific evidence on how mindfulness can change the perspective on pain and cultivate resilience under long-term survivorship and end-of-life care. She is determined to work towards closing the research gap between the need for and access to all-encompassing health initiatives to promote institutionally integrated approaches and augment the standard of care.
Camille has completed advance coursework in Ashtanga, Yin, Restorative, Prenatal yoga and yoga for cancer patients. As an experienced yoga instructor for under-served groups, she meets students’ rehabilitation needs to develop positive self/body image and improve health-related issues.
Sally is a writer, designer, and certified health & wellness coach based in the Bay Area.
Born and raised in San Francisco, CA — Sally grew up with a deep connection to nature, spirituality, and access to holistic practitioners who have guided her down this path.
After attending a rigorous art and design school, she was struggling to overcome various health challenges (including burnout, anxiety, and inflammation). She started experimenting with different approaches to find balance and restoration, ultimately leading her towards a life-long passion for wellness advocacy.
In 2021, Sally received her post-baccalaureate certificate in health and wellness coaching from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. With a desire to find like-minded thinkers, Sally embarked on her journey to New York City with SMBI and Columbia University.
Continuing to work in tech, Sally bridges her corporate experience and agility with her passion for health prevention — working with clients and building programs that ignite passion, restore inner peace, and empower individuals to take control of their health.
In her spare time, you can find Sally laughing with her SMB cohort, salsa dancing, enjoying the farmers market, or writing her monthly newsletter with a cup of tea.
I think I've always had an attuned ear for emotion, an extensive awareness towards empathy, and an ever-evolving appetite for inclusive environments and experiences that enrich our ability to connect and form communities. I’ve discovered a distaste for deflection, have dared to dive deeper into the conversations with myself / with others, and have developed a needed intensity towards uprooting intimate conversations, experiences, and authentic connections through mind-body based fitness.
I currently seek a new approach to connect the mind to the body, the mind-body to the spiritual/self, and the unity and presence of all three to one’s highest potential. My work, grounded in my experience and background as an athlete, creatively combines the “aha” epiphanies found through meditation and the endorphins that enter the body/mind during a high-intensity interval workout with a gentle yet motivating intensity.
Though my academic background is extensive, stemming from Culver Military Academy to Tufts University and now stepping into his work here at Columbia, I’d like my credibility as a healer and psychologist centered around my ability to challenge my own mind-body presence through different experiences which seemingly sit on each separate side of the spectrum, some taxing the mind while others taxing the body. In my most recent mind-body based challenge, a 50-mile ultra-marathon, I found that it was not my body rejecting the pain and struggle, but that my biggest battle was within my mind.
My goal is to create an efficient mind-body based movement therapy that could be practiced and placed into high-performing individuals daily routine. By understanding how high-performers within athletics and the working world operate this mind-body based movement therapy meets high-achievers where they’re at making sure aspects of the body and mind are satisfied while creatively incorporating a deeper, and often unrealized, side of the self-necessary for peak performance and lasting success. I welcome you to engage and embark on my creation as I lead always with a beginner’s mindset, hoping to provide you with the right questions allowing you to find the answer and solution most fitting and personal to you!
Sam is a full spectrum doula based in Brooklyn, NY. As a Doula she provide’s compassion, support, and resources to keep birthing people informed & comfortable throughout their labor process. Sam aims to combine science, spirituality, and psychology with each of her clients. She is fascinated with life and death and aims to offer support to those in need during these transitional times. Through mindfulness, physical movement, and creating community.
Hailing from New Delhi, India, Anupriya worked as a Behaviour science and
Conflict Resolution researcher for a few years before joining SMB. She currently
serves as the Editor-in- Chief of the APA Division 48 newsletter “The Peace
Psychologist” where she also introduced a section titled “Spirituality and Peace” in
Her spiritual journey started during her teenage years after her first tryst with
mental health issues, eventually leading her to experiment with practices like
Brahmakumaris and Buddhism.
Frustrated with the stigma around spirituality and spiritually informed
psychotherapy during her undergraduate days in Ashoka University, she found
SMB to be the right place for her spiritual, yet academic expression.
She plans to do a PhD in social and organisational psychology after this, aspiring
to be a researcher and political psychologist with a spiritual flavour. Anu is also
equally passionate about music, which she takes up in the form of electronic
music production and DJing. She is always up for conversations with international
students, especially around confusing subjects like F1 visa laws, STEM vs non-
STEM OPT, and career direction. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Becky Lallande is a Dancer and Teaching Artist based in Washington, DC. She holds a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and has been working with youth in the arts for over 15 years. A lifelong dancer and coloratura soprano, she began dance and music lessons at age three and currently studies the philosophy and technique of Isadora Duncan. She is certified to teach the Duncan technique to children and has most recently been a company member of Word Dance Theater in Washington, DC. Becky is an active Teaching Artist specializing in early childhood arts integration that supports creative resiliency through movement, imagination, and rhythmic exploration. She works with organizations such as the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning in the Arts on strategies to integrate artful learning techniques into classroom curriculums that support social emotional development, and is a certified practitioner of Rainbowdance®, a research-based movement intervention with the goal of enhancing self regulation, self esteem, and social empathy from the Boston Children’s Foundation. Her graduate study interests include the relationship of spirituality and imagination in young children through music, movement, and play. She is also interested in perception, cognitive development, parapsychology, and the history of spirituality and mysticism in the field of psychology.
Saraswati Andrea Lee is an early childhood educator and certified Yoga and mindfulness instructor. She received her B.A. in Anthropology and Gender Studies from Princeton University and began her career in teaching soon after in 2011. She has taught in both public and independent schools in New Jersey.
In 2018 she was ordained into the Order of Yoga Life Ministers by her Guru, Reverend Jaganath Carrera. She currently serves as President and Co-Administrator of Yoga Life Society, a NJ-based organization founded by Reverend Jaganath, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Newark Center for Meditative Culture.
She complements her contemplative and service practices with time in the garden communing with the flora and fauna, chanting Kirtan, and watching classic films.
Jocelyn is passionate in working with children ranging from early childhood aged children to adolescents. She believes that helping children throughout their development is a necessity as children are most vulnerable during this period. Emotional social development have great impacts in shaping children into the adult they will become, thus building their mental health will guide children to turn inwards and achieve greater success. As a result, this will help eschew from future mental struggles the children might encounter when they become independent individuals.
As a recent graduate of the mental health counseling program, Jocelyn has experiences helping children and adolescents address mental health emergencies through risk evaluation and crisis intervention, and provide cultural sensitive individual and family psychotherapy. She hopes to expand her knowledge and skills for a more holistic approach to healing others.
Jocelyn’s formal education includes a B.A. in Psychology from New York University, a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Teacher’s College Columbia University, and Ed.M. in Mental Health Counseling from Teacher’s College Columbia University. She is excited to be currently pursuing a M.A. in Psychology in Education, Spirituality, Mind, Body concentration at Teacher’s College Columbia University.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” - Viktor Frankl
After journeying through a life-changing diagnosis, Melanie (she/her) became acutely aware of how impactful an acknowledgment of the human experience can be within the medical landscape. Her journey awakened a deep understanding that discomfort can serve as a gateway to equanimity and prosperity through mind, body, and spiritual engagement.
Melanie is currently seeking a Master’s in Psychology with a concentration in Spirituality from Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds a BA in Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin and a BFA in Dance and secondary teaching certification. Most recently, Melanie served as the Lab Manager for the Imagination and Cognition Lab in the Psychology department at UT Austin. Before working in research, Melanie spent over a decade in event production, taught fine arts in public high schools, and served on the Texas Dance Educators Association board.
Her academic and research interests include the formation of one’s beliefs, the epigenetics of trauma and healing, and the compelling discipline of Positive Psychology.
Melanie resides in NYC with her husband and son. She enjoys reading, being with friends, and wandering the park with her beloved dogs.
Melanie’s contact: email@example.com
Noof currently works for the oncology department at Mount Sinai and as a Clinical Research Assistant at Bellevue Hospital. Throughout her 25th year which she refers to as her “Golden Year”, all the trauma she had faced, led her to go on a journey for some soul searching. From this, She had learned that something external cannot hold the power or key to her happiness. Coming from a Psychology background, Noof’s interest in spirituality gradually grew. Her fulfillment and her purpose in life is to follow, contribute, and expand on Dr.Miller’s work of Spirituality, Mind Body and Soul. She attained self-awareness and learned to assess things from an observer’s mind after becoming spirituality woke. Having this newfound sense of an understanding, she finally understands the truth of the nature of how reality truly works. Noof wants to gain the knowledge on how to assist others so that they can attune with themselves and use that spirituality to find purpose and fulfillment in their own lives
Emily McGill is a spiritual seeker, tarot reader, storytelling strategist, and a deep believer in the power of community. After 15 years in New York City as a Broadway and entertainment publicist and communications consultant, self-exploration led to healing, evolution, and reading tarot cards professionally.
Currently enrolled in Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Teachers College, Emily is pursuing a Master of Arts in Psychology in Education with a focus on spirituality. SMB is the first Ivy League graduate curriculum dedicated to merging spirituality and evidence-based research within the context of clinical psychology.
Emily has been invited to read tarot for virtual Burning Man, at Sony Hall and Brooklyn's dry speakeasy Club Curious, and has been featured by The Tamron Hall Show, NY Post, and Thrive Global. She writes Playbill’s Broadway Horoscopes and is developing her own tarot deck, The Broadway Tarot.
She’s the co-founder of S.N.O.B. (Sunday Night on Broadway), a popup Broadway industry dance party, a founding member of PR collective Spiral5, and a co-author of their course The Career Rebel’s Guide to Modern PR.
Among her 20 Broadway credits, Emily represented the Tony Award-winning productions of A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington, Memphis, Billy Elliot, and Disney's The Lion King (she’s basically the vacation swing in the Disney press office). Other clients included music, film, TV, and streaming projects for companies large and small (HBO and Amazon Studios, internet startups and non-profits. Plus male strippers. Yes, male strippers). EmilyMcGillEntertainment.com
My name is Saima Misty, and my story began when I solidified the conviction to shift from being a victim of life to becoming the creator of it. I’m a firm believer that the current reality we experience is a physical manifestation of our subconscious beliefs, past traumas, and suppressed emotions. To me, inner work for outer change means transcending our lives beyond what we ever imagined by acknowledging the limiting beliefs that have become so second-nature, we don’t even realize they’re there.
I aspire to serve others by applying spirituality and mind/body modalities as a means of reclaiming mental health and creating fulfilling lives. My passions include being an advocate and source of love for those undervalued in our society. In my work as a behavior therapist for children on the autism spectrum, I find immense joy in connecting with each child as unique as they come. Although it’s my job to teach them, they’ve really taught me the most valuable lesson: there’s beauty in accepting everyone for who they are, regardless of the harm they’ve caused and irrespective of their differences. It’s my belief that every being contains a spirit within them that is waiting to be cultivated into the irreplaceable force they’re meant to become.
As a Bangladeshi American, I recognize how much the south Asian community suppresses the concept of mental health and it is my professional goal to nurture this aspect of my community back to life. Often overlooked in south Asian culture, I will continue to advocate for the normalization of individuality.
As Harris Dienstfrey writes, “the mind as a source of medicine is waiting to be explored” and I can’t wait to be a part of that paradigm shift.
Nneka Okoli is a 2016 graduate from Pace University with a B.S. in Communications with a concentration in Psychology and Women’s studies. After graduation Nneka spent time at Google, Refinery29, and Taboola where she built diversity, equity, and inclusion programs such as Refinery29’s UnBothered and Taboola Black.
Through corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion programs Nneka began to incorporate wellness by partnering with organization such as Black Girls in Om. This partnership was the start of a path that would lead her to SMBI.
In 2020 Nneka completed her 200-hour yoga certification with Y7 and currently teaches chakra-based hot power vinyasa from a trauma-informed lens at Corepower Yoga.
Eager to continue a path to spiritual awakening Nneka is took a sabbatical from corporate America to pursue her studies full time. Upon graduation, Nneka will be open to opportunities in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space. Her mission is to radicalize corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion programs by integrating techniques rooted in spirituality and mindfulness.
Camila grew up in a small town in the south of Chile, Los Angeles until the age of 18. Later, to pursue her university studies, she moved to the capital Santiago, and do her undergraduate studies at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, with mention in I.O Psychology, in 2016. Also a musician by vocation, he has participated in several musical projects throughout much of his life, having studied Music Production during the same period. Music first and foremost.
Despite her initial training, Camila found her true passion for psychology in clinical-community work with vulnerable communities, particularly children and adolescents, working in various NGOs and state institutions in the service of restoring and repairing children's rights. At the same time, she studied a master's degree in Art Therapy, obtaining her degree in 2019 at the Universidad del Desarrollo. In this way, she began a path of multidisciplinary integration between healing and art, both musical and visual. Later, she developed as a family therapist with systemic approach, obtaining a certificate from the Institute of Research Unit in Intervention and Family Care, associated with the Universidade Da Coruña, Spain. Throughout her experience, she also realized the lack of spirituality as a transversal element in the development of psychology in its different areas.
Deeply passionate about different forms of artistic expression, she feels a profound calling to continue developing her clinical tools to put them at the service of children and their families. As an LGBT+ person, she recognizes the importance of developing in inclusive spaces where children have the right to be heard, seen and accepted, which is a pending debt of our society.
In SMB, she finds a profound space to continue building bridges, where spirituality takes a leading role in its transversal potential to question and challenge all spheres of our society, where the need for a paradigm shift in how to do things becomes urgent.
Jesse Paikin is a rabbi, teacher, spiritual leader, and strategic thinker. From Toronto, Canada, he has worked as an educator across North America, Europe, and the Middle East, with a focus on classical Jewish texts, spiritual practices, and mussar - the traditional Jewish discipline of awareness-based spiritual and ethical development.
Most recently, Jesse held a Fellowship from the Jewish Emergent Network, a group of seven path‐breaking Jewish communities who have come together in the spirit of collaboration, through which he served as a rabbi at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC. Jesse is currently a Research Fellow with M², the Institute for Experiential Jewish Education, where he is researching and designing new pedagogies to influence the ways that Jewish educators teach spiritually.
Jesse has trained in psychotherapy and trauma-informed spiritual counseling at Toronto’s University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital, and is a trained facilitator in convening courageous communication across divides, through Resetting the Table. He has a BA in Religious Studies from York University, an MA in Hebrew Literature from Hebrew Union College, and has also studied at the University of Toronto, New York University, Yeshivat Hadar, and the National Theatre School of Canada.
Before heading to graduate school and becoming a rabbi, Jesse worked with a nonprofit that ran youth educational travel programs around the world.
He’s also the creator and host of the short-form explainer podcast, Shoot! which features one big Jewish question each episode, plus answers with integrity and inspiration, and the untold stories behind the questions.
Alejandra is a passionate and impact-focused entrepreneur, community builder, and investor from Ecuador. She has a B.S in Economics and Business Administration with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship from Northeastern University. Some of her past experiences range from launching a new loan product for Hispanic entrepreneurs with Kiva in San Francisco; consulting for a Microfinance in India; and directing a global fellowship for impact entrepreneurs in New York. She has been a Tedx Speaker, mentor, and judge in various entrepreneurship events around Latin America. In 2017 she Co-founded Aweik, an organization that aims to empower young Latin Americans to dream big and create meaningful enterprises in the region. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors of GIG, a family business focused on the construction sector in Ecuador; leads the Ecuadorian chapter of Sigma Squared Society (a global community of young impact entrepreneurs); and is working towards earning a Master's degree in Psychology focused on spirituality mind and body from Columbia University. Her goal in the future is to create a digital and physical community and space in Latin America that promotes mental and physical well-being while rescuing ancestral knowledge from the Amazonian and Andean communities in the region.
Neil Prashad was raised with a deep connection to Eastern Wisdom traditions. During his childhood and teenage years, Neil spent a lot of time studying meditation, mantra practice, contemplation, mindfulness, and exploration of the highest self at camps, ashrams, temples, monasteries, and sacred spaces around the world. Neil is a very successful speaker on the Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, Vedas, Karma, Conscious choice making and Mindfulness at various platforms, globally.
Neil is passionate about yoga, meditation, writing, film, music, conscious enterprise, and all platforms that help the human collective in being a more just, sustainable, conscious, caring, and joyful society. He believes in the incredible work of the SMBI Institute at Columbia University. Neil produced a five-part film series entitled “On Life and Enlightenment with His Holiness The Dalai Lama and others.” He has also produced incredible spiritual music albums such as “Salutation, A life in Prayer, Sacred Offerings, A Breath of Life and more.” He is seen as a great thought leader in the field of mind-body connectedness and inner awakening.
Neil believes that inner work for outer change means:
Neil Prashad can be reached on Instagram @neilprashad and email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maya fervently believes that our darkest moments are a visceral calling to awaken our intrinsic and indomitable strength of spirit. Her personal journey of suffering served as a powerful catalyst for healing and ignited her deep desire to help others. Stuck in the throes of debilitating depression, chronic anxiety, and a life-threatening eating disorder for years, Maya tried many conventional mental health interventions in her home country, Singapore, which invariably left her feeling more disconnected from herself. Determined to delve beyond symptom management and instead excavate the root of her suffering, she embarked on a quest to discover spiritually centered approaches to healing. This led her to Buddhist psychology and mindfulness meditation, which she has been practicing for a decade. Mindfulness planted the seeds of curiosity, compassion, and courage that have blossomed through daily practice and inspire Maya’s outer work.
During her undergraduate studies in psychology, she applied her passion for science through research on the Light Triad, the Quiet Ego, and mediating factors between mindfulness and eating disorders. She also served as a yoga teacher, a meditation teacher, and a holistic, integrative health coach. Maya’s lifelong mission is to guide others towards their inner light by weaving together the many transformative practices and frameworks she has trained in, such as intuitive eating, internal family systems, motivational interviewing, loving kindness meditation, and Shamanic healing. She empowers others to authentically celebrate and express their unique strengths, which she believes are both an expression of and a pathway towards their innate spirituality.
Amy Lee Ravelo Amy Ravelo is a young educator emerging into Early & Special Education with fresh eyes and a hopeful outlook. She is passionate about education as a universal right and a vehicle of social & personal change. She is an emerging interventionist and activist for revolutionizing the way we think of education. Although born and raised in New York City, she’s a first-generation immigrant. Amy keeps her home culture of the Dominican Republic close to her heart and is witness to the importance of culturally responsive & sustaining teaching practices. A recent graduate from New York University, Amy received a Bachelor of Science in Early Education & Special Education with a concentration in Languages and Linguistics — studying Communicative Science Disorders. She completed over 500 hours of student teaching at various NYC DOE public schools. Through this, she honed her passion for early education, from theoretical works in creating an action research plan on student emotional wellbeing and school models to developing and implementing lesson plans, experiential activities, and unforgettable school memories. Writer, educator, psychoanalyst, and artist by chance.
For the last dozen years, Sarah Ritchie has worked as a Celebrant and Interfaith Minister, conducting weddings, funerals, baby blessings and other celebrations and rites of passage. She was trained at the Celebrant Foundation & Institute as well, as One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York City. Ritchie recently completed training as an end-of-life doula, pursuing programs at the New York Open Center and the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA).
Previously, she worked with undergraduate and graduate students at ICSC, supporting the academic and career development of 1,500 student members and coordinating leadership development programs with dozens of top-tier academic programs in various business fields. Ritchie also served in program and public affairs positions at The Century Foundation, a progressive public policy operating foundation based in New York and Washington, D,C. She was also the assistant director of the Center for the Study of the States at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, a think tank associated with the State University of New York.
Ritchie is a Phi Beta Kapp graduate of the University of Oklahoma, studying politics, history, and economics, with areas of concentration in social science research methodology and Congressional studies. She earned an M.A. and M.Phil. at Yale University, focusing on American politics, political economy, and political psychology and studied at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan. She has served in teaching and mentoring roles at Duke University and Union College.
A native Oklahoma, Ritchie wishes to work with college and graduate students in a spiritual capacity. She is an avid sports fan, enthusiastic traveler, and lifelong learner.
Ariana Rodriguez, MSc, RD
Ariana Rodriguez is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor and Registered Yoga Teacher passionate about inclusive health messaging & education to help people feel GOOD in the skin they are in.
Ariana is best known for her zest for life, approachable nature and as the co-founder of Embody Health London - London’s leading Eating Disorder & Body Image nutrition clinic where she developed the EHL Method – an integrative approach to recovery.
She is also an Embodied Recovery Facilitator and Emotional Freedom Technique Practitioner who is trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy-Enhanced and Acceptance Commitment Therapy and holds a Neuro-Linguistic Programming Diploma.
Her mission is to move people away from guilt and shame towards a positive relationship with food, body, mind and soul to live a rich and fulfilling life.
In her spare time, Ariana can be found dancing, doing yoga, traveling to new places, reading a book and spending time with friends and family.
From a young age, Danielle discovered dance to be her most organic form of expression. Through movement, she was able to witness how creativity can help one find their identity. In her career, Danielle had the pleasure of working with companies like HBO, FX, MTV, Swarovski Crystals, and six:02. Her passion for dance developed into a love of teaching. She enjoys working with young artists to help them authentically express their creative voices. Currently, she is on faculty at Brickhouse NYC where she runs their contemporary fusion crew.
In 2022 Danielle graduated Summa Cum Laude from LIM College with a BBA in Visual Studies and a minor in Fashion Styling. While in her undergraduate program, Danielle was the first LIM student to win the Fashion Scholarship Fund grant for a design case study. An exciting project completed during her undergraduate program was working with Moxy Hotel on a mural for their Bowery location. She worked at Lafayette 148 as an intern in Business Information and then Design. Her hard work landed her a position on the design team as the Accessories and Styling Assistant. Upon graduation, Danielle was presented with an award for Excellence in Visual Studies by Wests Design Consultants USA.
Entering the SMB MA program Danielle plans to merge her love of arts with spirituality. She aspires to bring spirituality into pop culture to make it an evident part of everyday life. She seeks to help the next generation find their voice by inspiring them to live authentically.
Charlotte is a proud New Yorker, born and raised in NYC her entire life. Currently living in Brooklyn. She believes her city upbringing provided her a diverse education in school and outside of school that is hard to find anywhere else. Having graduated from The New School for Libral Arts in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, she has since expanded her education to yoga teaching. Her deep thinking and rich inner world drew her to philosophy and other forms of spirituality early on. She began practicing yoga intensely in 2011 and was 200hr certified with Ally Bogard by 2016. She has since completed multiple mentorships with master teachers and continues to grow through physical and metaphysical techniques. Now completing her Masters degree with Columbia for Counseling Spiritual Psychology, She hopes to become a health and spiritual coach. Emphasizing accessibility and women's health. Her goal is to draw together the Eastern healing techniques that she practices deeply, with the western techniques of psychology for a holistic approach. She believes our bodies can heal themselves with the right support, the right thoughts and the right regulation and that our own life is our own medicine. You will often find her taking class at Skyting Yoga, cooking at home or enjoying Rockaway Beach.
Chyrrl Sims is a professional technical designer on the path of self-actualization and spiritual awakening. She longs to be a contributing force in the creation of a spiritually aware, positive and loving society. She believes that by awakening the spiritual connection we are born with, we can battle depression and anxiety as well as hatred and fear.
Chyrrl is a recent graduate from the University of Arizona, where she studied Psychology. It was in 2017 that she discovered the SMBI program and her world was forever changed. With each and every course she took at the University of Arizona, she examined the information through a spiritual lens which brought a new sense of purpose into her life. She believes that the spirit within each of us plays a vital role in our health and overall well-being; that the mind and body cannot thrive if the spirit is broken. In this regard, she believes that “play” and spirituality are linked and that the act of “playing” can awaken the spirit within.
Upon graduation from the SMBI program, Chyrrl hopes to attain a doctorate degree in Psychology and eventually have her own private practice where, as a therapist, she would offer clients treatment options where spirituality and “play” are key components to therapy.
Chyrrl feels truly blessed to have been chosen as part of the 2021-2022, Teachers College, Columbia University, Spirituality Mind Body Institute’s cohort.
Josefina is a 29 years old chilean psychologist and bach flower practitioner that loves to learn, travel and volunteer. She decided to become a psychologist with the intent to bring out the best in each person, explore their potential and help them find themselves. For the past six years, she has worked to eradicate gender violence and narrow the gap between men and women, empowering them by doing different kinds of volunteering, clinical psychology, and by working in public policies.
She has gone to Africa twice to work in different shelters with girls that have been victims of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse to show them they are not alone and that they can reshape their future. In Chile she worked at the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality as a direct advisor to the Minister. In addition, she got deeply involved with all the public institutions in Chile that focused their work on increasing equity and social justice like the National Women's Service, and a public non profit organization focused on women development.
Although Chile and Kenya are radically different countries, she realized that suffering is the same around the world. The experience of encountering poverty, inequality, and violence face to face transformed her, so working for the possibility of a better future was no longer an option: it became her life's goal.
Realizing that spirituality is an inherent part of being human and becoming aware of the human conexion despite the culture has opened her eyes, she aims to continue learning and incorporate more elements into her daily work by taking this SMBI Master.
Jami is a woman with profound life experience, a compassion to serve, and an insatiable desire to learn and teach. She is dedicated to the education of spirituality in relation to the psychological and physical science of human nature, with God and the explanation of the seemingly unexplainable. She has a vast medical background as a Registered Nurse, an extensive background in yoga and fitness, and continues to foster her spiritual gifts of praying in tongues, silent meditative listening, contemplative prayer, and breath work. She has also experienced angel and spiritual encounters, witnessed spiritual releases, and experienced prayer and deep meditation to a level that she didn’t know was possible. Studying the science and spirituality of our souls, electric energy, and how we are inherently connected to all living beings is one of her biggest passions. Her philosophy is that we are to facilitate understanding and growth in the mind, body and soul to create individual and social autonomy on a global scale. Jami strives to help facilitate positive change for lasting transformations, social and spiritual justice, and interconnections in people, animals, cultures, and our environment. Jami believes anything is possible with God, including a movement to truly create Heaven on Earth and empower spiritual world changers. She is a self-declared environmentalist and an unapologetic vegan who is pro-life for all loving souls. Jami lives in North Dakota and has three amazing children, six fun-loving dogs, and a love for the great outdoors. She is currently a graduate student at SMBI Teachers College Columbia University in the Master of Science in Psychology Education Spirituality Mind Body program.
I am Adriana TranDaFIREscu. I have always had a passion and dedication for the healing arts.
I believe in integrating conscious awareness into all facets of life. My awakening started with a voracious appetite to explore tools for self-improvement, parenting, health and wellness, and mindful philosophy. My education has intensified as I pursue a unique path of consciousness awakening to directly know the truth of my being. To this day, I integrate cutting-edge transformative work with scholastic pursuits, legal career, and family life.
The evidence-based scientific approach of Spirituality, Mind and Body of the Psychology in Education Masters of Arts from Columbia University emerges as the pinnacle of the decades of my inner work. I hold a Juris-Doctor degree and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. I am also an alternative dispute resolution legal Mediator. I am a Yoga, Mind-Body-Breath, Life-Coaching & Meditation certified instructor. I am also a certified Reiki Master. I studied plant-based nutrition through Cornell’s Center for Nutrition Studies.
I am privileged to have been featured among the most influential ethnic professionals in the USA. My drive to transform my career from that of a counselor of the laws of man to a counselor of the spiritual laws emerged while giving the commencement speech to the undergraduate psychology department at SUNY Stony Brook. It is a humbling privilege to awaken seeds of extraordinariness into budding professionals, tomorrow’s leaders.
I am dedicated to creating an approach to spiritual education for all stages of awareness. I hope to adduce multi-dimensional teachings of personal ethics to awaken the divine truth and provide tools to integrate spiritual principles into every day for a life of joy and purpose.