Executive Director: Roger Miller
Roger was honored to join the Mind Body Awareness Project as the Executive Director in March 2014. He has studied the Dharma for more than 12 years and meditates daily. His personal practice informs his work and leadership style. He thinks deeply about class, race, and privilege and acts wherever possible to challenge the systems that reinforce those social constructions. Roger also currently serves on the Leadership Sangha (Board of Directors) of the East Bay Meditation Center.
Prior to working with the MBA Project, Roger was the General Manager of Yosemite Conservancy and managed programs including education, wilderness, art, theater, volunteer programs as well as human resources and organization operations in the national park. Previously, Roger was the Executive Director of Bay Area Wilderness Training and managed development, strategic planning and finance operations. He has worked in grantwriting, major donor and membership development for the International Forum on Globalization, Redefining Progress, and Rainforest Action Network.
Roger holds a Master’s of Nonprofit Administration from University of San Francisco and degrees in Finance and German from University of Illinois. He has launched, worked for, and served on the boards of dozens of social justice and environmental nonprofits. Activists working to make the world a better place face many of the same challenges of self-care that incarcerated youth do – many nonprofit executives feel the looming dread of potential burnout. Roger has been there and, unfortunately, done that. He has built a daily personal practice centered on mindful leadership to sustain both personal and organizational momentum. He is also a leadership and executive coach for nonprofit managers with Alpenglow Consulting and Coaching.
Program Coordinator: Kekoa Won
Growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii, Kekoa witnessed first hand the negative effects of poverty, addiction and violence in his neighborhood. Early on, he decided to take a different path and focused on playing football. He credits his mentors and coaches, along with his old-school disciplinarian father, with keeping him on the straight path while many of his peers fell into drugs, gangs, and incarceration. Kekoa pursued his education on a full ride football scholarship and earned his degree in criminal justice. Following college, he began his career at Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He spearheaded the transformation of a San Jose club from an underdeveloped facility to a thriving club through multiple programs and partnerships.
In 2002, Kekoa joined the award-winning program Challenge Day. During his 10 years there, the organization was featured on Oprah and MTV. Kekoa helped transform the organization’s programming to better serve high-risk youth. He developed Challenge Day’s multimedia assembly program, condensing a six-hour program for 100 students into a 90-minute format that reached as many as 3000 students. He also oversaw the six-month training program for instructors, developing leadership and facilitation techniques while helping them find their authentic style of teaching. Kekoa’s work with high-risk Dutch youth, primarily immigrants to the Netherlands from Africa and the Middle East, was featured in the Dutch docu-series ‘Over de Streep’.
Kekoa is widely regarded as an expert in teaching empathy, compassion and other core social and emotional literacy skills to youth and adults. He has collaborated with facilities including drug treatment centers, alternative schools, juvenile probation and detention centers, and foster care services in communities suffering from high incarceration rates, gangs, drug use and violence across the nation. He has delivered workshops and trainings to more than 100,000 people, and is proud to bring his experience to the MBA project. Kekoa is the father of three sons and frequently humbled by the many lessons that come from being their dad.
Grant Writer: Pamela Fong
Pamela brings more than twenty years of executive and fundraising experience for SF Bay Area nonprofits of varying sizes and missions with budgets ranging from under $1 million to over $15 million. From her first nonprofit gig at age 17 in Berkeley Rep’s box office, Pamela worked her way up through various nonprofit roles ranging from receptionist, database manager, development associate, and bookkeeper to senior level management. Her expertise centers on helping youth serving agencies build their financial, fundraising and technical infrastructure and capacity. Pamela’s professional experience includes working with top development and capital campaign consultants, major foundations, institutional finance and real estate groups, and evaluation and planning professionals.
As Managing Director at Youth Radio, she oversaw the organization’s transition from a local agency to a community institution that culminated in the purchase a $3 million building with state-of-the-art digital studios. She worked as Director of Finance and Human Resources at Youth ALIVE! for several years before joining Safe Passages. There, she led the Elev8 collaborative which represented a $50 million public/private investment in five of the highest need middle schools across the Oakland flatlands.
Pamela has an unsentimental view of what it takes to make impact on our communities and brings a level of pragmatism to her work, tweaking old business rules to match new values in an ever-changing nonprofit environment. Her fundraising and budgeting expertise has helped secure over $10 million in local, federal and private foundations for leading Oakland nonprofits. As an Oakland native, Pamela is committed to supporting young people to create positive change in their community.
Senior MBA Instructor: Micah Anderson
Born in Connecticut, Micah Anderson spent several of his teen years in and out of psychiatric wards, drug rehabilitation centers, and group homes. After years involved in 12-step fellowship, followed by extensive travel overseas searching for a spiritual path, he embraced Islam in the mid 90s.
He began working with MBA Project in 2011. Since then, he taught and led trainings on mindfulness and emotional literacy in five countries, and leads a weekly meditation group in the Bay Area as MBA’s Senior Instructor. He is also the program coordinator for Ta’leef Collective, a Fremont, CA. organization that provides an alternative social and sacred space for Muslim converts and seekers.
Micah pulls from a wide variety of lived experiences, including struggles with chemical dependency, years involved with straight-edge punk rock, as well as his ongoing practice of martial arts. Micah lives in Oakland, CA. with his wife and son, and is currently enrolled at Sofia University to attain his Masters in Psychology/Counseling.
Kamal Ahmed has actively worked with youth since his teenage years at a cultural community center in Oakland, CA. His love for serving youth grew as he began working with MBA Project in 2012. An avid athlete since age five, Kamal creatively integrates lessons from sports (and other activities that are familiar to youth) with key meditation concepts to help deepen their physical, mental, and emotional experiences. Kamal is currently pursuing his Masters Degree in Counseling at Sofia University to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
Amani Carey-Simms is passionate about in bringing meditation, emotional intelligence, and creative arts programming to at-risk, gang-involved, and incarcerated youth. Amani has worked with MBA Project for the last 6 years in maximum security units while running a mentor-based aftercare program for youth transitioning from incarceration back to the community. He is currently developing a year-long rites of passage program at Oakland’s Community Day Continuation School in partnership with Challenge Day and his organization, WeOne Consulting.
Enrique Collazo currently teaches meditation in the Bay Area with Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, founded by MBA co-founder and board member Noah Levine, and works as a mindfulness instructor at MBA Project. A practitioner of the Vipassanna tradition since 2005, Enrique has offered classes as a facilitator and meditation instructor for youth and adults in Los Angeles and the Bay Area since 2009. Enrique loves working with youth and supporting their transformation, and shares Dharma teachings in a straightforward manner.
Dawn Scott has been practicing meditation and mindfulness since 2008 and now serves as the Family Program Coordinator at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Dawn coordinates classes, daylongs, benefits, and residential mindfulness retreats in which the practice and teachings of mindful awareness are offered to support the development of wisdom and compassion for children, teens, whole families, and the wider community. She is excited to join and be part of MBA Project as an instructor.
Syra Smith is an engaged artist, activist, community organizer, and mindfulness educator who has mentored youth for more than 15 years. A longtime meditator, she began deepening her Vipassana practice in 2008. She completed East Bay Meditation Center’s yearlong Commit to Dharma program in 2011 and currently participates in a non-monastic ordination and lineage teaching program under the Venerable Pannavati Bhikkuni. She co-leads EBMC’s Teen Sangha–a weekly meditation group serving Bay Area teens–and is the founder of Dana Cafe, a monthly gathering in Oakland offering transformational teachings at no cost.
Board of Directors
Connor Aiken has been professionally involved in the fitness, dance, and health field for 25 years. He is a personal trainer and advanced Pilates instructor, working with clients to help them move beyond self-imposed limitations and discover within themselves new possibilities for strength and freedom through movement. He serves on the Fundraising Committee.
Ivy Ang is founder and president of VisionLinc, a company dedicated to linking vision, people and strategies. Ivy works with CEOs and teams committed to new ways of thinking and doing business. She has 30 years of business and human resources management experience in high-tech, bio-technology, strategic design consulting and financial services. She has worked for global industry leaders such as Genentech, AIG and Landor Associates. She serves on the Executive Committee.
Dr. Kyra Bobinet is the Founding Director of Vision Youthz, an organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and transformation of incarcerated youth, where she received national recognition as a pioneer in bringing contemplative and healing arts practices to urban youth. Vision Youthz merged with MBA Project in December of 2007. A graduate of University of California’s School of Medicine, Kyra holds a Masters in Public Health from Harvard University. She serves on the Program and Fundraising Committees.
Joy Glenwright is founder of Dedication to Special Education – a nonprofit serving developmentally disabled youth in Marin County. She ran the capital campaign to build the Technology Resource Center of Marin that services over 2,000 Marin County students in Assistive/Augmentative Communication each year. She has experience soliciting grants and major gifts from companies and foundations such as Wells Fargo, Marin Community Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and Tides Foundation. Joy has significant experience in marketing, finance/budgeting and nonprofit board-drive fundraising. She is passionate about youth issues and is currently volunteering with the Marin Collaborative Youth Court.
Noah Levine is a Buddhist teacher, counselor, and author of the book Dharma Punx. He is trained to teach by Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA. He teaches meditation classes, workshops and retreats nationally as well as leading groups in juvenile halls and prisons. Noah holds a masters degree in counseling psychology from CIIS. He has studied with many prominent teachers in both the Theravadan and Mahayanan Buddhist traditions. Noah currently lives in Los Angeles.
Isaiah Seret, M.A. is a filmmaker who has produced, directed, and assistant directed commercials, music videos, and feature films. Isaiah co-founded the MBA Project after working for Spirit Rock’s Family Program and for the Lineage Project at the San Mateo juvenile hall. He is the Chairman of the Board.
Daniel Goleman, PhD is a co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning at the Yale University Child Studies Center (now at the University of Illinois at Chicago), with the mission to help schools introduce emotional literacy courses. One mark of the Collaborative’s impact is that thousands of schools around the world have implemented such programs. His 1998 book, Working With Emotional Intelligence, argues that workplace competencies based on emotional intelligence play a far greater role in star performance than do intellect or technical skill, and that both individuals and companies will benefit from cultivating these capabilities. His book, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, explores the crucial role of emotional intelligence in leadership. Daniel is co-chairman of The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, based in the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University, which seeks to recommend best practices for developing emotional competence. In 2003 he published Destructive Emotions, an account of a scientific dialogue between the Dalai Lama and a group of psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers.
Joan Halifax is a medical anthropologist, deep ecologist, and meditation teacher, who has long been at the forefront of cultural and spiritual exploration. A former Rockefeller fellow, she lectures and teaches worldwide. She directs the Upaya Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which includes the Upaya Prison Project, a network of contemplative prison programs.
Sam Himelstein, PhD is passionate about serving high-risk and incarcerated youth through the practice of mindfulness and other emotional intelligence skills. He is currently a Clinical Therapist at Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center. A formerly incarcerated youth himself, Sam brought a great deal of both personal and professional experience to his seven years at MBA Project in various roles including Program Director, Executive Director and most recently as Clinical Services Director. As an adolescent, Sam was heavily involved in the juvenile justice system and incarcerated on several occasions over three years. He was on a path to destruction, struggling with drugs, violence, delinquency, and most notably anger. He eventually turned his life around through connections with mentors and personal inner work, including mindfulness meditation. Sam eventually pursued and received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from Sofia University. At MBA, Sam completed the first published research for the organization entitled, “A Mixed Methods Study of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention with Incarcerated Youth.” as his dissertation. His went on to publish his book, A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents, through Routledge in April 2013. Sam continues to provide clinical supervision to MBA’s instructors and runs his personal practice Lion Mind in Oakland.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn‘s major research pursuits lie in mind body medicine, with the focus on the clinical, social, and human performance effects of mindfulness meditation training in various populations. These include people with chronic pain, stress related disorders, and/or a wide range of chronic diseases with a particular focus on breast cancer; multi-ethnic and multi-racial inner city communities experiencing high psychosocial stress due to poverty and associated social conditions; and inmates and corrections personnel in the prison system. Jon’s other areas of research cover the effects of regulated attention on healing processes; stress in medical education; cost-effectiveness of mind body interventions; stress related to work and organizational re-engineering; the Tao of work; mindfulness in the physician-patient relationship; the development of psychological resilience to stress; mindfulness-based stress reduction curricula in the primary and secondary education; achieving optimal performance in athletes through mindfulness meditation training.
Noah Levine, M.A. is one of the founders of MBA Project. He has been teaching meditation in prisons for close to 10 years and he leads retreats and workshop all over the world. He is the author of, Dharma Punx, a spiritual biography chronicling his transformation from Juvenile hall to spiritual activist. Noah has led rights of passage retreats for youth and he has become a leading advocate for incarcerated youth.
Stephen & Ondrea Levine are world famous meditation teachers and writers who have counseled nurses, doctors, their terminally ill and many others for over 25 years. Stephen and Ondrea’s books include, A Gradual Awakening, Who Dies? and Embracing the Beloved.
George Mumford is a sports psychology consultant, meditation teacher, and personal/organizational development consultant. He served as a member of Head Coach Phil Jackson’s support staff for the Chicago Bulls (1993-1998) and the Los Angeles Lakers (1999-2003), teaching both teams the practice of mindfulness meditation. During that time, Jackson’s teams won six NBA World Championships—the Chicago Bulls won three (1996-98) and the Los Angeles Lakers won three (2000-2002). Mumford was Jon Kabat-Zinn’s colleague at the University of Massachusetts for five years. He first began teaching vipassana in 1986 and taught meditation in prisons, medical clinics, corporations, and at Harvard University. Since 1999, he has taught insight meditation in Brooklyn, New York. As a consultant to the Boston College Athletic Department, George works with the men and women’s basketball and soccer teams, as well as the women’s field hockey, softball, volleyball and lacrosse teams. In 2003, he was one of several meditation teachers invited to participate with Dalai Lama and a group of former prisoners in the “Healing through Great Difficulty” three-day conference held in New York City.
Research Advisory Council
Dr. John Astin, PhD
Research Scientist, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco
John Astin is a Research Scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. His research and clinical work has focused on several related areas: 1) the use of mind-body therapies, particularly mindfulness meditation, to treat various health-related problems; 2) psychosocial factors associated with use of complementary and alternative medical therapies; 3) the psychological construct of control and its relationship to mental and physical health; and, 4) the role of spirituality in healthcare. John received his Ph.D. in Health Psychology from the University of California, Irvine. From 1997-1999, he was a research fellow in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program at the Stanford University School of Medicine. From 2000-2002, he was the director of mind-body research at the Complementary Medicine Program, University of Maryland School of Medicine. He has occupied his present position at CPMC since July of 2002. His research has appeared in such journals as Archives of Internal Medicine, JAMA, and the Annals of Internal Medicine. John is the co-author (with Deane Shapiro) of the book: Control therapy: An integrated approach to psychotherapy, health, and healing.
Thao Le, MPH, PhD
Senior Fellow, National Council on Crime & Delinquency
Thao Le is an Assistant Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department at Colorado State University (CSU). She also has joint appointments with the Colorado School of Public Health, and serves as the Director of Translation and Dissemination Activities for the Colorado Injury Control Research Center. As a senior fellow with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Thao has conducted multiple research and evaluation studies with immigrant and ethnic minority youth. She has 27 publications in peer-reviewed journals related to adolescent development that focus on delinquency and at-risk behaviors, as well as on topics related to cultural influences on the development of wisdom self-transcendence. She is currently the Co-Principal Investigator on a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense/NIFA to develop a mindfulness curriculum for 225 military youth.
Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas, PhD
Science Director, Greater Good Science Center
Emiliana Simon-Thomas is the Science Director of the Greater Good Science Center, where she oversees GGSC’s Expanding Gratitude project. She earned her doctorate in Cognition Brain and Behavior at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation used behavioral and neuroscience methods to examine how negative states, such as fear and aversion, influence thinking and decision-making. During her postdoctorate, Emiliana shifted to studying pro-social states, including love of humanity, compassion, and awe. From there, she served as Associate Director/Senior Scientist at CCAre (the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University), focusing on how compassion benefits health, well-being, and psychosocial functioning. Today, Emiliana’s work spotlights the science that connects health and happiness to social affiliation, caregiving, and collaborative relationships. She continues to examine the potential for–as well as the benefits of–living a more meaningful life.
Susan L. Smalley, PhD
Founder and Director, Mindful Awareness Research Center, UCLA
Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA
Dr. Susan L. Smalley is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and Founder and Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center in the Semel Institute. Dr. Smalley’s research laboratory at UCLA investigates the genetic basis of childhood onset psychiatric disorders such as ADHD and neurodiversity, in general. She is particularly interested in how self-regulation of environments – including one’s own attentional states – can be used to enhance health and well-being while reducing impairment associated with neurobiological differences. This work has led to research on mindfulness including studies of basic biological mechanisms, relationship and intervention in childhood onset psychiatric disorders including ADHD, and dissemination of mindfulness across the lifespan, from Pre-K to the elderly. Dr. Smalley is widely published in both scientific journals and mainstream press (e.g. The Huffington Post) as she is particularly interested in the intersection of science and self-exploration (such as meditation) and its translation to the general public. Lab websites: http://www.marc.ucla.edu and www.adhd.ucla.edu
Susan Turner, PhD
Co-Director, Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, University of California, Irvine.
Professor, Criminology, Law and Society, University of California, Irvine.
Susan is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California Irvine. She serves as Co-Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, and is a board member of the California Rehabilitation Oversight Board. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has led research projects including studies on racial disparity, field experiments of private sector alternatives for serious juvenile offenders, and a 14-site evaluation of intensive supervision probation. Her areas of expertise include the design and implementation of randomized field experiments and research collaborations with state and local justice agencies. She has conducted a number of evaluations of drug courts, including a nationwide implementation study. Her article, “A Decade of Drug Treatment Court Research” (2002) appeared in Substance Use and Misuse, summarizing over 10 years of drug court research conducted while she was at RAND Corporation. Susan is a member of the American Society of Criminology, the American Probation and Parole Association, and a Fellow of the Academy of Experimental Criminology.
Angela M. West, PhD
Developer of the MTASA- Mindfulness Thinking and Acting Scale for Adolescents
Ms. West has studied mindfulness meditation as an adjunctive therapy since 2001; initially in a maximum security forensic mental hospital. In 2003, she initiated her own research in this field focusing on measurement of mindfulness in an adolescent population. The result of an initial project dedicated to measuring mindfulness in youth resulted in an experimental self-report questionnaire, the Mindful Thinking and Action Scale for Adolescents (MTASA). The MTASA is a thirty-two item pencil and paper instrument designed for administration to English speaking adolescents ages thirteen through nineteen. Currently, this project is in a second stage devoted to determining the psychometric properties of the MTASA, along side mindfulness measures designed for use with adults. Results are expected to assist with the further exploration of mindfulness as a potential wellbeing marker in adolescence.