Executive Director: Mary Stancavage
Mary Stancavage joined Mind Body Awareness Project in January 2016 as part of the formal affiliation with Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society (ATS). Mary has served as Director of ATS since its opening in 2009. She has practiced meditation, yoga, and cultivated a spiritual practice for almost 30 years. She taught mindfulness at recovery centers in Los Angeles, completed the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at the Sati Center and served as volunteer chaplain at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Mary sits on the board of the Buddhist Insight Network and has volunteered with CLUE-LA (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice). She has a Masters from UCLA.
Mary is committed to MBA’s purpose in bringing mindfulness-based interventions and emotional intelligence training to incarcerated and at-risk youth. She has an extensive organizational background both in corporate and non-profit settings and will utilize those skills to allow MBA to focus on its core mission. Reaching those who are historically marginalized is of utmost importance and Mary is excited to be part of this important work and will work hard to enable MBA to expand its reach.
Mary can be reached at 415-824-2048 x701.
Clinical Program Director: Jennie Powe Runde
Jennie is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and has been working with youth at risk and their families for over 15 years. Jennie received an M.A. in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Expressive Arts from JFK University in 2005, and received a B.A. in Cultural Studies with a Minor in World Religions from McGill University in 2000.
During her college years, Jennie worked with several organizations devoted to empowering and supporting at risk youth. She made weekly visits to juvenile hall as part of McGill Students for Literacy, and facilitated workshops with an organization developed to address the disproportionate number of minority youth in the juvenile justice system. She also began taking classes in Buddhism and started on the path of mindfulness and meditation, which continues to this day. After graduation, Jennie joined AmeriCorps to work as a mentor for teens on probation. She found that she loved working with the population, and especially helping young people discover their inherent creativity to encourage reflection and deeper self-understanding.
In 2002, Jennie joined the Seneca Center (now Seneca Family of Agencies) where she remained for the next 11 years. At Seneca, Jennie worked with some of the Bay Area’s most vulnerable youth and their families in different roles, ultimately as Clinical Director for a school-based mental health program. Her passion for expressive arts, values based work, and the importance of including all voices in a team-based approach to treatment strongly influences her work. Jennie is excited to join MBA Project, and bridge her professional and personal values to help individuals and groups connect with themselves and each other with courage and compassion.
Jennie can be reached at 415-824-2048 x702.
Program Director: Micah Anderson
Born in Connecticut, Micah spent several of his teen years in and out of placements due to struggles with drugs, crime, and anger. Around this time, he was introduced to 12-step fellowship, and after extensive travel overseas, began a personal meditation practice in the early 1990s.
He began working with MBA in 2011. Since then, he taught retreats and led trainings on mindfulness, emotional literacy, and mental wellness in five countries, and leads a weekly meditation group in the Bay Area. He is also the Wellness Director at Ta’leef Collective, a Fremont, CA. organization that provides an alternative social and sacred space for Muslim converts and seekers. He is currently a MFT trainee with a humanistic-existential lens, focusing on both trauma-informed approaches and and mindfulness-based interventions. As a founding member of the Dharma Punx, he draws from a wide variety of personal experiences, including over 20 years meditation practice, a deep understanding and passion for youth counter-culture movements, and an experiential understanding of the world’s wisdom traditions, which he loves to translate to incarcerated and at-risk youth.
Micah lives in Oakland, CA. with his wife and two children, and is pursuing his Masters in Psychology at Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA. He plans to graduate from Sofia University in 2016, and is currently undergoing supervision for his MFT license. He loves to spend time with his family, drink matcha tea, and catch up on his collection of books.
Micah can be reached at 415-824-2048 x703.
Program Management Consultant: 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.
Communications & Operations Manager: Shelby Jackson
Originally from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Shelby Jackson received her B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in English from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Shelby joined the MBA team after working in communications for a start-up nonprofit in NYC, and is passionate about community building, meaningful collaboration, and social entrepreneurship.
Shelby explored her interest in empowering incarcerated populations through designing an independent study at Dartmouth entitled “Putting Theory to Practice: Education as the Practice of Freedom.” Theoretically based in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Shelby fostered a learning environment in which each participant was simultaneously teacher and student. The group overcame differences by engaging in a space beyond jail walls, opening up lines of communication through beat boxing and freestyle poetry.
Shelby oversees MBA’s meditation instructors and interns with the Executive Director, in addition to managing MBA’s communications, development and operations. Shelby is a volunteer instructor for the MBA Project and enjoys running outside and creative writing.
Shelby can be reached at 415-824-2048 x700.
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.
Kamal can be reached at 415-824-2048 x704.
Jylani Ma’at is a seasoned educator who has taught children and adults across the U.S. and abroad. Her background as a progressive, public and private school teacher, in both challenged and affluent school communities, allows her a unique perspective on the diverse experiences of children and the adults that support them. She is particularly interested in the integration of mindfulness, movement, social justice and arts education in urban and underserved communities. She specializes in creating culturally relevant lessons supported by children’s picture books. It is her belief that children benefit from hearing stories and seeing themselves reflected in ways that honor their lives. Jylani’s mindfulness journey began as a therapeutic way to deal with the many difficulties and stresses she faced as a middle income, single mother of two in Brooklyn, NY. The salvation of her meditation and yoga practice helped her to find the strength to change careers and realize a fabulous sense of peace for her family. From that point, Jylani redirected her energy toward the mindful education of children and families, community outreach and culturally-relevant wellness practices. The Practice Peace Project, a mindfulness in education + lifestyle movement, was born from this space of love, peace and intention.
Oscar Medina initiated a meditation practice during a turbulent period in his life and experienced what can only be described as coming home. Since then, meditation has become his anchor, and he has deepened and evolved the practice through retreats, personal study, and the greatest teacher—life itself. He is a Dalai Lama Fellow and co-founder of Mindful Garden Collective; an Oakland urban garden and environmental restoration project. He is a social entrepreneur, storyteller for impact projects, and is a Purpose Mentor for individuals and organizations through his work with FingerPrint Life. He is honored to facilitate and serve through his experience and presence, and commits to empowerment, healing, and holding space for the youth’s own light to awaken to itself.
Oscar can be reached at 415-824-2048 x707.
Syra Smith is an engaged artist, activist, community organizer, sharing cultivator and mindfulness educator interested in deep ecology and manifesting a culture where we can turn toward fearless abundance and generosity. She is Founder and Curator for Oakland’s Dana Cafe, a monthly gathering offering transformational teachings at no cost to participants. She co-leads and organizes East Bay Meditation Center’s weekly Teen Sangha and has been educating and working with young people for over 15 years. A lifetime meditator, she graduated East Bay Meditation Center’s Commit to Dharma study program in 2011 and is a current participant in Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s 2 year Community Dharma Leaders training cohort, CDL5. She’s proud to be part of the amazing team at Mind Body Awareness Project.
Syra can be reached at 415-824-2048 x706.
Phoenix Soleil is an artist and trainer committed to creating more compassion and redemption in our society. She has over 300 days of formal meditation practice on retreat, where she focuses on cultivating self-awareness and compassion for all beings. In her work, she uses Nonviolent Communication (NVC), a form of compassionate communication that supports us to attuning to our feelings and values. Whenever possible she invokes her background in conscious dance, Laughter Yoga, acting, and the expressive arts to build healthy, authentic, joyful, and engaged communities of all ages.
Phoenix can be reached at 415-824-2048 x705.
Board of Directors
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.
Josh Leichter, JD is the Deputy General Counsel and Senior Business Development Director at Natera, a prenatal testing company based in the Bay Area although Josh currently resides in Boston. Josh brings legal expertise, and a business development and planning background.
Noah Levine, one of the founders of MBA Project, has taught meditation in juvenile halls and prisons for 10 years and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. As a Buddhist teacher, Noah has led rights of passage retreats for youth and he has become a leading advocate for incarcerated youth. He is trained to teach by Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA. 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 lives in Los Angeles and has authored Dharma Punx, a spiritual biography chronicling his transformation from Juvenile hall to spiritual activist.
Vanessa Mason is a digital health product strategist, UX designer and marketer. To improve health outcomes, she advises startups and other health innovation groups by uniting design thinking and public health approaches. Vanessa has facilitated strategic partnerships and organizational development for projects funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. She also led global health service design initiatives in Mozambique, Argentina and Brazil and supported mobile health product development for clients in West and East Africa. Vanessa earned her BA from Yale University and her MPH from Columbia University.
Santosh Philip is a designer with advanced degrees in Architecture from the Center of Environmental Planning and Technology, in Ahmedabad, India, and the University of Minnesota. He is also a software specialist, LEED Accredited Professional, and ASHRAE certified Building Energy Modeling Professional. Mr. Philip designs high performance buildings at residential, commercial and urban scale at Loisos + Ubbelohde. He is the author of open source software with energy simulation software packages programs that allow detailed energy simulations of complex buildings. Previously Santosh worked as the Vice President of Product Development at Materion, Inc., and the Interim Vice President and Product Manager at Qool.com. He has received the Gold Medal from the Gujarat Institute of Architects.
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.
Vinny Ferraro was running the streets at a young age. With an incarcerated father and not much supervision he soon found himself headed there too. Vinny was introduced to the path of service in 1987 and began a journey that has taken him from MTV to San Quentin. In 2001, he began teaching for Challenge Day, where he taught emotional intelligence and other social skills to youth. Vinny eventually become their Training Director, leading workshops for over 100,000 youth. He went on to become the Training Director for the MBA Project and is currently the Senior Trainer for Mindful Schools in Oakland. Vinny is a meditation instructor and a nationally recognized leader in designing and implementing interventions for at-risk youth. He is one of the founding members of Dharma Punx and the Guiding Teacher of Against The Stream Meditation Society, and doesn’t like talking about himself in the 3rd person.
Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. 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, Ph.D. 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 currently runs his personal practice Lion Mind in Oakland.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher. He is Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where, in 1979, he founded the world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Clinic, and in 1995, the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society (CFM). Among his books are Full Catastrophe Living, Wherever You Go, There You Are, Coming to Our Senses, and Mindfulness for Beginners. His books are in print in over 35 languages. His research career focused on mind/body interactions for healing and the clinical applications of mindfulness meditation training for people with chronic pain and stress-related disorders. The work of Jon and his colleagues at the CFM has contributed to a growing movement of mindfulness into mainstream institutions such as: medicine, psychology, health care, neuroscience, schools, corporations, prisons, and professional sports. Hospitals and medical centers around the world now offer clinical programs based on training in mindfulness and MBSR. Jon is also the founding convener of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (CAHCIM). He lectures and leads mindfulness workshops and retreats throughout the world.
Chris McKenna is Program Director at Mindful Schools, one of the leading organizations in the U.S. integrating mindfulness into education and youth mental health. Mindful Schools has trained educators in all 50 U.S. states and 80+ countries, impacting over 300,000 children and adolescents. Chris was the Executive Director of MBA from 2009 to 2012. He is on the Curriculum Advisory Committee of Dalai Lama Fellows and the Advisory Councils of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, Mindful Muslims, and Veterans PATH.
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, Ph.D.
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, Ph.D.
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, Ph.D.
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, Ph.D.
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, Ph.D.
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 more than 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, Ph.D.
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.