The Graduate Institute Blog


Where Are We Going? by James D. Trifone, Ph.D., Academic Director for the Learning and Thinking Program at The Graduate Institute

As we enter into the New Year we, at The Graduate Institute, invite you to reflect on the following question posed by internationally recognized visionary, speaker and author Duane Elgin. In his book The Living Universe, Elgin asks the thought-provoking question: “Where are we on our journey of collective awakening?” Toward that end, we ask you to consider making a New Year’s resolution to walk the Hero’s Journey.

Over the past few million years, the human journey has involved creatively adapting to the vicissitudes of change imposed on us by nature. Humans, like all nature’s creatures, are shaped by natural selection pressures arising from evolving changes in environmental niches. However humans, unlike other organisms, have been endowed with the capacity to alter their environment to their needs and, therefore, have transcended nature’s biological process of evolving adaptations. Moreover, as a consequence of consciously altering our environment towards satisfying our own ends, we have severed the inherent umbilical ties with our life source, nature, and have resultantly become a species adrift and isolated from our ancestral roots. One of the major messages of Elgin’s work has been to illuminate the ways that we occupy a living universe whose inhabitants are interconnected physically, chemically, biologically, psychologically and spiritually. The challenge before us, as Elgin has so eloquently presented, is to re-member our relationship with the earth and re-turn to a way of living that sees humans as members of a living planet that belongs to a living universe. The opportunity before us is living authentically, which is aligning one’s thoughts and actions towards finding significance, value, purpose and therefore meaning in our existence. This authentic path will not just passively unfold before us. Rather, we will need to discover unanticipated challenges and obstacles that test our mettle and resolve. It is here that those with the courage of heart, keenness of mind and stalwart of spirit persist, persevere and eventually gain the perspicacity to find their way through the quagmire referred to as their life path. Those who have emerged victoriously know first-hand why it is mythologized as the Hero’s Journey. Mythologist Joseph Campbell metaphorically described this journey as a process underlying all growth, learning and self-discovery or what philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer referred to as “the dialogue that we are”.

The Hero’s Journey requires that the journeyman explorer be willing to shed her shallow and ephemeral “egoic self” and open oneself to realizing her relationship with a deeper and persistent “cosmic Self”. While mythic stories abound from all cultures regarding the specifics of the journey, all can be reduced to a process that takes the hero on a path of separation from her everyday world and subjects her to myriad tests and challenges that serve as an initiation to a new perspective of self and reality and culminates with the return of the hero, who has been transformed and enlightened with some new insight or discovery that is then shared in communion with her people. The hero’s journey is an archetype that we, as individuals, are challenged with taking in our lives. However, as Elgin emphatically urges us, the time has come for us, as a collective species, to take the next step in Humanity’s Heroic Journey and re-awaken to our deep connections with our planet and the universe. Re-awakening to our ancestral ties with Mother Universe will, in time, restore a sense of integration and unity with Her.
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Leadership and Learning: An Interview with Anne Griswold

b2ap3_thumbnail_AnneGriswold_7102c.jpgAnne Griswold is the Principal of Learning and Organizational Effectiveness at Altera, a Silicon Valley technology company that is the pioneer of programmable logic solutions.  As someone who has devoted her life to leadership development, Anne's pursuit of the MA in Organizational Leadership at TGI was not only the next logical step in her professional advancement; it was an integral phase of her personal journey and the dedication to lifelong learning that she sees as fundamental to her mission of optimizing human potential.

The following is an interview with Anne about her professional work, her accomplishments and insights, and her experience in the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) Program: 

Q: What made you decide to pursue your Master's in Organizational Leadership at TGI?

 "At the time I was working for LifeScan (a Johnson and Johnson company) and I was seeking another level of professional experience.  I already had one Master's degree and I knew I wanted some kind of continuing education.  Then I bumped into Mel Toomey, the director of the MAOL, and we started talking about what this program was about.  I realized that this could give me the opportunity to really push the envelope and expand my passions and interests in the world of learning and development, which has been my field for more than 20 years.  What I really wanted to explore when I enrolled in the program was this: how do you build sustainable leadership capability within organizations?"

Q: Can you say a little bit more about what you mean by "sustainable leadership capability?"

"Well, I first became interested in this idea when I ran my own consulting business.  I started to realize that a lot of organizations have leaders who uncover great insights when they are engaged in conference or training programs and do shift behaviors a little after the learning, but when they go back on the job, something gets lost.  For some reason they stop applying the new behavior.  My interest was in finding out why behaviors revert back and finding ways to change systems, structures and processes to build the sustainability of leadership inside organizations.  I've been on that journey ever since.

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Photo Credits: Maureen Edwards.
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