Friday, August 17 , 2018, 10:38 pm | Fair 69º


Carol Pearson Inaugurated as President of Pacifica Graduate Institute

Professor, author and former provost outlines her vision for the Carpinteria-based graduate school's 'time of transition'

Carol Pearson, inaugurated Thursday as president of Pacifica Graduate Institute, was on the fast track to a college presidency 25 years ago, but her husband, David Merkowitz, says she took herself off that track because she felt it wasn’t the work she was called to do.

“It was a courageous move, but the result was a series of books and instruments beginning with The Hero Within that shaped discourse around and archetypal psychology and had a profound impact on thousands of people and organizations around the world,” said Merkowitz, a political and public affairs consultant for Pacifica.

He said Pearson had no desire to lead an entire institution until she got a call from Pacifica three years ago.

“Had it been any other school she would’ve said no, but Pacifica called to her in a synchronistic way,” Merkowitz said. “So she agreed to visit and consider an offer.”

Three years later, Pearson is now Pacifica’s president. The professor, author and former provost will lead the Carpinteria-based graduate school that offers master’s and doctoral degree programs framed in the traditions of in-depth psychology.

The school inaugurated its new president Thursday afternoon at its Ladera Lane campus. She succeeds founding President Stephen Aizenstat.

“I mean to build an ever-stronger marriage between our commitments to academic excellence and to depth, and ensure that we enjoy the process of working together,” Pearson said. “What I ask is for you to join me in committing to make our best years the ones ahead of us. I know that together we can be successful beyond what we have yet even imagined. I cannot think of a better group of people to do it with.”

Pearson’s vision was sevenfold. It included a more compelling narrative depicting the school’s story and why psychology and mythology matter, a solid marriage of academics and depth, sustainable growth, student and alumni services, the experience of eros, ongoing innovation and structures to harvest abundance.

“This year is a time of transition for Pacifica,” Pearson said. “It’s no longer a startup in that heady phase when all seems possible even while survival is always at issue. Today we are more like successful, high-achieving young adults, still fueled with vision but beginning to assume the responsibilities and face the constraints of adulthood.”

Other speakers Thursday included Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider; Donna Shavlik, former director of the Office of Women in Higher Education at the American Council on Education; Goddard College President Emerita Barbara Mossberg; faculty member Mary Watkins; student John Bankas; graduate Lupe Zuniga; Pacifica Provost Pat Katsky and Board of Trustees chairman Ernest Zomalt.

“In addition to helping us see an important new understanding of ourselves at a conceptual level, Carol has brought an equally important gift in her ability to create an effective heart-centered working climate around her,” Katsky said. “Her receptivity to ideas of others and respectful nonjudgmental responses have brought innovative approaches to organizational levels and allow what’s best at Pacifica to emerge and flourish.”

Schneider ended her speech with a quote from Joseph Campbell.

“A hero is someone who has given their life to something that is bigger than oneself,” she said.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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