Staff and Board

Get to know who’s at Metta

Michael Nagler, President & Founder










Michael Nagler is Professor emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature at UC, Berkeley, where he co-founded the Peace and Conflict Studies Program in which he taught the immensely popular nonviolence course that was webcast in its entirety as well as PACS 90, “Meditation” and a sophomore seminar called “Why Are We Here? Great Writing on the Meaning of Life” for fifteen years.

Among other awards, he received the Jamnalal Bajaj International Award for “Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India” in 2007, joining other distinguished contributors to nonviolence as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and peace scholar and activist Johan Galtung in receiving this honor.

He is the author of The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide to Practical Action  (2014) as well as The Search for a Nonviolent Future, which received a 2002 American Book Award and has been translated into Korean, Arabic, Italian and other languages; Our Spiritual Crisis: Recovering Human Wisdom in a Time of Violence (2005); The Upanishads (with Sri Eknath Easwaran, 1987), and other books as well as many articles on peace and spirituality.

He has spoken for campus, religious, and other groups on peace and nonviolence for many years, especially since September 11, 2001. He has consulted for the U.S. Institute of Peace and many other organizations and is the founder and President of the board of the Metta Center for Nonviolence Education. Michael has worked on nonviolent intervention since the 1970’s and served on the Interim Steering Committee of the Nonviolent Peaceforce.

Michael is a student of Sri Eknath Easwaran, Founder of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, and has lived at the Center’s ashram in Marin County since 1970.



Stephanie Van Hook, Executive Director

Stephanie N. Van Hook is passionate about the power of deep nonviolence and constructive conflict resolution. She believes that people, when given the opportunity, can cooperate, work harmoniously with trust and integrity and build what they need without waiting for power structures to give them watered down versions of their highest ideals about human possibility. She has been working with the Metta Center since 2007, starting as ED in 2010. Besides working with Metta, she is a Montessori educator, and she is associated with the Green Shadow Cabinet, Peaceworkers, the US Peace Corps (Benin 2005-2007).



Bijoyeta Das, Director of Communications












Bijoyeta Das is a journalist and photographer. She has reported from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Turkey and USA and holds a masters degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, Boston USA. 

Das worked as the Managing Editor of ThinkBrigade a global affairs magazine, published by European Journalism Center. She was the 2012 Fellow at the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability at Columbia University and 2011 Peace Writer for the Women Peacemakers Program at the Institute for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego,USA and wrote a collection of stories about the life and works of Haiti’s first female prime minister. She was a 2012 Summer Research Fellow  for the Metta Center, working on a project about atonement.

She is a McGill Echenberg Fellow, one of the 25 Young Leaders selected to attend the 2013 Global Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the Fragility of Freedom at McGill University and is one of the 2013 Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders.

Her work has been published in Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Radio France Internationale, Women News Network, Women’s eNews, WAMC Northeast Public Radio and All India Radio. Her photo story “Dreams of a Goddess” won the Silver Medal at the TashkentAle-2010 photo festival, Uzbekistan. Her short documentary films “Branded Girls” and “The Saturday Mothers of Turkey” were official selections for the 2011 Women’s Voices Now Film Festival and were screened in the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates, and Our Lives to Live Film Festival.

Das has worked as an intern with Boston-based Dorchester Reporter and New England Press Association Bulletin.



Stephanie Knox-Cubbon: Director of Education 












Stephanie Knox Cubbon is our Director of Education. She is a peace educator and yoga teacher based in San Diego. Stephanie initially collaborated with Metta on a course on nonviolence for educators through her work as the Peace Education Program Coordinator at Teachers Without Borders(TWB); she also served as a research fellow at Metta before her invitation to join the core work team. As an edulearner faculty member and Online Learning Manager at the National Peace Academy, she develops, facilitates, and coordinates online courses on peace-related themes. She earned her Master of Arts in Peace Education from the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica, and her Bachelor of Arts in Environment and Development from McGill University in Montreal. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger from 2003-2005 and has extensive experience working and living abroad. Stephanie’s passion for nonviolence is deeply rooted in her yoga practice and she aspires to apply nonviolence in all aspects of her life.



Fancy: Office Dog and Liaison to the Animal Kingdom 












Fancy lives about a quarter of a mile from the Metta office in Petaluma and has been showing up for work on a regular basis for the past 2 years. Fancy accepts payment in form of treats. You can send Fancy a treat by mailing it in to Box 98, Petaluma, CA 94953

(Metta’s Petaluma office, front door)




Board of Directors

Michael Nagler, President

James Phoenix, Vice President








Born 1950 in Charlotte. NC. Lives with his wife, Joy, in San Rafael, CA. Education: UNC at Chapel Hill, Bachelors, Political Science; Hunter College, CUNY, Masters, English Literature. Career: writer and publisher in private and non-profit sectors. Currently: Vice President of METTA; Board of Directors of the Fenwick Foundation; and volunteer in Programs and Development Departments for the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation.


Gilda Bettencourt, Secretary

Before assuming her current responsibilities as Major Gifts Associate in 2010 for Nonviolent Peaceforce, Gilda served as Executive Assistant to NP Co-Founder David Hartsough and provided support to NP’s Strategic Relations and Capacity Building Departments. At each stage of her involvement, Gilda has demonstrated a deep commitment to the work and vision of NP. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Gilda brings her 15 years of study and practice in nonviolence, her fluency in Portuguese, and her research & training skills to work with NP. Gilda is a Board Member of Peaceworkers USA, an organization which promotes and supports nonviolent movements around the globe, and serves as Secretary of the Board for the METTA Center for Nonviolence Education. Gilda is a native of the Bay Area. She has lived in San Francisco since 1989. Gilda can be reached at


Maja Bengtson

maja selfie smile








Maja Bengtson has worked with personal growth, communication and leadership development since 1991. Maja holds an M. A. in Clinical Psychology, with an individual specialization in Conflict Resolution and Organization Development, is certified as an Integral Coach, and has worked extensively with Nonviolent Communication (NVC).

As a Founder, Co-founder, Board member and Manager of a range of small businesses, associations, and nonprofit groups since the mid 1980s, Maja has significant experience in strategic planning, project management, outreach and marketing, volunteer coordination, nonprofit development and major event production. Maja currently serves on the Board of Directors for Metta Center for Nonviolence, Petaluma, CA, is on the Dream Team for Canticle Farm in Oakland, CA, and directs her Swedish corporation, Sustainable Futures Skåne AB.

Maja lives in a cohousing community in Berkeley, CA. She is a dedicated practitioner of Sahaj Marg Meditation for over a decade, enjoys Conscious Dancing and being a bonus mom for 12 year old Erica.

 Visit her personal website here. 


Anna Leinberger


After graduating from Oberlin College and briefly running away to join the circus, Anna moved to Madaba, Jordan to help found King’s Academy. She has since lived in South America, South California, and now the Bay Area. As a Quaker, she has been involved in nonviolence her whole life, but upon discovering PACS 168 she decided to pursue deeper work in peace and nonviolence. She worked has worked at Metta as a volunteer, a research fellow, and director of publications before joining our board.


Tiffany Ornelas de Tool 












As a trainer and human rights advocate specializing in conflict resolution, intercultural dialogue and community protection, Tiffany has worked in Indonesia (West Papua), South Sudan, Gaza and South Korea. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas. In Germany, she received her certification as a Peace and Conflict consultant in 2010. She serves as a board member for Peaceworkers USA. She loves to play chess and is passionate about organic and sustainable foods.


Prashant Nema


Prashant Nema is a resident of Greater Seattle area where he lives with his family and amongst many wonderful friends.  He works on software for living and is currently employed at Microsoft Corporation.Prashant has been involved with Asha for Education- Seattle chapter for past 10 years. Asha is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to bringing about socio-economic change in India primarily through education.  Prashant’s work with Asha has been primarily related to fund raising (like biking seattle to portland, tea selling, planning).  He is yet to pick a India based project, something that every volunteer does within first year of working with the organization.  He continues to “hang-out” with this organization because he loves the democratic nature of the group and because of close long-term friendship that has been developed with other volunteers. In recent past he has been presenting Metta’s work to this group to bring awareness on NV education.

Prashant had a VERY brief experience as a volunteer journalist for KBCS(community radio station of Bellevue) where he learnt the basics of news reporting.

He was also part of a small group of Occupy Seattle that was exploring NV strategies for Occupy.

He is currently interested in pursuing NV education and bringing it to the schools by the time his son is ready to go to school.

At home front Prashant is a failed organic-garden farmer, enthusiast solar cooker(in Seattle!) and a novice father.


 Lorin Peters







While serving four years in the Peace Corps, Thailand, Lorin received a death threat, which eventually led him to Gandhi, and to nonviolence. During Vietnam, while teaching physics at a Catholic high school in Oakland, he was asked to create and teach a course on war and peace and nonviolence. He has taught Gandhian nonviolence ever since. After September 11th occurred one week into his sabbatical, studying nonviolence under Professor Michael Nagler at UC Berkeley, he began meditating. That year he was led to join Christian Peacemaker Teams, and to devote seven summers to peacemaking in Hebron, Palestine-Israel. He has taught a UC Extension course on nonviolence, presented programs on Gandhian nonviolence, on unarmed civilian peacekeeping, and on the Israeli-Palestinian occupation, and trained Metta interns in nonviolent conflict intervention.

Richard J. Meyer













Richard J. Meyer is an entrepreneur, visionary philanthropist, and instrument rated private pilot. Recently, he initiated the development of the book Beyond Forgiveness: Reflections on Atonement (Josey-Bass). Richard supports a wide range of causes, from recovery related programs to youth violence programs from the “consciousness and spiritual” based approaches to social change. Over the years, he has held numerous offices in service clubs, worked on various task forces and has chaired or co-chaired six nonprofit community efforts. He also cofounded three political organizations in Orange and Riverside counties. In 2004, he won the Democratic nomination for the 45th congressional district of California. Currently, he resides in Newport Beach, California.

 Tal Palter- Palman






Tal Palter- Palman, B.A. in History and Peace and Conflict Studies, U.C. Berkeley and M.A., History, San Francisco State University, teaches peace studies courses and U.S., women and Middle East history at Berkeley City College, in Berkeley, California. She was born and raised in a small village in Israel. Tal focuses on social movements and nonviolence, and she has been involved in the peace movement in Israel and Palestine.


 Susan Rockrise

Identity Consultant, Rockrise + Associates

After 30 years developing some of the world’s most emulated brands, Susan lives in Tomales, West Marin, CA. where she creates hospitable space for conversations about design, the future of branding, and life. Susan is keen to collaborate with impassioned designers and organizations to clarify, nourish and protect their brands.

James Schuyler








Jim Schuyler, PhD (“Sky”) is a computer scientist who focuses on computer-human interaction and communication. As a faculty member at Northwestern University, his research and teaching was focused on innovation in online education. Over the course of 10 years in university research, he created several broadly-used computer-based education systems. As an entrepreneur, he has been founder or co-founder of a dozen software ventures, several in online education, and currently invests much of his time in the online security aspects of defending human rights and free speech. His company, Red7, currently builds innovative software for online applications. As pro-bono CTO of The Dalai Lama Foundation from 2003 through 2009, he planned, developed and operated numerous novel online features. He was a member of the team that, in conjunction with the Metta Center, developed Educators for Nonviolence (EFNV.ORG). Sky is also a member of the Board of Directors of The Dalai Lama Foundation.