Staff and Board
Get to Know Who’s at Metta
Michael Nagler, 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 15 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 1970s 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 N. Van Hook, Executive Director
Stephanie N. Van Hook is passionate about the power nonviolence and constructive conflict resolution, especially in its practical applications in early childhood education and unarmed peacekeeping.
She has been working with the Metta Center since 2007, starting as our Executive Director in 2010. She is the author of Gandhi Searches for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children and the host of Nonviolence Radio, which airs on community station KWMR every other Friday at 1pm PST.
In her free time, Stephanie is a Montessori educator at Red Barn Montessori in Petaluma, California, and draws insight and encouragement from the works of the great feminist peace educator, Dr. Maria Montessori. She is associated with the Green Shadow Cabinet, Peaceworkers and the US Peace Corps (Benin 2005-2007). In 2015, she wrote a daily column on Gandhi’s wisdom for our times.
She is a novice weaver and spinner (in the Gandhian spirit) but primarily a spiritual aspirant. She attributes her energy to her daily meditation practice as well as the gentle, magnanimous spirits of the beloved children at her school. If she knows anything at all, it is because mentors and guides have taken her under their wings. And she is deeply aware that if she accomplishes anything at the Metta Center, it’s because of the dedication and love of the entire team with whom she is honored to work.
Kimberlyn David, Director of Communications
Kimberlyn David is inspired by the power of creative communication. As stories bring us together, she sees storytelling as a means to generate harmony and engage our highest human potential. Part of her work at the Metta Center includes serving as Editor and Creative Director of Nonviolence Magazine.
Kimberlyn has worn several communication hats over the years: writer, editor, researcher, media strategist, publisher. Throughout her academic studies, she bridged her interests in social justice and telecommunications policy by interning for journalism and media reform organizations. Kimberlyn earned an MA in Media and Cultural Studies from New York University and a BA in Culture and Communication from Ithaca College.
Besides overseeing communications at the Metta Center, Kimberlyn helps ethical brands use stories to bring more healing, kindness and cooperation into the world. She also teaches yoga. Kimberlyn, who currently works from the Netherlands, joined the Metta Center staff in November 2014. Learn more about her on her website.
Stephanie Steiner: Director of Education
Stephanie Steiner is a peace educator and yoga teacher based in San Diego, California. She initially collaborated with the Metta Center on a course on nonviolence for educators through her work as the Peace Education Program Coordinator at Teachers Without Borders. She also served as a research fellow at the Metta Center 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 she has extensive experience working and living abroad. Her passion for nonviolence is deeply rooted in her yoga practice, and she aspires to apply nonviolence in all aspects of her life. Stephanie is currently a graduate student at Pacifica Graduate Institute, where she is specializing in Community, Liberation and Ecopsychology.
Soneile Hymn, Director of Flow
Soneile Hymn is a lifelong explorer, activist and community organizer. She joined her first protest at the age of 10 to protect whales. That same year she began attending Green Party meetings and anti-nuclear demonstrations with her mother. Her greatest loves are her daughter, Ramona, and the natural world, which she also considers part of her family.
After having earned her BA in Digital Arts and exploring the Americas with her backpack, she earned her Masters in Activism and Social Change from New College of California in 2007. She has since been involved in various experimental and rebellious community education projects, and has dedicated much of the last decade supporting indigenous and migrant rights. She is now focusing more of her time towards protecting and enjoying our dwindling wild spaces while enjoying the amazing work of parenting. She is finding ways that nonviolence can and is supporting her current project of building inner strength, connection and direction so she can be a more resilient and effective agent of change. Soneile joined Metta Center in May 2014.
Fancy: Office Dog & Liaison to the Animal Kingdom
Fancy accepts payment in form of treats. You can send her a treat by mailing it to: Box 98, Petaluma, CA 94953.
Board of Directors
Michael Nagler, President
James Phoenix, Vice President
James Phoenix earned his BA in Political Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and his MA in English Literature at Hunter College, CUNY. He is a poet and has been a writer and publisher in the private and nonprofit sectors. Besides serving as the vice-president of Metta Center’s board of directors he is also its treasurer.
Jim is a board member and program officer for the Fenwick Foundation. He also volunteers in the Programs and Development Departments for the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. You can find Jim’s poetry at jamesphoenix.com. Learn more about him on his other two websites: tamethewind.org and reunionwithreality.org.
Tal Palter-Palman, Secretary
Tal Plater-Palman focuses on social movements and nonviolence, and she has been involved in the peace movement in Israel and Palestine. She earned her BA in History and Peace and Conflict Studies at UC Berkeley and her MA in History from San Francisco State University.
Born and raised in a small village in Israel, Tal teaches peace studies courses and history (US, women and Middle East) at Berkeley City College.
Tiffany Ornelas de Tool, Treasurer
As a trainer and human rights advocate specializing in conflict resolution, intercultural dialogue and community protection, Tiffany Ornelas de Tool 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.
Tiffany loves to play chess and is passionate about organic and sustainable foods.
Before assuming her current responsibilities as Major Gifts Associate in 2010 for Nonviolent Peaceforce, Gilda Bettencourt 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 Portugues, and her research and 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. Gilda is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has lived since 1989. Gilda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maja Bengtson has worked with personal growth, communication and leadership development since 1991. Maja holds an MA in Clinical Psychology with an individual specialization in Conflict Resolution and Organization Development. Maja is certified as an Integral Coach, has worked extensively with Nonviolent Communication and is an affiliate member of the Peace Psychology division of the American Psychological Association.
As a founder, co-founder, board member and manager of a range of small businesses, associations and nonprofit groups since the mid 1980s, Maja also has significant experience in strategic planning, project management and development work. Maja currently serves on the Board of Directors for Metta Center for Nonviolence, is on the Dream Team for Canticle Farm in Oakland, CA, and directs her Swedish corporation, Sustainable Futures AB. She lives in co-housing and is a dedicated practitioner of Sahaj Marg meditation. Learn more about Maja on her website.
Cynthia Boaz (Honorary)
Cynthia Boaz is associate professor and scholar-practitioner of civil resistance and nonviolent strategy in the Department of Political Science at Sonoma State University. She is a former VP and member of the board of the Metta Center. Cynthia is an affiliated scholar with the UNESCO Chair of Philosophy for Peace Master Program in Peace, Conflict, and Development Studies in Castellon de la Plana, Spain and is on the academic advisory committee of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. She has worked with veterans of several struggles including Burma, South Africa, Serbia, and the US Civil Rights campaign, including Rev. Dr. James Lawson. She considers her interview with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ibadi of Iran to be a highlight of her work in this field. Cynthia has been invited to speak on nonviolent strategy in India, Chile, Australia, Spain, Canada, and all over the United States. She has written a number of articles and book chapters on civil resistance, and she is a contributor to Waging Nonviolence, Truthout, OpenDemocracy, and Huffington Post.
Mitsuko (Anna) Ikeda
Anna Ikeda is currently Program Associate at the UN Liaison office in New York of Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist movement linking more than 12 million people around the world. Since joining the office in October 2014, she has focused on peace and disarmament issues, among other topics.
In addition, Anna is a full-time MS student (and starting her PhD program in Fall 2015) in Global Affairs at Rutgers Newark, where her studies focus on nonviolent social movements. Her research interest is anti-U.S. base movements in Asia, and she hopes to conduct interdisciplinary research that draw both from international politics and studies of civil resistance.
Her passion for nonviolence derives from her belief in each life’s dignity and conviction that people have the power to transform society. She “discovered” nonviolence as a field of study in 2013 when she took a course through the University for Peace online program. She was struck by the concept because it encompassed everything she believes in – including her spirituality as a Buddhist, her academic background, and passion for social change. Anna is also a graduate of Metta Center’s Certificate Program in Nonviolence Studies (pilot). Upon the completion of the program, she also served as Metta’s first Roadmap fellow to create online platforms where Roadmap travelers can engage in ongoing dialogue and resource sharing.
Prior to joining SGI’s UN Liaison Office, Anna worked as Project Director at the National Network for Oral Health Access, a nationwide membership organization of oral health professionals working in underserved communities in the U.S. Anna graduated from University of Denver with MA in International Human Rights, and completed her BA at Soka University of America.
After graduating from Oberlin College and briefly running away to join the circus, Anna Leinberger moved to Madaba, Jordan to help found King’s Academy. She has since lived in South America, South California and now the San Francisco Bay Area.
As a Quaker, she has been involved in nonviolence her whole life, but upon discovering Peace and Conflict Studies 168, she decided to pursue deeper work in peace and nonviolence.
Anna worked at Metta Center as a volunteer, research fellow and director of publications before joining the board of directors.
Nandu Menon hails from Kerala, South India. After completing his Masters in Software Engineering from India, he pursued MS in Computer Science at University of Southern California, LA. He was Senator of the Graduate Student Body of the USC and also acted as the Campus Ambassador for Intel Corporation. After interning with Intel at Bengaluru (India), Chandler (Arizona) and Portland (Oregon), he joined Intel HQ at Santa Clara. At present he is the co-chair of the NextGen Professionals Network at Intel SC.
In the summer of 2012, Nandu undertook a promotional tour of Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, India along with his parents driving all the way from Portland to Rhode Island visiting Gandhian centers, departments of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at many universities and meeting the likes of Dr.Bernard Lafayette Jr. and Dr.Gene Sharp. Later on he got acquainted with Gandhian scholars such as Prof.Dennis Dalton, Prof.Myron J.Lunine and Prof.Michael Nagler. Inspired by these stalwarts, Nandu founded the ‘Gandhi Initiative @ Silicon Valley’ in 2014 which runs on the strength of goodwill of many senior Gandhians back home in India.
Nandu, a health enthusiast and an aspiring vegan, takes up volunteering at Karma Kitchen, old age homes and food banks in his leisure time. Occasionally he attends the Awakin Circles of ServiceSpace founded by Nipun Mehta.
Richard J. Meyer (Honorary)
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 co-founded three political organizations in Orange and Riverside counties. In 2004, Richard won the Democratic nomination for the 45th congressional district of California. Richard currently resides in Newport Beach, California.
Prashant Nema (Honorary)
Prashant Nema is a resident of the Greater Seattle area of Washington, where he lives with his family and amongst many wonderful friends. He works on software for a living and is currently employed at Microsoft Corporation.
For the past 10 years, Prashant has been involved with Asha for Education- Seattle chapter. Asha is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing about socio-economic change in India, primarily through education. Prashant’s work with Asha has been mostly related to fundraising (like biking from Seattle to Portland, tea selling, planning). He is yet to pick an India-based project, something that every volunteer does within the first year. He continues to “hang out” with this organization because he loves the democratic nature of the group, and because of his close, long-term friendships with other volunteers.
Prashant briefly volunteered as a journalist for KBCS, a community radio station in Bellevue, Washington, where he learned the basics of news reporting. He was also part of a small group of Occupy Seattle that explored NV strategies for Occupy.
He is currently interested in pursuing NV education and bringing it to schools by the time his son is enrolled. At home, Prashant is a failed organic-garden farmer and an enthusiastic solar cooker (in cloudy Seattle!).
Lorin Peters (Honorary)
While serving four years in the Peace Corps, Thailand, Lorin Peters received a death threat, which eventually led him to Gandhi, and to nonviolence.
During the U.S. war in Vietnam, and 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.
September 11, 2001 occurred one week into his sabbatical, when he had begun studying nonviolence under Professor Michael Nagler at UC Berkeley. At that point, Lorin 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. Lorin has trained Metta Center interns on nonviolent conflict intervention.
Susan Rockrise spent 30 years developing some of the world’s most emulated brands. She lives in Tomales, West Marin, California, 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. She is Identity Consultant at Rockrise + Associates.
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, James has been founder or co-founder of a dozen software ventures, several in online education, and he 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 2003-2009, 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. Sky is also a member of the Board of Directors of The Dalai Lama Foundation.