Strategic Advisory Council
The Metta Center is proud to work with the following individuals who serve on our Strategic Advisory Council (SAC).
Members meet with Metta staff four times a year to advise on innovations for Metta’s materials, explore opportunities to reach new communities and generate collective insight into nonviolent movements worldwide. The majority of SAC members have worked in past years as interns or completed research with the Metta Center. You can contact each SAC member through Metta Center email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the member’s name in the subject line.
Sahar Namazikhah is Nonviolence International’s Program Director at its headquarters in Washington DC. She is a PhD candidate at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, where her studies have focused on conflict prevention and nonviolent action. She was awarded “Visionary Peacemaker” in 2013 at George Mason University’s Center for the Study of Gender and Conflict. Sahar is a journalist with seventeen years of professional experience in the leading independent and nongovernmental media outlets in Iran and later in the United States. In 2005, she was selected as a Sauvé Scholar at McGill University, a prestigious scholarship award that goes to young leaders from across the globe whose unique initiative, motivation, vision, and awareness of international and domestic issues shows a strong desire to effect and change the world. While finishing her study in journalism, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in French Literature. She continued journalism while writing her Master’s Thesis on Comparative Religions and Human Rights, then her Post-Master’s in negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding. She has published hundreds of editorials and analytical reports on Iran’s conflicts, nonviolent movements, religious and cultural conflicts, ethnic minorities, students and women’s movements, civil society in Iran, and international relations.
Joseph H. Gardella
Born in Japan, Joseph Hiroyuki Gardella works to support healthy grassroots community development; build alternatives to structural and social psychological violence, particularly in schools; research processes of gender and civic identity development; and engage in community-based advocacy. He currently works as a graduate student, researcher and teacher at the Community Research and Action PhD program at Vanderbilt University.
Joseph holds a BA in Clinical and Social Psychology, with supplementary critical social theory and linguistics concentrations from the University of Rochester. He served as a Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence Service Fellow for three and a half years, and as a Kauffman Entrepreneurial Scholar, he developed an alternatives to violence program for suspended urban middle school students. Additionally, he engaged in the Metta Mentors program and worked with Pace e Bene in Oakland, CA.
For four years, Joseph worked as a research assistant in the Laboratory for Interpersonal Violence and Victimization, where he contributed to numerous local, national and international activist efforts to bring about greater peace, nonviolence, governance practices consistent with democratic and American pragmatist traditions, and healthy youth development. He intends to develop a career as a social psychology professor, community action researcher and active advocate for and practitioner of nonviolence. His personal interests include nonviolent epistemology; relational, transpersonal and sexual psychology; experimenting with practical everyday acts of nonviolence; community organizing; and classical piano. Joseph is excited to support nonviolence education for movements worldwide.
Erika Saca was born in El Salvador in 1981, in the midst of a civil war. Although she grew up shielded from the harsh national reality, she was aware of the suffering and violence around her and tried to make sense of it from early on.
Before moving to California, Erika worked as a creative in advertising while earning her BA in Social Communications. For her graduation project, she co-directed a documentary film on the life of a transsexual woman in San Salvador. She is currently pursuing her MA in Communications from Cal State University, Fullerton. She hopes to contribute to the advancement of nonviolence through her work in communications, and through her efforts in everyday life. Her interests include the study of nonviolence, Latin America, Buddhism, human rights, art, design, film, music and travel.
After learning about the work of his great grandfather, Dick Sheppard, Sam Pearce became dedicated to understanding violence. Upon graduating with a BA from the University of Kent, and Musashi University in Tokyo, Sam traveled to the Middle East, where he studied Political Science and Middle EastSstudies at Galilee International Management Institute. His academic work there was followed by volunteering in the West Bank with the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions in East Jerusalem.
Sam trained and practiced mediation and after a spell with Peace Brigades International in London, he developed his interest in human rights issues in Latin America by working as an international accompanier in Guatemala, with a focus in genocide cases. Sam joined Metta Center’s Nonviolence Immersion Program in 2010 and has since intensified his commitment to the field of nonviolence. Sam currently works with Global Zero, which campaigs for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Nikki Shonoiki is currently pursuing her MA in Human Services at Argosy University. She is an alumna of University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF), where she studied Intercultural Communication, Social Justice and Women’s and Gender Studies. During her time at UWRF, she was involved in groundbreaking extracurricular work that directly impacted students of color and women. She also co-founded Rise Up For Women’s Rights, the first feminist student organization at UWRF.
Her commitment to activism continued off campus, through participation in a number of local and national nonprofits: Choice USA, United Council of UW Students, Young People For…, United States Student Association, St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice and more. By the end of her time at UWRF, Nikki was awarded for her relentless commitment to building a more equitable campus and community, receiving both the UW Systems Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award and the UWRF Chancellor’s Award for Excellence.
In 2008, Nikki ran for elected office as a Pierce County Board Supervisor, and defeated the incumbent 2 to 1, becoming not only the youngest ever member but also the first African American woman elected to the county’s board. She’s currently working as an Administrator at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, in her hometown of Minneapolis.
Nikki’s started her relationship with Metta Center for Nonviolence as a Metta Mentor in 2009. Through the Mentor program, she was able to work with organizations like Women’s Economic Agenda Project, where she learned how to use research to strategically lobby for low-income women and their families. She hopes to continue reflecting on ways nonviolence can be used to combat global and local social issues. Nikki is also interested in challenging these issues directly by becoming a global volunteer through a program like the Peace Corps.
Med Arous currently lives in Tunisia. He is enrolled in a Masters of Communication program at the University of Sfax, Faculty of Arts and Humanities. He is also taking an online certificate course in instructional effectiveness at Washington State University.
Med works as a debate trainer at Young Arab Voices in Tunisia and implements the strategies of emotional intelligence and public speaking in his trainings. He also conducts trainings on peace education, human rights, social awareness and gender equality. In addition, he carries out awareness-raising activities by organizing and delivering public debates related to peace, global conflicts, youth empowerment, women’s rights and gender equality. He is a member of AIESEC, the world’s largest student-run organization.
As an activist and global citizen, Med seeks the empowerment of youth and women as well as achieving equal opportunities for all, remembering that whenever we want to reach something badly no one can stop us because “as a change agent, you have to deal with the circumstances.” Med is passionate about adventure, writing, reading, debating, networking, peace-fulfillment, fighting ignorance, traveling and discovering other cultures and playing on piano. His favorite quote is : ‘’It doesn’t matter what you believe; it only matters what you can prove.’’
Anjuman Ara Begum
She has researched and published on human rights and women’s rights in conflict situations, women in borderlands and sexual violence in conflict situation in North East India. Anjuman is also a freelance writer and right to information activist.
Gregory Otieno works on nonviolence and peace with youth in Kenya. Using Metta Center’s principles of nonviolence, he fosters peace between youth from different ethnic communities, who speak different languages and are divided by tribalism.
Gregory holds a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Moi University. In 2010, he led a delegate of Kenyan youth to the first Asian Africa Youth Forum, which focused on MDG’s and human rights, especially for women and youth. He consequently made a presentation titled “Democracy for Youth in Africa” at the 9th Dialogue on Science and Society in Engelberg, Switzerland. Gregory is also an alumnus of Youth Encounter for Sustainability and the current Kenya country coordinator of Advocacy Initiative for Development.
Nina Koevets is in the final stage of a two-year master’s program in Global Studies at Gothenburg University, Sweden. Her thesis is about globalization from below, examining transnational networking of a community in Portugal. This community, Tamer’, calls itself a “Healing Biotope” and integrates social, environmental and spiritual aspects of sustainability. She also holds an MA in Conflict Resolution and Governance from the University of Amsterdam.
Nina has interned at United Network of Young Peacebuilders and volunteered in Israel-Palestine. She has also worked with Bay Area Nonviolent Communication (NVC), where she joined many workshops and organized volunteers to bring NVC to the local farmers market, and with the Center for Conflict Resolution and Human Security in India.
Over the last few years, she has pursued learning more about nonviolence and all its different aspects—civil disobedience, noncooperation, everyday resistance and constructive program—as well as the importance of power relations and cultural diversity. Nina hopes to contribute to a process of gaining more understanding on how people can build peace between and inside themselves.
Kazu Haga is the founder and coordinator of the East Point Peace Academy and is a trainer in Kingian Nonviolence. He teaches Dr. King’s philosophy and the methodologies of the Civil Rights Movement in prisons and jails, high schools and youth groups, and with activist communities around the country.
Kazu has been active in various social change movements since 1998, when at the age of 17, he participated in the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage, a six-month walking journey from Massachusetts to New Orleans to retrace the slave trade. He has since spent a year studying nonviolence in South Asia.
Kazu has over 10 years working in social justice philanthropy, and he has played leading roles in various movements, including Occupy Oakland and Movement for Justice for Oscar Grant.
Elizabeth Miller is a celebrated educational designer, facilitator, organizational consultant and strategic fundraiser. She has held leadership and consulting roles at numerous nonprofit, educational and corporate organizations with both national and international focus. She brings together professional experience and research in Eastern and Western scientific and medical traditions, world religions, philosophy, ecology and education.
Elizabeth’s work is informed by broad and interdisciplinary experience in sustainable development, collaborative learning, appreciative inquiry, applied linguistics and contemplative practice. A published author, innovative researcher and skilled communicator, Elizabeth helps cultivate optimal conditions for learning, health and social change, and to build bridges across disciplines, generations, cultures and organizations toward the realization of shared goals. Elizabeth holds an MA in Philosophy and Religion, and is completing a doctorate in Integral Ecology and Educational Design.
Todd Diehl is excited to be changing the world through nonviolence in education. As an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teacher in Texas, he works at demonstrating to students the power of nonviolence and nonviolent actions. He fills every day with teaching love and freedom from hate.
Todd has offered assistance on several Metta Center projects, including the educator’s study guide that accompanies Michael Nagler’s book Search for a Nonviolent Future and “The Power Within” curriculum featuring Metta World Peace. Todd’s latest project is a 10-week lesson program for students that illustrates the power of nonviolence and finding independence from the violence and consumerism in the mass media.
Francesca Po is currently a doctoral student of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford. The working title of her dissertation is “After ‘Spirituality’: An Emerging Form of Belonging Among the New Age, Religious, and Religiously Unaffiliated in the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Prior to being at Oxford, she taught modules on Buddhism at King’s College London; was an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco; received an MA in Philosophy and Religion, with a concentration in Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies; a BA in Religious Studies and Music at the University of California at Berkeley; served in the United States Peace Corps in Kazakhstan; and has had a career as a high school teacher of philosophy and religious studies, and campus minister.
She was first inspired by nonviolence because of her parents’ involvement in the People Power Revolution of 1986 in the Philippines. Her first encounter with the work at Metta Center was as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, where she took Michael Nagler’s courses in Peace and Conflict Studies.
Philip Wight is currently a doctoral student at Brandeis University, specializing in contemporary American intellectual and environmental history. He studies the history of ideas, environmental politics and the intersection of ecology and nonviolence.
Active in the fossil fuel divestment and the climate justice movements, he is also a writer. His essays and reviews have appeared in Waging Nonviolence, Tar Sands Action, Nation of Change, Climate and Capitalism and other grassroots news organizations.
Phil is particularly interested in the ideologies, worldviews and dogmas fueling the destruction of the biosphere—and the constructive programs and communities fighting back for a more verdant future. He aims to show how violence is a symptom of a deeper failure to realize the ultimate potentialities of human nature, historically realized through nonviolent direct action and Gandhian economics. He believes that forging a constructive program necessitates connecting everyday actions with larger communal efforts to create greener, local, need-based economies based on what E.F. Schumacher called “Buddhist Economics.”
In his leisure time, Phil enjoys exploring both urban and rural “natures” through backpacking, cycling, swimming, and photography.
Kari Kapadia Risher
Kari Kapadia Risher‘s relationship with nonviolence has been foundational throughout her life. Raised in a Jain family in the suburbs of Detroit, Kari’s commitment to exploring peace that is rooted in wholeness as it manifests in a myriad of ways in the universe has only evolved, but never waned.
Kari earned a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and a master’s degree in Space Systems Engineering from the University of Michigan. She then worked as a systems engineer for NASA JPL’s Earth Mission Concepts group, where she conceived and developed satellite missions for Earth observation and participated in strategic planning for NASA’s Earth science division. The same drive to analyze and articulate humanity’s relationship with fundamental patterns led her to pursue a master’s degree in Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where her major research interest was on the issue of the human spiritual relationship to time.
Kari has worked for spiritually-motivated social justice in varied contexts worldwide, from LA’s Skid Row to organic garden beds in the Netherlands to the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is her commitment to spiritual integrity that guides her vision and leads her work towards a more peaceful, just and loving world. Her academic, poetic and musical offerings can be found on her website.