Management & Operations Team

Mind and Life

Arthur Zajonc, President
Arthur Zajonc was professor of physics at Amherst College from 1978 to 2012, when he became President of the Mind & Life Institute. He has been visiting professor and research scientist at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, and the universities of Rochester, and Hannover. He has been Fulbright professor at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. His research has included studies in electron-atom physics, parity violation in atoms, quantum optics, the experimental foundations of quantum physics, and the relationship between science, the humanities and the contemplative traditions. He has written extensively on Goethe’s science work. He is author of the book: Catching the Light, co-author of The Quantum Challenge, and co-editor of Goethe’s Way of Science. In 1997 he served as scientific coordinator for the Mind and Life dialogue published as The New Physics and Cosmology: Dialogues with the Dalai Lama. He again organized the 2002 dialogue with the Dalai Lama, “The Nature of Matter, the Nature of Life,” and acted as moderator at MIT for the “Investigating the Mind” Mind and Life dialogue in 2003. The proceedings of the Mind and Life-MIT meeting were published under the title The Dalai Lama at MIT. While directing the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Arthur fostered the use of contemplative practice in college and university classrooms, and he continues to speak around the world on the importance of contemplative pedagogy. Out of this work and his long-standing meditative practice, Zajonc has authored Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry: When Knowing Becomes Love. He has co-authored a book with Parker Palmer, The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal. Zajonc blogs for Psychology Today on meditation. He has also been General Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America, a co-founder of the Kira Institute, president of the Lindisfarne Association, and a senior program director at the Fetzer Institute.
Jacqui DeFelice, Director of Advancement and Global Development
Jacqui received her B.A. (Hons) in Business Studies with a focus in marketing from Caledonian University, Glasgow UK and went on to get her M. Sc. in International Business from the University of Strathclyde also in Glasgow, UK. Prior to working with Mind & Life Institute Jacqui has been: the Enrollment Director at The Hartsbrook Waldorf School in Hadley, MA where she worked for 12 years and currently sits on its Board of Directors; the coordinator on an ambitious project to develop an online Graduate School – The Owen Barfield Graduate School; International event manager for the Physicians Association of Anthroposophic Medicine, to name a few. Jacqui lives in Holyoke, MA with her husband and two “almost grown” sons. She enjoys biking (both road and mountain) and is currently attempting to learn to play the guitar!
Brooke-headshot Brooke Dodson-Lavelle, Senior Program Officer
Brooke is leading Mind and Life Institute’s new Secular Ethics and Compassion Initiative. Her work focuses on the confluence of Buddhist contemplative theory and cognitive science, as well as the cultural contexts that shape the transmission, reception, and secularization of Buddhist contemplative practices in America. Brooke was lead instructor for several studies examining the efficacy of Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) at Emory University, and has helped to develop and adapt CBCT for schoolchildren as well as adolescents in Atlanta’s foster care system. She served as the associate training director of the CBCT Teacher Training Program, which she co-developed. Brooke also acted as the program coordinator for the Emory-Tibet Partnership and from 2009 to 2011 co-led the Emory Tibetan Mind/Body Sciences Summer Study Abroad program in Dharamsala, India. Prior to attending Emory, where she is completing her PhD in the graduate division of religion, she earned her bachelor’s degree in religion and psychology at Barnard College and her master’s degree in religion at Columbia University. While at Columbia, she worked as a research coordinator for the Columbia Integrative Medicine Program, where she developed and taught mindfulness-based meditation programs for a variety of clinical populations.
Ned-Headshot Ned Dunn, Webmaster
Ned received his BFA from Montserrat College of Art in 2005. He is an amateur birder, lives with a small aviary of finches, and enjoys time outdoors at wildlife reserves, parks and trails throughout New England. He maintains a home studio where he works on his art, both digital and traditional. In his spare time he enjoys cooking, photography and music.
Kaia Fischer, Administrative Assistant
Kaia returned to the Pioneer Valley in the summer of 2012 after two years of yoga and meditation practice throughout New England. Previously, she has held administrative and counseling positions in corporate, healthcare, and university settings. Kaia completed her BA in Neuroscience and Behavior at Mount Holyoke College.
Wendy Hasenkamp, Senior Scientific Officer
Wendy completed her PhD in Neuroscience in 2005 at Emory University. Her graduate and early postdoctoral training centered around understanding the pathology of schizophrenia, utilizing techniques ranging from single-cell gene expression to psychophysiology, and from cognitive testing to neuroimaging. Her personal experience with meditation inspired a shift in her research to contemplative neuroscience in 2008, when she began investigating the neural correlates of dynamic cognitive states that occur during focused attention meditation. In her time at Emory, Wendy was central in the development of the Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies, organizing an interdisciplinary seminar focused on exploring the application of contemplative practices in our modern society. She also has been deeply involved in developing neuroscience curriculum and teaching Tibetan monks in India through the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative since 2009. Wendy is excited and grateful to be able to combine her scientific and organizational expertise to further the goals of Mind and Life. In her spare time, Wendy enjoys yoga, gardening, biking the trails of the Pioneer Valley, coffee shops, home design/improvement, learning the cello, and connecting with friends and family.
Liza Katz, Operations Manager
Liza received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, where she focused on African studies and performance traditions in Ghana, West Africa. She first discovered neuroscience in high school when she was exposed to the work of Oliver Sacks and has retained a strong interest in studies of the brain and contemplative science. Her experience includes event planning at Amherst College, web content and program development including communications and marketing, and working with homeless families and underserved communities. She enjoys drawing, painting, collaging, and all types of crafts, as well as gardening, reading, rock-climbing, and co-leading her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.
Gretchen Laise, Development Officer
Gretchen first indulged her curiosity about the nature of the human mind when studying philosophy in college. Her exploration continued with learning about spiritual direction and insight meditation from Jesuit geologist Father James Skehan, while employed as an Evaluator at the US General Accounting Office. Since then she has practiced Zen meditation and created visual art while working in fundraising administration at Oxfam America and grants management at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. She is currently completing her certification as a Psychosynthesis guide. She is very excited that her activities at Mind and Life bring together her professional experience in philanthropy and her life-long commitment to contemplative practice.
Lise Lawrence, Operations Manager
Lise Lawrence is proud to have joined Mind and Life Institute in April 2012. Her experience includes Event Managing for International Kushi Institute Programs as well as Assistant Venue Managing for Red Earth Hotels in Australia. She is also experienced in marketing and public relations having worked for international film festivals including Festival De Cannes. Along with her diverse backdrop, she is also a professional bartender as well as a certified macrobiotic/natural foods cook and health practitioner. She enjoys traveling the world, attending film and music festivals, as well as skydiving. And she loves hammocks.
Heather Lee Lohr, Director of Operations
Heather Lee Lohr has a BFA in Production Management from Emerson College and has primarily been working in theatre as a stage manager and production manager for the past fifteen years. She has lived and worked on all manner of events and performances in Boston, Dallas, Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and aboard a cruise ship. She is passionate about building community centered around social change, being crafty in all ways, traveling as often as possible, becoming a better vegan cook, and puppets. Heather lives in Holyoke with her partner, their two dogs and two cats.
Lila Mereschuk, Controller
As Controller, Lila is responsible for executing all of the institutes internal and external reporting as well as ensuring that these documents comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Lila has extensive experience with not for profit accounting, finance, and revenue operations. A dynamic leader, Lila is accomplished in developing financial strategies that enhance organizational growth and maximize sustainability. A New York native, Lila received her Bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College. She enjoys spending time with her family, quilting and photography.
Tom Rocha, Research Associate
Tom completed his BA from Brown University in 2011 and his MPhil from the University of Cambridge in 2012. He helped facilitate the Brown Contemplative Studies Initiative under Dr. Harold Roth and worked as a research assistant for the Britton Lab under Dr. Willoughby Britton. He enjoys working at the intersection of contemplative practice and science, and in his spare time enjoys: meditating, yoga, writing, cooking, gourmet foods, brilliant television shows, graphic novels, movies, documentaries, traveling, boating, swimming, hiking, camping, and quiet bars and coffee shops.
Brendan Tapley, Director of Communications
Brendan has been a marketing and communications consultant for a range of corporate, nonprofit, and higher education institutions, including the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, Bennington College, the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, Luxury Media Corporation, and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, among others. Prior to becoming a consultant, he built the communications department at The MacDowell Colony, a recipient of the National Medal of Arts. As its director, he oversaw the Colony’s centennial celebration, which involved a yearlong, national series of programs and events with such organizations as The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He also led MacDowell through a landmark New Hampshire Supreme Court case on charitable organizations. He has worked for Robb Report and for National Public Radio. His work has been published in numerous venues, including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Globe, Slate, The Daily Beast, The Los Angeles Times, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy, among many others. He received his bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College and his master’s in fine arts degree from Emerson College, where he was the emerging writer-in-residence.


Mind and Life Europe

Diego Hangartner, Director of Operations and Advancement in Europe
Diego completed his studies in pharmacology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, specializing in psychotherapeutic and psychoactive substances. Having worked with drug addiction, he became interested in understanding the workings of mind and consciousness. After encountering Buddhism, he then spent 11 years in Dharamsala, India, where he first learned Tibetan and then studied for 7 years at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. During those years, he did several retreats and worked as a translator and interpreter, translating Tibetan into English, German, French and Spanish. After returning to Europe in 2003, he taught widely, was General Secretary and project manager of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visits in Switzerland 2005 and in Hamburg 2007. He has been associated with Mind & Life Institute since the late 1990s.
Anna-Headshot Anna Alomes, Contemplative Education Officer
Anna is leading Mind and Life Europe’s Contemplative Education program. Motivated by the desire to undertake research in the field of human flourishing and well-being, and specifically to identify strategies to reduce violence and promote compassion, Anna completed her PhD in 1998 at the University of Tasmania. During this time, she conducted research in South Africa post-apartheid with Nelson Mandela’s government and with the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan government-in-exile, which led to two practical case studies for the exercise of power through nonviolence. Anna’s key research interests include human transformation, applied ethics, nonviolence, reconciliation, restorative justice, human rights, and contemplative practices and exceptional leadership, among others. She ran The World Institute for Nonviolence and Reconciliation, a peace-building non-governmental organization, for 10 years. She was also the director of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Ethics at the University of Tasmania for five years. Anna has completed visiting fellowships at the London School of Economics Centre for Human Rights and the James Madison University Global Gandhian Center. She is a founding member of the Global Gandhian Movement for Swaraj in India and works part of each year with Nobel Peace Prize laureates. She has recently published two books on nonviolence: Power in Philosophy: Two Arguments for Nonviolence Today and Towards a Nonviolent Mind, both with introductions by the Dalai Lama. Anna lives in Zurich, Switzerland and loves gardening, drawing, and astronomy. She is the proud mother of two adult sons, Jon and Chris.