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Naropa University and Environmental Studies

One thing I have been thinking about in recent months is the Environmental Studies program at Naropa University. In case you are wondering what doing this degree will entail, here is what Naropa University’s catalog has to say about the subject:

Core Courses


Choose one field science course:

Choose one focus course:


So, what’s the problem with the program? Here it is: very little of it actually trains you to be competent in the field of Environmental Studies. Most of it is philosophy and, at best, soft social sciences and no hard sciences are required.

True, there are philosophical and justice issues at play when talking about the environment. The thing is though, if you want to be influential in anything, you have to know what you are talking about and this is one of the weaknesses that Naropa University graduates seem to have. Geography, Geology, Biology, Chemistry – all of these things should be things that the Environmental activist has a working knowledge of and NONE of these things are effectively taught at Naropa University. Naropa University simply lacks laboratories to effectively teach Biology and Chemistry, they offer no programs in Geography or Geology and they do not even possess classes in Mathematics!

Their graduate degree in Environmental Studies is not much better. Take a look at what Naropa University requires for it’s MA in Environmental Leadership:

First year, fall


First year, spring


First year, summer


Second year, fall


Second year, spring



So, what did you see? I would like to point out two things, first of which is that “The New Science and It’s Cultural Applications” class that is required in this MA degree. Sounds interesting, but when you read the course description, you will find that they are not talking about science at all.

In a synthesis of the old and new visions in Western science, this course develops understanding of the new material emerging in science regarding the earth as a living system; examines cosmology and Gaian science, as well as key principles of geophysiology; and explores the significant cultural implications and applications. This material provides key tools and perspectives for environmental leaders as well as insights useful for working with organizations and communities. Required for EL MA.

Cosmology? Gaian science? Well, off hand, I know that cosmology is the study of the origins of this planet (hey, I have watched enough episodes of The Atheist Experience to know that much). But Gaian science? Well, the thing is that despite doing a Google search for the phrase, I have absolutely no idea what the hell Gaian science actually is.

Also, the other course that popped out at me was “MAR 500e: Authentic Leadership”. What this indicates to me is that this is a course offered by Naropa’s Marpa Centre for Business and Economics. Kinda like the Shambhala version of the Maharishi University of Management but less developed, less useful and just as cultish. But here’s the course description, just in case you are curious:


Naropa University’s Authentic Leadership program is a transformative leadership course that integrates ancient wisdom with effective modern approaches to management. The format encourages deep personal learning in an environment that makes it possible to assimilate ideas and concepts at an accelerated pace. Executive coaching with experienced professionals is a central component. Professionals with a wide variety of interests and experience attend this course along with Naropa students. Required for EL MA. Course fee.

A religious group offering management courses… sounds familiar, doesn’t it? What comes to mind when I hear that phrase are the Maharishi University for Management (read about this man who worked for the faculty saw some seriously crazy shit), the Hubbard College of Administration and World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (learn how this group is really a front to funnel people into the Church of $cientology).

Do yourself a favor and find an Environmental Studies degree that will allow you to be an effective leader in the field, instead of just another unemployed talking head of Shambhala International.


4 thoughts on “Naropa University and Environmental Studies

  1. Can you talk to me about majoring in psycology and minoring in performance studies at Naropa? Seriously. Tell me all you know.

    • If you had to ask me what Naropa’s two biggest programs are, I would (without hesitation) tell you that they are Psychology and Creative Writing. But I think that you should go there for neither, if you want my advice. Here’s why: Once you get through PSYB 101: Intro to Western Psychology (which does not count towards your major, mind you), you’ll be exposed to a lot of woo. Now, there is nothing wrong with Buddhist psychology per se but consider this – Chogyam Trungpa was the founder of Naropa University and he was very abusive to his adherents. Many of the initial students of his from the Shambhala tradition still reside at Naropa. It is a very toxic environment and I really don’t see it being a good place to learn about much of anything, most especially Psychology. Now, Carole Clements (who, when I was at Naropa, was the head of the undergraduate psych program) is a very nice, entertaining lady, don’t get me wrong. But the fact of the matter is that if she were an honest lady, she would not be teaching at Naropa. Furthermore, you would not get much exposure to the graduate students who are learning psychology (except if they are acting as TAs). This is simply due to the fact that most of the grad psych students hang around the Paramita campus, which has a culture all it’s own.

      Also, performance as a minor – I don’t recommend that because Naropa’s performing arts department isn’t very open to students from other disciplines. This is because the performance classes that are required for the BFA are set into 12-credit “modules” that you cannot take unless you are a declared Performance major. You wouldn’t be able to do much in the Performance minor and wouldn’t get to interact with many performance majors. If you’re curious on what this would look like, read Naropa’s degree requirements for the BFA.

  2. You fail to update this post. Naropa and C.U have a consortium that fills in things like biology, chemistry, and anthropology. Speaking as an environmental major attending Naropa, I have to say that I am very satisfied and have learned so many amazing and new concepts concerning the environment, justice, sustainability and a lot of hands on learning with permaculture. You can not effectively translate these classes by copying and pasting it’s course description. You have a very limited and colored lenses regarding the school, which is your choice, but please don’t presume to be an authority to speak for the effectiveness of these courses.

    • Brandon, you’re absolutely right about my inactivity on this site and I apologize for that. I have some things coming down the pike for the Boulder Buddhist Scam and not just a site hosted on WordPress, but I don’t want to tip my hand just yet… sorry :/) I hope to plan to have that up within the next month but I also have two internships, French classes and a couple of research trips planned, so I’m doing what I can. Trust me, if I could make a full-time job of Boulder Buddhist Scam, I so would. However, this is done as a labour of love and the work will get done – it just takes a backseat to the crap that pays the bills and keeps the landlord, bill collectors and Comcast off my back. Sorry. 😦

      But yes, the consortium is something I admit I don’t understand fully, but since Naropa is such a fascinating topic, I’d love to hear more about your experiences at Naropa if you are willing to share. 🙂

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