• Background Image

    News & Updates


December 22, 2015

CONVERSATIONS ON RACE: Moving Out of My Cocoon

By Haven McLaughlin, Valencia College Peace & Justice Institute Ambassador
This article originally appeared in the Valencia College PJI Newsletter.

During my time with the Peace and Justice Institute, I have had a plethora of good experiences. This is especially true of the ones that dealt with social justice. One such experience was from the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation’s Conversations on Race workshop. It has stood out to me as the most interesting and one of the most profound experiences during my tenure as a PJI Ambassador.

When the presentation that declared race as a construction of human design and culture was shown, it was a rather shocking revelation that piqued my interest to actually think about how there truly wasn’t much of a real biological alteration that dictated race. We are human after all, but we are also so different and unique at the same time. We were asked to move in to small groups of approximately four to five people and urged to have different races in our group. The majority of the event comprised of prompts appearing on the screen with instructions for each member in the small group to discuss their stories and personal experiences.

Participants enjoying a lively conversation.

You can show people the statistics and provide logic, however, nothing can truly compare to another person’s experience firsthand when they regale some of the difficult situations they faced or the injustice they may have seen. After I heard these personal experiences it was easy for me to empathize with them and I felt like it helped me to better understand this issue that I had removed myself from without being detached or cynical. Read More

November 11, 2015

Recognizing and Accepting White Privilege

“All the white people in the room, raise your hand.” As I sat in a classroom on Valencia College campus, I looked around as I and the other caucasians or predominantly caucasian people timidly raised their hand, fearing what was going to come out of the mouth Niso Tutu, the teenaged granddaughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “You all have ‘white privilege’. This isn’t a bad thing, you need to use it to make this world a better place.” Read More

October 6, 2015

November Schedule for ‘Conversations on Peace’ Launch

November 2nd and 3rd, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation will be joining the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College for the launch of “Conversations on Peace”, a live interactive event taking place in partnership with Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.

Read More

October 6, 2015

Striving for Ubuntu

“Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, ‘Yu, u nobunto’; ‘Hey so-and-so has ubuntu.’ Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life.” – Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness.

Read More

August 8, 2015

Can Mindfulness Reduce Racism?

The shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the choking death of Eric Garner in New York City have shaken American society to its core, triggering waves of protests. Most Americans seem to feel that racism played a role in these deaths—that they never would have happened if the victims had been white.

Read More

June 29, 2015

Emma Seppälä: 10 Science Based Reasons to Meditate to Achieve Peace Within

Every Monday, we share with you the stories from luminaries, celebrities and unsung heroes, about how we can achieve Peace Within, so that we can use that Inner Peace to have Peace Between people and Peace Among nations.

Today we wanted to share something more – the science behind WHY you should begin working on developing Peace Within. We turned to Dr. Emma Seppälä, Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism and Research at Stanford University.

“When my colleagues at Stanford and at other universities started researching meditation, most of us expected that meditation would help with stress levels,” Dr. Seppälä shares. “However, what many of us did not anticipate was the extent of the benefits the data ended up showing.”

Seppälä continues, “Hundreds of studies suggest that meditation doesn’t just decrease stress levels but that it also has tangible health benefits such as improved immunity, lower inflammation and decreased pain. Additionally, brain-imaging studies show that meditation sharpens attention and memory. Perhaps most importantly, it has been linked to increased happiness and greater compassion.”

Inspired to share her findings, Dr. Seppälä summarized her data in an article and then created this helpful infographic to help readers visualize the data and to inspire would-be or regular meditators to keep up with their practice!


EMMA SEPPÄLÄ, Ph.D is Associate Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Her areas of research include positive organizational psychology, health psychology, cultural psychology, well-being, and resilience. She is a frequent contributor to Harvard Business ReviewPsychology Today and Scientific American Mind. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Fulfillment Daily, a news site dedicated to the science of happiness. She also consults with Fortune 500 leaders and employees on building a positive organization and is the author of an upcoming book on the science of success, The Happiness Track, published by HarperOne (January 2016). In addition, she is a Research Scientist and Honorary Fellow with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.

Dr. Seppala’s research has been cited in numerous television and news outlets including ABC News and The New York Times and she is quoted in books such as Congressman Tim Ryan’sMindful Nation. Her research on mind-body interventions for military veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan was highlighted in a documentary called Free the Mind by award-winning filmmaker Phie Ambo. She is the recipient of a number of research grants and service awards including the James W. Lyons Award from Stanford University, where she helped found Stanford’s first academic class on the psychology of happiness and taught many well-being programs for Stanford students.

She received a B.A in Comparative Literature from Yale University, a Master’s Degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. She completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally from Paris, France, she speaks five languages: French, English, German, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Outside of her experiences in the US, she has worked in France and China.