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Karen Werner

People @ Goddard

People @ Goddard

It was only while on faculty at Goddard that I undid my head and connected to my whole being, since that is what our pedagogy is about.

Real name

Karen Werner, PhD, MEd


People @ Goddard

Residency Sites: Plainfield, VT


I was in a Masters program in Education when I felt a wave of wanting to be in spiritual practice. A gifted professor wove together Toni Morrison, Freud, the myth of Psyche and Cupid, and the professor’s own interviews with 9-13 year old girls. Voice, resonance, relationship, democracy. "The honesty of things is where they resist." This is it. Raised Jewish, I didn’t speak Hebrew, didn’t know if I believed in God. Can I be a Rabbi? I heard that some Jews see God as the relationship between people. Arms linked. That is where I see God.

The Ven. Bikkhu Bodhi, a Theravada monk living in New York, says that truth telling is something Buddhism can offer social engagement. What are the relationships, processes, and institutions that encourage truth-telling?

And I thought, well, since I don’t believe in God and don’t speak Hebrew, I’ll become a professor. Same thing as a Rabbi, right? I didn’t find it there easily, at least in the rest of my graduate school experience. It was only while on faculty at Goddard that I undid my head and connected to my whole being, since that is what our pedagogy is about.
Since 2005, I've been a member of the Community Economies Collective, a group of about twenty scholars in the U.S. and Australia documenting non-capitalist economic spaces. My focus has been money and banking systems, in particular. I love worker co-ops. I am a fan of auto-ethnography, testimonio, storytelling in its many forms  --from cantastoria, song cycles, puppet shows, and comics to storytelling circles, podcasts, and documentaries.

These days my focus is writing about socially engaged spirituality and practicing Zen Buddhism. I was away from Goddard for almost two years directing a socially engaged Buddhist project with Bernie Glassman at Zen Peacemakers. Until recently, I was an accordionist in a band, and now I'm learning ukulele. My prior research is on art activism.

I am very interested when people say, "This is what democracy looks like." I think we don't yet know what it looks like, and I am drawn to models like sociocracy and consent forms of decision-making. I am devoted to democracy as a spiritual practice and to learning how to do it well.

Educational Background:

PhD in Sociology, Brandeis University; MEd in Human Development and Psychology, Harvard Graduate School of Education; BA in Medical Anthropology, Brown University.

People @ Goddard