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As Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Director of Alumni Relations, Dianne Travis-Teague facilitates collaborations between the Office of the Chancellor and the Alumni Association to extend and nurture the Pacifica experience in the world. News & Notes collects her posts to Pacifica’s growing family of alums.

Austin We Hear You!

originally posted on 26 Sept 2012
On September 21-22, 2012, a large number of alums from various disciplines were present for the inaugural Gathering/Reception and Working Session of the Pacifica Graduate Institute Alumni Association of Texas. It was my great honor to be present!

I arrived on a very warm Thursday evening and was greeted in the Embassy Suites Lobby by our Regional Coordinators Jo Todd and Gina Edwards. Imagine my surprise! We later dined at Chuy’s (a rite of passage TexMex style restaurant). Following dinner, we hurried off to Amy’s for ice-cream! It was such a lovely evening, and I am truly grateful for their kindness and generosity.

Friday found “The Committee” — Gina Edwards, Victoria Shackleford, Priscilla Hobbs, Sandi Wilcox, Jason Sugg, Tiffany Baugher, Michelle John, and Jo Todd — completing various tasks to ensure that our evening reception would be Texas soulful. We worked with hotel staff, designed floral arrangements, stuffed gift bags, and laughed a lot! At times, Jo fretted over RSVPs and Michelle worried about maps as the Austin Visitors Bureau wanted to charge an unexpected fee. Sandi channeled her mother as she created floral magic with the beautiful yellow rose of Texas. Priscilla, our glowing expectant mom, worked feverishly to set-up Skype connections, chatting merrily with Tom Lyons. We all felt something special was happening.

There is only one word that describes our Friday evening Reception & Gathering — T E X A S !

In addition to lots of alums from the Austin area, Houston Regional Coordinator Melody Allen along with fellow Houstonians Tom Carter, Ginny Renfroe, and Judith Shamp joined us. Sallye Sheppeard joined us from Beaumont. The McDonells traveled from Mineral Wells. Sylivia Villarreal and a friend came in from San Antonio. There were hugs, laughter, music, and even tears as alums arrived! Some of the comments I overheard included:

“September 21st will mark my calendar as one of the most extraordinary days I ever had in my life. It was great to meet my Texas Pacifica Family. It revived the spirit of joy yet again that only Pacifica alums share. Every moment spent on that day reminded me of the beautiful years I spent on campus and what a nostalgic feeling it was! Thanks to the Alumni Association gathering, I could interact with my cohorts at a very different level, and the feeling was amazing. Overall, it was a great idea by the organizers to come up with this brilliant weekend, and, yes, I feel short of words for more laudatory remarks.”


“It is said that one always feels a connection with Pacifica no matter where one is and what one is doing. But retaining the connection between the institution and the individual is no easy job. Kudos goes to Dianne, Jo, and the team for organizing this evening on such a large scale without any hitches. I am eagerly looking forward to tomorrow’s working session and hope that the strong connection I have with them tonight will become even stronger in the morning.”

On Saturday, our day started with a hearty breakfast and more laughter.

Jo Todd masterfully kept us on agenda. Tom Lyons, Alumni Advisory Board Chair, welcomed our Texas comrades and shared his personal journey. Eugene Ahn, Webmaster Extraordinaire, gave our website a presence and explained its numerous features. And Stephen Aizenstat, who needs no introduction. joined us via Skype as we imagined and created a “roadmap” for a State Chapter with satellite units in Austin, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and other cities. 

Our discussions were lively, humorous and even a bit contentious as the group tackled Continuing Education Units (CEUs), implementation of which forms the next steps planned for Texas (Austin in particular).

Another group will be investigating ways Pacifica’s Mythological Studies degree can be more viable in the Texas landscape. Priscilla, who literally skipped into the room, saw potential for a collaborative book about Texas archetypes; Susannah Kerksey offered a Depth Consortium focus group to maintain and enhance Depth in the world; while I encouraged a “container” (foundation) that might hold these and other ideas. True to form, Texans were not willing or wanting to be boxed: a think-outside-the-box theme emerged. Victoria Shackleford led an exercise learned from Pat Katsky many years ago, and poetry emerged from holding the tension of creation.

In the end, we emerged united and ready to move forward with a Texas Chapter that embraces and supports the parent while capturing the voice and needs of this newly birthed baby. Jo was poetic in her call not to leave “the baby” at the Embassy Suites. She asked us to create a strong container to hold and tend to the well-being of this newborn association that values knowledge and wisdom — the Alumni Association of Texas. It is something entirely new. Without a strong container, building the association will be trying to hold water in our hands; it will simply drain away, then one day we will look up and say, “What happened? Where did that good idea, those wonderful feelings, that fantastic newborn association go?” Suddenly we will realize, “Oh, no! We didn’t create a strong container or foundation! We left the baby at the Embassy Suites!”

What an “ANDAND” (A New Dawn, A New Day) moment!

The final highlight of the day was a High Tea for new, prospective, and current students. Our alums were thoughtful, endearing, and nurturing as we welcomed our guests. Judith Shamp from Houston attended with her buddy Hiba Alkhadra, a student at UT/Austin from Saudi Arabia. Brian and Keturah Haferkamp, who have just returned to the States after three years of teaching in Asia, shared their stories as Keturah hopes to enroll at Pacifica very shortly. Current students Nancy Benzel and Kaylen Nique shared their perspectives as Kayleen prepared for her first on-campus cohort. Jennifer Baca, Gonzalo Venecia, Scott Goode, and Jennifer Knauth, who are in the throws of writing their theses and dissertations, took time out to join us and share their particular visions and hopes.

As I searched for a way to summarize my days in Austin, I found this quote — and while it only touches the surface of our Texas alums, it provides a beginning…

“There’s a vastness here and I believe that the people who are born here breathe that vastness into their soul. They dream big dreams and think big thoughts, because there is nothing to hem them in.” ― Conrad Hilton

•|  COMMENTS  |•
Collected here, with posting dates, are observations made in the “Comments” section included with the original appearance of this article at the initial website of Pacifica Graduate Institute Alumni Association.  Please feel welcome to offer additional notes in the current “Comments” function.

Melvin Allen  |  29 Sept 2012
After reading about your experience in Austin, I wondered if we have something like this in L.A., and if so how does one find out? I am inspired to know I have an extended family in Texas. Your adventure in Austin makes going to Pacifica for a Ph.D. a little bit more enjoyable: I’ll be connected with a larger group of people who dance to a different beat.

Linda Hainline  |  29 Sept 2012
It was wonderful, so enjoyed the experience and meeting everyone. Looking forward to our next connection.

Betty McEady  |  28 Sept 2012
Wow! Congratulations TEXAS Pacifica! And my sincere thanks to the Alumni Association for sharing the energies (individual and group) of Pacifica Alumni in Texas. As I read the details of your joys and commitments to the soul of Pacifica, I realized that multiple Pacifica “homes/families” are forming a Pacifica cosmos. In my ABD [All But Dissertation] status I am inspired to return to my dissertation and meet my soul’s calling to help build and expand the Pacifica cosmos.

Victoria Shackelford  |  27 Sept 2012
The First Ever Dream Poem by the Texas Alumni Association | scribed by Victoria Shackelford

Birds Dipping in Ocean for Bugs,

Yellow Rose of Texas

Happy to be Here.


Support each other by community

as a container for anxiety and loneliness

cause birthing can be painful.

As we travel along — Radiance,

Curious and Confused.

Be specific to commit!


Strangeness of Alchemy

No need because


Jung says,”In Chaos is Cosmos:

Contents needs this container.

Michelle John, Ph.D., LPC  |  27 Sept 2012
A truly brilliant summary of Austin events. Diane Travis-Teague is a gift to all Pacifica’s alumni groups. So blessed to meet her, be in her energy field for a brief time, and gain a new friend and refreshed/reunited connection to the philosophical grounds that have continued to feed my soul!

Gina Edwards  | M.A. (Counseling Psychology, 1998)  |  27 Sept 2012
Hi, Dianne, just a quick thank! I had so much fun last weekend and so much of the fun happened because you made it so. I feel so fortunate to have had some “up close and personal” time with you. We did have some fun and laughs and that made the weekend especially memorable for me. I’m so glad I got to be a part of it all. And I am very enthused about our Texas Chapter of the Pacifica Graduate Institute Alumni Association — TCPGIAA (nickname: Rainmakerz!). I feel so proud of what we were able to accomplish, for how successful the event was, and for the great core team we have in Jo, Sandi, Priscilla, Vicky, Michelle, Jason, and me. It is going to be such fun to see what happens next. Your fearless and unbridled enthusiasm for the Alumni cause is contagious and inspiring. I am already looking forward to our next visit from you — maybe we’ll have an annual thing — and maybe we’ll let Steve come too!! I hope your travels in the coming days are safe and smooth and that your host cities treat you right! We absolutely loved having you here in Austin and hope you know that we welcome you back any time you wish to visit. With much affection, Gina

Judith Shamp | M.A. (Engaged Humanities, 2008) |  27 Sept 2012
Hello, Jo, I’m sending my thanks for the well planned and organized Pacifica Alumni reunion. My hat is off to Dianne for this huge undertaking and her indomitable spirit, as well as the major efforts of yourself and the committee. Please pass on to the committee members my personal appreciation toward keeping alive the Pacifica spirit of tending the soul of the world. All best wishes as forward we go.

Susanne Nishino, Ph.D. (Depth Psychology, 2005)  |  27 Sept 2012
Hello, Dianne, I just wanted to say thank you for all of the time, effort, and hospitality you showed to us at the alumni gathering yesterday. It was a pleasure to meet you again for a bit longer this time. I hope that you had a safe journey home. Dr. Aizenstat needs you there : – ) I’ll look forward to seeing you again. Have a great day.

Pamela Douglas, M.A. (Counseling Psychology, 2000)  |  27 Sept 2012
Hello, Dianne. I so enjoyed meeting and being with you this weekend in Austin. You can be assured that the Austin group will be awaiting your return! Meanwhile we will meet with Jo Todd monthly and keep the group talking and planning. Please feel free to contact me about my house if and when you are interested in returning to Austin for a stay for yourself or any other folks! Give Steve A. a big hug for me. Your Austin Contact, Pam Douglas, M.A.

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