Charis’s life path has been characterized by dual commitments to intellectually rigorous learning and experiential, engaged exploration of the world. This year she completed her doctorate in cultural anthropology at Cornell University, where she studied herbalists, healers, and community organizers in the United States through an ethnographic lens. Her first extended research experience, though, was in Nepal. As a study-abroad student with the School for International Training, followed by time as a Fulbright-IIE research fellow, she discovered her love for participant-observation ethnographic research and writing. This work (which she wrote up in her MA thesis) developed into a way of paying attention to, and loving, the world – a way that she strives to open up for all students she works with.
As an educator, an anthropologist, an herbalist, and a community organizer herself, Charis identifies as a scholar-practitioner in most senses of the term. Her approach to experiential education draws on her background as an anthropologist of medicine, then environment, healing, and religion, and as a Buddhist practitioner whose attention to the world is shaped by the numinous and inexplicable. She is also informed, in teaching and in life, by her long-term commitment to building a socially and environmentally just world. In that mode, she teaches as an “act of radical love,” to borrow bell hooks’ excellent phrase, seeking to guide students toward their own truest life-path through intellectual engagement and direct experience together.