Annual Conference 2020

Planting seeds: Rooting in mindfulness for thriving communities

“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” ― bell hooks

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POSTPONED: Annual Conference

Planting seeds: Rooting in mindfulness for thriving communities
Postponed until Fall 2020.



Register today!


“I loved the atmosphere in the conference. It’s peaceful. When everybody gathers together and they have the same goal in mind, in this case mindfulness, it’s like everybody has energy and if we are all bringing that energy in the room and the energy is getting bigger and bigger and bigger and everybody can feel it. It’s like a pot luck. When you have your own food but when everybody brings something to share we have a lot of food and everybody benefits. So, that’s how I feel here.” - 2019 conference participant

The Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience is excited to invite you to attend our third annual conference - Planting Seeds: Rooting in Mindfulness for Thriving Communities. Come join us as we delve into the foundations of mindfulness for building and maintaining healthy communities. A large focus of our Center’s effort is on Equitable Mindfulness, essentially mindfulness for all. As such, we work on breaking down structural barriers of unnecessary hierarchy and privilege. For example, rather than Keynotes or Presenters, our speakers will all be Knowledge Sharers (as will our audience). We invite all mindfulness practitioners, researchers and enthusiasts to come and share their methods of community building in this two day interactive conference, and invite all community members to share in the knowledge!

* Please note: we will update the website as we finalize conference items. If you have any immediate questions, please email:

Wed, March 25 and Thu, March 26
9:30am – 5:00pm
A.E. England Building, Downtown Phoenix
Price: $429 
(Discounted price of $299 extended to ABOR members and local school districts. Please email to see if you qualify!)^

^Students interested in applying for a scholarship to the conference should follow this link. 

By attending the conference you are consenting to have photographs taken of and around you. You may also be asked to participate in a research study.

Breakfast and Lunch provided (included in price) by: Green: New American Vegetarian Restaurant

 Logo of Green: New American Vegetarian Restaurant

Center will be providing plant-based breakfast and lunch on both days of the conference. Our vendor Green: New American Restaurant, features food made with 100% plant-based ingredients, vegan cheeses, and mock meats. If you have gluten sensitives, other specific food sensitivities/allergies, or are looking for other food options please find a volunteer in a black Center t-shirt and we can point you to other food options very near the conference venue. You are also welcome to bring your own food both days.

Snacks/Beverages (included in price) provided by: Guayakí Yerba Mate and Honest Teas

Photo of Yerba Mate Logo                          Photo of Honest Tea


Our conference is framed by the idea that mindfulness is not only a tool to support community building, but also that it is inherent in communities that practice compassion and peaceful practies. 


Early Career Mindfulness Council would like to invite any researchers/scholars who are within 10 years of their terminal degree (student or professional) that are engaging in mindfulness research to submit an abstract to the Third Annual Center for Mindfulness Conference - Planting Seeds: Rooting in Mindfulness for Thriving Communities. 

Submission link:


Speakers (Knowledge Sharers)

Knowledge Sharer: Dr. Teri Pipe

 Photo of Teri Pipe ASU's Chief Wellbeing Officer and Conference Knowledge Sharer

Dr. Teri Pipe is Arizona State University's Chief Well-Being Officer. Formerly Dr. Pipe served as the Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University (ASU). She also is the founding director of ASU's Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience. Before coming to ASU in 2011, Dr. Pipe served as director of Nursing Research and Innovation at Mayo Clinic Arizona and was an associate professor of nursing at the Mayo Clinic’s College of Medicine. In 2014 she was selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow.

Dr. Pipe is an expert on mindfulness which is a skill set to increase the ability to experience being fully present, focused and alive. Mindfulness has important implications for resilience within and beyond the healthcare and higher education sectors.  Dr. Pipe is an expert on nursing leadership with a focus on interprofessionalism, bringing nurses together with physicians and other health professionals, business people, and policy makers, to help redesign and improve health in the U.S. Her research interests include:  mindfulness, resilience in professional and clinical populations, health promotion and wellness, positive coping and stress management, oncology, and gerontology.  She is a sought after speaker on the topics of mindfulness, workforce resilience and self-compassion.

Dr. Pipe earned her PhD in health policy and administration with a minor in gerontology from Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree in nursing with an emphasis in gerontology from the University of Arizona, and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Iowa.

Knowledge Sharer: Dr. Nika Gueci

Photo of Center's Executive Director and Conference Knowledge Sharer

Dr. Nika Gueci is the inaugural Executive Director for University Engagement at the Arizona State University Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience. Under her direction, Center advances an environment of well-being through the promotion of skills such as mindfulness and compassion to support lifelong resilience. Creating a culture where wellness is of vital importance to the development of human potential is her daily call to action. Here, she develops curricula for mindfulness leadership workshops, retreats, and Selective classes for Mayo Clinic medical students. She was invited to develop, write and present curricula as the content expert and talent manager for a 5-part Health and Wellness: Mind and Body online series, an institutional-priority initiative for marketing and distribution across national markets. She initiated teacher training by the founders of Koru Mindfulness for Emerging Adults and guided series of cohorts through scaling efforts of subsequent courses taught at ASU and the surrounding Phoenix community.

In her previous role, Dr. Gueci served as Associate Director of the ASU Health Services Executive Team. Her duties included directing ASU’s first Collegiate Recovery Program, Recovery Rising, and scaling an innovative, outcomes-driven model to advance a university culture consistent with the ASU Charter, one that is inclusive of students in recovery from alcohol and other drug addiction. She has served on multiple task forces and was invited to provide policy recommendations on collegiate recovery to the Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy.

Knowledge Sharer: Tiara Cash

 Photo of Tiara Cash - Center's Program Manager and Conference Knowledge Sharer

Tiara Cash, Program Manager, comes to Center for Mindfulness, Compassion, and Resilience as an alumnus of Arizona State University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Wellness from ASU and a Master’s degree from Western Illinois University in Kinesiology with a concentration in Sports Psychology. 

As a practitioner of mindfulness, Tiara’s personal practice spans last 20 years of her life and she has worked and consulted in various settings including: higher education, athletics, student success, non-profits, and corporate business. Featured on NPR as an expert in Equitable Mindfulness - Tiara has been granted scholarships, grants, and awards for her work with mindfulness and equity, mindfulness in the student-athlete population, and creating art with a foundation of mindful practice. In 2018 and 2019, she traveled internationally to present on her research involving mindfulness and overlooked populations and curated a national conference on Mindfulness and Social Transformation in 2019.

Her career focuses include delving into the intersections of mindfulness in marginalized and unrepresented populations by creating resilience trainings for life transitions. With this work, she prides herself on creating demographic-specific curriculum that speaks to the audience through cultural representations and competencies.In her current role with Center, her vision is to engage ASU and the surrounding community in life-long learning and personal development with an emphasis on mindful practices and connection through compassion.

Knowledge Sharer: Hanna Layton

Photo of Hanna Layton Center's Management Inter and Conference Knowledge Sharer

Hanna Layton graduated from Arizona State University with her Bachelors of Science in Sustainability and is now pursuing Masters of Sustainable Solutions degree.  Hanna is a full-time student involved and in love with learning about how she can serve as an advocate for the natural world and all its resources, as well as ensuring the human and animal populations can proceed on with health and happiness. Hanna is particularly interested in human well-being, focusing on the intersection of mindfulness and sustainability. Through this avenue she hopes to educate others on how to practice resilience and deepen their subjective sense of well-being individually and as a community.  

Hanna is employed by ASU’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience as the Management Intern. In this role she serves to foster a more compassionate and connected student body at ASU. She acts as a liaison between student organizations and the Center to spread mindfulness through planning events and leading practices that students can apply to their daily lives. Her ultimate goal in this role is to  help students manage their daily stresses through healthy practices so that they can more easily achieve their academic goals.

Knowledge Sharer: Elizabeth (Liz) Athens

Photo of Liz Athens

Elizabeth (Liz) Athens is a licensed social worker and educator with over 20 years of experience working with people with substance use and other mental health disorders.Liz currently works as a full-time faculty member at the  School of Social Work at ASU, as well as in the substance use disorder treatment field.

She utilizes expressive therapies as front line and ancillary approaches to addressing the complexities of complicated mental health issues, and as a way to build and foster community. She believes in the practice of making art with others, and thinks that art can be transformative to communities.

She likes to remind herself (and others) that the magic of art is in the making, not the end result.

Knowledge Sharer: Cheryl Blie

Photo of Cheryl Blie

Cheryl Blie is Diné/Navajo and she is from the Navajo Nation, originally from Pinon, AZ. She is of the Coyote Pass Clan, born for the Big Water clan, and her maternal & paternal grandparents are of the Bitter Water clan. Cheryl received her Bachelor’s Degree in American Political Studies from Washington State University and Northern Arizona University. Cheryl graduated Summa Cum Laude from ASU Criminal Justice department with a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice. She went on to work Indian Country in behavioral health, Community Development and administrating ‘Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’ (SAMHSA) grants. Cheryl is passionate about servicing Native people and is humbled to apart of a opportunities that brings clinical behavioral health services to inner city American Indian youth & transitioned age youth (TAY) population. She has devoted her career to working with Native American agencies and programs.

Cheryl’s first language is Navajo and she strives to incorporate cultural and traditional teachings and values into the education and outreach of behavioral and mental health issues. Cheryl recognizes the need for this form of instruction and has developed culturally sensitive training that addresses delivering the Navajo teachings of ‘empowering and honoring life’ in this way. Cheryl continues her passion in working in behavioral and mental health in the Phoenix urban Indian non-profit organizations.

Knowledge Sharer: Brandi Mack

 Photo of Brandi Mack

Brandi Mack is a holistic health educator, therapeutic massage therapist, birth consultant, master gardener and permaculture designer. She holds a bachelor's degree in Human Service Management, and a permaculture certification from Starhawk's Earth Activist Training. Brandi is motivated to work in community, particularly with women and girls. Brandi came from a broken household, and experienced a good deal of trauma and transition during her growing up years. Despite this, she overcame multiple obstacles and was truly enriched and empowered by many caring people within the African American communities in which she was raised. These experiences gave rise to her thirst for social justice and community work. 

Although she disliked living and working on her grandparents farm in Oroville, CA. It was a place where she gained healing and coping skills based in the natural environment. This experience led to the founding and directing of various Urban Farming and Healing projects in the San Joaquin Valley and greater bay area. Brandi relocated to Stockton in 1999 and founded the Holistic Health Center and the Ella Bee Project. The Holistic Health Center was a community facility that offered alternative wellness to underserved communities. Currently, Brandi is the CEO and National Director of The Butterfly Movement.

Knowledge Sharer: Dr. Dara James

Photo of Dara James

Dr. Dara James is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University.  She is a certified Mindful Eating, Conscious Living instructor through the University of California at San Diego and Koru Mindfulness instructor through the Koru Mindfulness Center in North Carolina.  Both professionally and personally, Dr. James believes in the daily practices of mindfulness and self-compassion.

Knowledge Sharer: Dr. Ann Sebren

Photo of Ann Sebren

Dr. Ann Sebren is a Principal Lecturer and Distinguished Faculty in the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University.  She has been practicing mindfulness for over 20 years and teaching mindfulness since 2005. Sebren is a Mindfulness Training Institute Certified Teacher and a Certified Mindfulness Teacher – Professional through the International Mindfulness Teachers Association.

Knowledge Sharer: Cassondra Graff

Photo of Cassondra Graff

Cassondra offers Mindfulness and Compassion trainings nationally and internationally and is currently based in Arizona. She received her Master’s degree from Columbia University in New York and is a licensed psychotherapist. With over 22 years of experience, Cassondra had a private practice and also mentored therapists for the California state licensing exam.

Her work as a mental health professional transformed over the years, becoming mindfulness and compassion based through the integration of her extensive training and experience in meditation, mindfulness and yoga since the age of 15.  Cassondra believes in the power and potential of mindful compassionate awareness to help us navigate life with greater wisdom, health and sense of well-being.

When asked why she does this work, she replied “I cannot not do this work. It is tied to the way I live, truths I cannot deny. It is a joy to witness us humans discover our own strengths and capacities, and in this, become more alive and thrive"

Knowledge Sharer: Dr. Kimberly Marshall

Kimberly Marshall Photo

Kimberly Marshall is known worldwide for her compelling programs and presentations of organ music. She is an accomplished teacher, having held positions at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and Stanford University, California. Winner of the St. Albans Competition in 1985, she has been invited to play in prestigious venues and has recorded for Radio-France, the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and numerous American stations. She holds the Patricia and Leonard Goldman Endowed Professorship in Organ at Arizona State University and the Hedda Andersson Visiting Professorship at the Malmö Academy of Music.

Performer, scholar, and educator, Kimberly Marshall is a committed advocate of the organ.  She works to promote the instrument in both local and global communities. She is regularly consulted by churches searching for organists and music directors, as well as by institutions seeking advice on instrument installations.  She is the advisor on organs for the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix and has made videos in Guanajuato (Mexico), Toulouse (France) and Florence (Italy) for their exhibits.  An authority on the organ’s rich history over the past 2000 years, she is devoted to continuing this tradition of artistic ingenuity into the next millennium.

Knowledge Sharer: Dr. Mary Margaret Fonow

Photo of Mary Margaret Fonow

Mary Margaret Fonow is the Norton and Ramsey Professor of Social Transformation and Professor of Women and Gender Studies in the School of Social Transformation. Her research and teaching focuses on women's labor activism and leadership and she teaches courses that integrate mindfulness and wellbeing. 

Knowledge Sharer: Susan Norton

 Photo of Sue Norton

Susan Norton is a Program Manager for Arizona State Universities Sustainability Practices Department. Her key roles include developing and promoting ASU’s sustainability initiatives through new programs and projects. Her main focus revolves around the Food Re-connection and Personal Action goals to include the development and management of the Garden Commons at the Polytechnic campus. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture with a minor in Business from Texas A & M University and a Master of Sustainability Leadership degree from ASU.

Knowledge Sharer: Sunny Wight

Photo of Sunny Wight

Sunny Wight is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Arizona 501(c)3 non-profit, Mindfulness First. Sunny created Mindfulness First after experiencing a stress-related breakdown and illnesses from which she used mindfulness, trauma therapy and SEL understanding to recover from and completely transform her life. Mindfulness First provides education to K-12 students and their teachers in Mindfulness Based Social Emotional Learning. Sunny is conventionally qualified with a Bachelor's Degree, 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training and Mindful Schools Fundamentals/Curriculum Training: with a prior career in PR. She is passionate about nurturing critical thinking in others and creating equitable and collaborative work environments; all by-products of mindful living. Sunny has a strong 20 year marriage and 2 incredible teens. 

Knowledge Sharer: Jessica Smith

Photo of Jessica Smith

Jessica, an experienced elementary school teacher, mindfulness teacher and certified yoga instructor, discovered the benefits of mindfulness through her own difficult times. Jessica has found that the dramatic personal benefits of mindful practices have helped her navigate life’s struggles, and allowed her to be more present in her life. Jessica is passionate about helping schools, teachers and students create a culture based in Mindfulness Based Social Emotional Learning. At Mindfulness First, Jessica provides onsite lessons for students, creates curriculum and trains/mentors teachers. Outside of Mindfulness First, her mission to share the healing benefits of yoga and mindfulness lead her to found the Rooted Community Yoga Project in 2015. RCYP strives to make yoga more accessible to all people including individuals with disabilities, the homeless, veterans, inmates, and more. RCYP has helped over 30 NPOs by spreading awareness and donating class proceeds. Jessica lives in Gilbert with her loving husband Chris and their 4 kids.

Knowledge Sharer: Jackie Morales Tucker

Photo of Jackie Morales

Born and raised in the small town of Douglas Arizona, Jackie Morales Tucker is most known for her smiling, warm, and energetic voice throughout the Valley airwaves. With over 15 years of radio experience in the Phoenix Market, Jackie is an on-air host for Mega 104.3 and 101.1 The Beat. Throughout her radio career, Jackie has been recognized for her talents by being nominated and winning the 2015 Stylos Award for Best Radio Personality and 2016 Arizona Foothills Magazine Best Midday Personality. While Jackie loves working on-air, she is also very passionate about building relationships and using her platform to serve and help those in need throughout the community and more. Since 2010, Jackie has served and continues to serve on the walking committee for The National Kidney Foundation of Arizona and hosts their yearly walks. Other foundations Jackie serves for are Making Strides against Breast Cancer and Arizona Hygiene for Hope.  Graduating from the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in 2016 as a registered yoga teacher, she then furthered her Intrinsic mindfulness practice with a certification through Mindful Schools in 2017.

As a Laveen Centennial Lions Club member for the past 3 years and with over 2000 volunteer hours in the Laveen School District, Jackie received the Laveen Legends award with honors. Serving as the Laveen Elementary K - 4 Reading Interventionist, Jackie furthered her skills in yoga and mindfulness with becoming Laveen Elementary Schools Mind, Body, and Spirit teacher. With a 70% drop in school referrals since the implementation of mindfulness yoga, Jackie, her husband, and Laveen Elementary School received the Arizona Golden Bell Promise Award for best school program in the state of Arizona in 2018.  Not only is her passion with educating our next generation through assimilating the skills of self-regulation, Jackie has been a Laveen District Wellness Committee member since 2016 to change district policy on food served in the cafeteria to healthier and plant-based options. Her mission and journey continue to bring the change our next generation needs starting from within. 

Knowledge Sharer: Gavin Tucker

Gavin Tucker Photo

As a K-8 elementary school teacher, educating our next generation has not only been an honor for Gavin, but has become a clear view of a true inner purpose.  Gavin graduated from Grand Canyon University in 2013 as a student baseball athlete with a BA in Elementary Education and finished his master’s in educational administration this year (2020) to become a future public-school principal.  Gavin graduated in the top 10% of his graduating class and has been recently inducted into the Alpha Chi National College Honors Society.  He graduated in 2016 from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a certified nutrition coach where he learned innovative coaching methods, practical lifestyle management techniques, and over 100 dietary theories; everything from Ayurveda, gluten-free, Paleo, to raw vegan and macrobiotics. Gavin is also a Laveen Centennial Lion Club Member and has been serving his community with the Lions Club since 2015.  In 2017, Gavin graduated from The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts/The Spirit of Yoga as a registered yoga teacher, reiki master, and has brought organic plant-based disease prevention and mindfulness yoga into public education through his program/non-profit Live Pure Kids.

Gavin currently teaches at Laveen Elementary for the past five years. Gavin’s mission has been to educate our next generation on the options and choices they have regarding veganism and mindfulness yoga that empowers all children to encompass and build a strong foundation of equanimity with increased academic and behavior rigor starting from within out. His education and background has equipped him with extensive, cutting-edge knowledge in holistic plant-based nutrition, health coaching, Mindfulness Yoga and disease prevention. 

Knowledge Sharer: Debbie Polinsky

Photo of Debbie Polinksy

Debbie is a Bilingual Nutritionist and Wellness Consultant with a 25-year career in two countries, Argentina and the US, who is passionate about the Mind-Body approach to lifestyle changes. She is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, the birthplace of Tango - the only social dance with evidence-based scientific research related mindfulness.

Debbie is a small business owner of Words & Health, LLC, offering communication services and workshops related to wellness, Nutrition Tango, and bilingual nutrition.

She has delved into aspects of prevention and chronic health conditions, including clinical dietetics, community, and public health. She is a media spokesperson for the Hispanic community and is the author of two bilingual books.

Debbie holds a BS and an MS in Nutrition, an MBA, and ten certificates related to the mind and body approach to healthcare. She has been recognized with several awards, for her work as a community advocate for communities in AZ.

Knowledge Sharer: Jennifer Gastelum

Photo of Jen G.

Jennifer Gastelum is a local resident and Mesa native. She studied Psychology and Community Counseling before stumbling into her role as the Community Engagement Specialist at Mesa Arts Center. Jennifer has worked for over five years researching and exploring the effective use of arts as a community and economic development tool. She uses collaboration and kindness to bring together her passion for community and the arts to make positive change.

Knowledge Sharer: Tomas Stanton

Tomas Stanton photo

A poet, writer, teaching artist, and community activist, Tomas is a teaching-artist dedicated to advancing the arts of spoken word and Hip Hop as a platform for youth development and civic engagement. Co-Founder of Phoenix’s premiere youth spoken word ensemble, Phonetic Spit, Tomas uses hip-hop pedagogy to inspire youth to boldly express themselves through poetry, dance, and theater. His work and teaching style is rooted in his childhood experiences of poverty and single parent household, political issues, identity, and love. Tomas has over 10 years experience in youth development and currently works across the Phoenix valley creating safe spaces for youth to express themselves through spoken word.

Knowledge Sharer: Dr. Tara Bautista

Photo of Tara Bautista

Tara Bautista, Ph.D. is the Research Associate at Center for Mindfulness, Compassion, and Resilience. She oversees all of the research projects including data collection and data analyses. Tara is also the co-chair for the Early Career Mindfulness Council. 

Knowledge Sharer: Dr. Eugenia Hernandez Ruiz

Photo of Eugenia Hernandez Ruiz

Eugenia Hernandez Ruiz, PhD, MT-BC, is Assistant Professor in Music Therapy at ASU. Her current research and clinical interests relate to parent coaching of music interventions in ASD, music neuroscience, mindfulness and music interventions, and student research skill development. She has presented clinical and research posters and presentations in regional, national and international conferences. Her research has been published in the Journal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives, Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, and Psychology of Music, and is an invited reviewer for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Music Therapy Perspectives, and the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy.

Knowledge Sharer: Dr. Afton Ketcher

Afton Ketcher photo

Afton Kechter, PhD, is a mind-body stress and wellness researcher. For the past decade she has focused on examining biopsychosocial mechanisms chronic disease-related health risk behaviors and mind-body interventions. Afton’s interdisciplinary background in dietetics, psychology, counseling, and preventive medicine allows her to apply a personalized and integrative lens to maladaptive intake behaviors to uniquely teach and evaluate health behavior change. She is particularly interested in under-researched and disparate populations for whom transdisciplinary mind-body approaches beyond the scope of any one discipline would be most beneficial to prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.

Knowledge Sharer: Jacqueline Kaleigh Rogers

Photo of J. Kaleigh Rogers

Jacqueline Kaleigh, who has gone by her middle name of Kaleigh since childhood, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker honored to walk alongside those facing community violence, a diagnosis of PTSD, high-risk behaviors, and more. Her work philosophy creates a supportive space for those she meets to heal, grow, and shine like the incredible people they are. Professionally, Kaleigh has been dedicated to providing trauma-based therapeutic counseling for youth experiencing traumatic events, mental health concerns, and the criminal justice system. She is a nationally certified trauma therapist, uses creative outlets for expression, and has extensive experience connecting others to a permanent support system. Along with her first love in walking alongside youth, Kaleigh is passionate for professionals who serve the community and are experiencing residual effects from the helping professions – first responders, veterans, fire, and police officers; including supporting herself as a flourishing professional amid serving others. Kaleigh's spiritual wisdom leads her to believe mental health care is as important as physical health and that it should be accessible to everyone. 

Knowledge Sharer: Broc Pagni

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Poster Title: Neural correlates of mindfulness-induced depression reduction in adults with ASD

Broc Pagni is a Ph.D student in the interdisciplinary neuroscience program at Arizona State University. His research is focused on understanding the therapeutic efficacy of mindfulness interventions in adults with autism at the Autism and Brain Aging Laboratory, which utilizes behavioral measures and neuroimaging methods (functional MRI and EEG) to identify brain-behavior relationships underlying the therapeutic effects of an 8-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction intervention in adults with autism. 

Knowledge Sharer: Kevin Wilson

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Poster Title: Appreciating Communities: A critical dialogue

Kevin is a Ph.d. candidate in the School of Community Resources & Development at Arizona State University. His roles as both a research assistant on meaningful leisure experience and instructor for "Leisure & Quality of Life" offer opportunities to explore and discuss innovative research methods and pedagogy related to leisure, positive psychology, and community development.

Knowledge Sharers: Laura Verduzco and Payton Greer

Photo of Laura Verduzco       Photo of Payton Greer

Poster Title: The Role of College Weight Gain on Weight Satisfaction and Eating Behaviors

Laura Verduzco and Payton Greer are seniors at Grand Canyon University studying Biology with an Emphasis in Pre-Physical Therapy.  Both are undergraduate research assistants who work under the direction of Dr. Zachary Zeigler.

Knowledge Sharer: Taylor James

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Poster Title: Effectiveness of heart-focused breathing on reducing burden in Alzheimer’s caregivers:  An online randomized pilot study 

Taylor James is a senior nursing student within the Edson College of Nursing & Health Innovation in the Mayo Clinic cohort. She is currently a research intern on Dr. Linda Larkey's R01 grant-funded Recovery and Rejuvenation Study for breast cancer survivors. This is Taylor's first abstract submission to a research conference. Her research was conducted as a part of her undergraduate thesis as a student in Barrett, the Honors College. After graduating in May, she hopes to pursue a career as an inpatient orthopedic nurse. 

Knowledge Sharer: David Shetzen

Photo of David Shetzen

Poster Title: Various Effects of an Undergraduate Stress Management Course

David Shetzen, Instructor at ASU in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, School of Social Work, currently teaches both undergraduate and graduate-level stress management courses emphasizing the development of mindfulness as a skill to manage stress and improve quality of life.

David holds a B.S. in Human Communication from ASU as well as a Masters degree in Higher and Post-Secondary Education, and a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. His training in trauma treatment brings mindfulness, body centered practices, and skills that transform trauma to homeostasis in first responders—students include military servicemen and women, emergency management and law enforcement officers, as well as nurses, social workers and various other professionals who experience trauma.

As a mindfulness practitioner for over 15 years, he has worked in higher education with the goal of introducing and teaching quality of life through the practice of a mindfulness. David expresses deep gratification witnessing the transformation of thousands of ASU students who have adopted a personal practice as a result of their experience in his courses.

David also maintains a regular yoga and fitness routine and is the proud owner of four dogs, and more recently, his first kitten has joined the family!

Knowledge Sharing Sponsor: Danna Pratte

Photo of Danna Pratte

Danna Pratte is an entrepreneur and wellness enthusiast, activist, educator and professional.  She is founder and CEO of The Candidly (, a new digital wellness brand focused on providing women a thoughtful and candid platform that cuts through the clutter of the over-saturated wellness industry.  She is changing the narrative of how women view wellness, creating the conversation that self-knowledge and awareness is the key to true wellness. 

The Candidly uses personal stories, humor and unpopular opinions to give women relevant information to help them live a healthy, rich, fulfilled life.   Danna is also founder and CEO of NB Pure (, a Phoenix based multinational distribution and sales company that provides all-natural nutrition and wellness solutions to its customers.  Danna is a regular contributor to local and national media on entrepreneurship and health related topics.  She serves as a guest speaker, contributor to health-related conferences, talks and seminars and gives back to our future leaders by involvement with Arizona State University where she is an advisor to the ASU HEALab, a health innovation incubator.  She is featured on Sonoran Living in Phoenix and numerous other health and wellness media outlets.  Selected as Outstanding Women in Business by Phoenix Business Journal, Arizona Leader in Health and Wellness by AZ Big Media, and a guest speaker/youth mentor to United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.  She is a mother to three amazing boys, is a warrior for healthy living, and is grateful for the opportunity to impact people’s life for the better.

 Knowldege Sharing Collaborator: Susan West (M2)

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Susan is Owner and General Manager of M2 Well-Being, a workplace wellness solution that brings experienced mindfulness teachers and a unique mobile studio on site to lead mindfulness classes. M2 makes it convenient and efficient to educate and inspire employees to train their brains, improve their health, well-being and productivity, and build workplace relationships. 

Susan launched M2 to make mindfulness practice more accessible and relevant to busy professionals. She leverages her 25-year business career leading integrated marketing teams, products and budgets; her experience includes Brand Manager at Procter & Gamble, Director at Parchment, Assistant Dean at Arizona State University and business owner.

Susan received her B.A. degree from University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. She speaks fluent Spanish and is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Chile.

Knowledge Sharing Collaborator: Dr. Aliria Rascón

Photo of Aliria Rascon

Dr. Aliria Rascón is a clinical assistant professor at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation teaching in the pre-licensure nursing program. She also serves as Assistant Director of Edson’s Global Health Collaboratory. During her time at ASU, she has served as co-director of CONHI’s Veterans Affairs Nursing Academic Partnership and as originator and faculty director of CONHI’s first study abroad program to Peru during 2016 and 2017. As a division one water polo athlete, Aliria received her BSN from Hartwick College in New York where she also minored in Spanish and co-founded “Nursing Students Without Borders.”

Aliria completed her Master of Science in Nursing Education at ASU and her PhD in Nursing at the University of Arizona. Aliria has since practiced volunteer nursing in Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, The Solomon Islands, and locally in a free mobile health clinic in the Phoenix valley. Her clinical nursing experience includes work in oncology, medical-surgical, telemetry, medical ICU, and trauma ICU.

Along with her teaching roles, Aliria is Rei Ki certified and has led Edson College wellness initiatives where she has taught yoga classes and hosted wellness activities for faculty and staff at Edson College. Aliria is the proud owner of two energetic dogs and enjoys practicing yoga, swimming, and playing water polo in her spare time.

Knowledge Sharing Collaborator: Jennifer Shifler

Photo of Jennifer Shifler

Former classroom Educator of 10 years, turned Yoga Instructor. From the start of my educational journey, I discovered that the classroom was far more than a place to plant seeds of academic knowledge. In my first years of teaching I realized that classroom teachers and our learners needed more than wiggles extracted, but that we needed support and a gentle comfort in loving who we are. We needed to be okay in our quiet and in our noise no matter current circumstances. When I found yoga I began to share it immediately in my classrooms and in after care programs. It wasn't long before I realized that I needed to share this with other educators and adults as well. Embodying this practice gave me greater courage to share my hearts work. Eventually, I grew confident that this practice was the missing piece for all learners on a national level and I grew determined to share my hearts work.

Having grown up as an Orphan due to violence, I struggled immensely in my younger educational years with high anxieties and stresses that so many other children, teens and adults struggle with today. With this experience and after 10 years of teaching in the Elementary classroom, I decided to share Yoga, mindfulness and life skill practices in various school settings with teachers, students and now various corporations in the beautiful state of AZ.  I feel strongly that we have the capacity to access the tools within us and that some tools are just within reach to feel as our best self and we do not need the perfect mat to do so.  

Knowledge Sharing Collaborator: Wanda Conte

Photo of Wanda Conte

After 30+ years in corporate technology and education environments, Wanda Conte shares her passion and creativity through breath and movement as an E-RYT yoga instructor facilitating group and individual classes across the Valley. Yoga found Wanda purely by happenstance during an ordinary walk through town and she became a yoga teacher shortly after developing her practice because she enjoys how yoga makes her feel. Mindful movement, breathing and connecting to the mind, body and spirit; that's what yoga is to Wanda. And every day, she embraces, laughs and loves opportunities to learn, teach, share and explore yoga! 

Knowledge Sharing Collaborator: Jean Squires

 Photo of Jean Squires

Jean Squires is a Program Coordinator with the University Technology Office here at ASU and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from Merrimack College. She is a Reiki Master and has been practicing for over three years. She is passionate about sharing Reiki and being a conduit for healing current and/or past trauma. With a knack for intuition, she welcomes clients with an open heart and dedication to empower themselves to heal through chakra cleansing and meditation. Originally from Boston, Jean lives in Mesa with her husband, stepson and German Shepherd.

Knowledge Sharing Artist: Lisa Marie Persaud  

 Photo of Lisa Marie

Lisa Marie Persaud is an artist based in Phoenix, Arizona. She was born in Guyana, “the land of many waters”, a tiny South American country that borders the North Atlantic coast. Lisa Marie grew up, and spent most of her life in Brooklyn, New York. Her passions include excavations of the mind and the cosmos. She created in 2013 to share her art and thoughts with the world. Lisa Marie’s art is inspired by the human condition, diversity of species on Earth as well as the heavenly bodies that adorn our universe, and the mysteries that underlie our cosmos. Her art is an expression of the harmony and inter-connectedness that exists between self and other and strives to offer the observer a moment of self-transcendence.

Lisa Marie attended The City College of New York and obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre (2009). She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Grand Canyon University on April 29th, 2018, and is a lifetime member of Psi Chi, The International Honor Society in Psychology. Lisa Marie is a student affiliate of the American Psychological Association, and the American Counseling Association, as well as a member of their respective humanistic psychology and counseling divisions. She is currently a student of mental health and counseling. Her academic interests include mental health counseling, clinical psychology, neuroscience, and research into the therapeutic value of altered states of consciousness, and spiritual and self-transcendent experiences.




Planting seeds: Rooting in Mindfulness for Thriving Communities

Agenda subject to change, please continue to check the website for upcoming information!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

9:00 - 9:30 am

Registration, Breakfast, and Yoga with Wanda Conte, M2 Mobile Mindfulness

Welcome the day with breakfast from Green, Starbucks coffee, mindful movement and an opportunity to tour the M2 Mobile Mindfulness studio

9:30 - 10:30 am

Welcome address, Centering practice, and the Expansive Model of Mindfulness with Center staff

10:30 - 12 noon

Art Abloom: Using Mindful Creativity to Foster Community with Liz Athens

Transformative art seldom ends with the self. 

12:00 - 12:15 pm 

Recognition of Presenting Sponsor: Danna Pratte of Nutritional Brands

12:15 - 1:15 pm

Lunch, Yoga with Jennifer Shifler, Reiki with Jean Squires and Aliria Rascon, M2 Mobile Mindfulness Studio with Susan West

Reiki sign-up sheet will be available during morning registration.

1:15 - 1:45 pm

It Takes Two to Tango: The Link Between Argentine Tango and Mindfulness with Debbie Polinsky

Argentine Tango allows people to connect with themselves and to others through dance. Tango is the only social dance with scientific evidence based research on our health (neurological and cardiovascular conditions, physical disabilities, social phobias) including its use as therapy. In this workshop, we will analyze the relationship between tango and mindfulness, and practice exercises of musicality and movement of traditional Tango, used at the milongas (the social dances around the world, equivalent to our discotheques). 

1:45 - 2:00 pm


2:00 - 3:00 pm

Early Career Mindfulness Council (ECMC) Panel Presentations

Join us for a series of brief mindfulness-based research presentations and interactive discussion spanning interdisciplinary sciences and applications.

Co-Chairs and Moderators:

Dara James, Ph.D., Arizona State University

Tara Bautista, Ph.D., Arizona State University 


Eugenia Hernandez Ruiz, PhD, MT-BC, Arizona State University, “Music for Mindfulness Practice: A Summary of Findings

Afton Kechter, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Southern California, “The association of mindfulness mechanisms of attention and acceptance with traditional and novel substance use among emerging adults

Broc Pagni, Graduate Student, Arizona State University, “Mindfulness training improves quality of life, emotion regulation, and executive function in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

3:00 - 4:00 pm

Recovery Panel and Q&A with Moderators Liz Athens and Dr. Nika Gueci

Recovery from substance use, trauma, or eating disorders is a lifelong process. This process relies on the self, others, and the communities of which one is part. Knowledge Sharers discuss their experience with recovery as well as the relationships and communities that helped or hindered their progress.

4:00 - 4:55 pm

Community Building through Sound with Drs. Mary Margaret Fonow and Kimberly Marshall

Professors Mary Margaret Fonow and Kimberly Marshall will discuss their pedagogical approaches to creating community through sound, as explored in their current Humanities Lab class.  The session will include sound experiences using the body’s vibrations to inspire awareness of oneself and others.

4:55 - 5:00 pm

Closing Meditation with Dr. Teri Pipe

9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Both Days

Poster Presentations

Taylor James, BSN Student, Arizona State University, “Effectiveness of heart-focused breathing on reducing burden in Alzheimer’s caregivers: An online randomized pilot study

Broc Pagni, Graduate Student, Arizona State University, "Neural correlates of mindfulness-induced depression reduction in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder"

David Shetzen, School of Social Work at ASU, “Various Effects of an Undergraduate Stress Management Course

Laura Verduzco, Undergraduate Student, Grand Canyon University, “The Role of College Weight Gain on Weight Satisfaction and Eating Behaviors

Kevin Wilson, Graduate Student, Arizona State University, “Appreciating Communities: A critical dialogue

9:00 am - 2:00 pm

M2 Mobile Mindfulness Studio available both days

Thursday, March 26, 2020

8:00 - 9:00 am           

Optional Mindful Writing Session hosted by the Early Career Mindfulness Council (ECMC)

Join us for a mindful writing session starting promptly at 8am! Bring a project of your choice (paper, book, journaling) to work on for an hour in a supportive mindful environment. We will set writing & mindful goals, engage in a brief mindfulness meditation practice, and write together in silence for the remainder of the hour before coming back together to share our experience. Practice being mindfully productive!

9:00 - 9:45 am

Breakfast, Yoga with Wanda Conte, and Welcome Back

9:45 - 10:30 am

Community Art with Hanna Layton

10:30 - 11:45 am

School-based Mindfulness Communities

Mindfulness First with Sunny Wight

Mindfulness in Public Education

Since 2013, local non-profit Mindfulness First, has been providing Mindfulness-Based Social Emotional Learning (MBSEL) services to AZ schools. Through trauma-sensitive MBSEL ideas, themes and exercises they help teachers and students find their own way to manage personal and community life-challenges and to support mental health wellbeing. This session will discuss the industry of mindfulness in education, the local impact of Mindfulness First, and guidance for folks who may be interested in supporting children and schools with MBSEL. 

"As our world continues to suffer from man-made systemic struggles like poverty, inequality, racism, violence, isolation, and ACES, Adverse Childhood Experiences, the need for increased access mindfulness skills becomes even more profound."

Laveen Elementary with Gavin Tucker & Jackie Morales Tucker

Incorporating mindfulness programs into K-12 education helps shift a school’s punitive focus to a restorative justice model. Mindfulness teaches students and teachers specific skills that help them stay focused, show empathy, and demonstrate self-regulation. In order to lessen classroom referrals, school suspensions, and chronic absenteeism, Laveen Elementary School (LES) transitioned to a mindfulness-focused school four years ago. Their Mind, Body, and Spirit (MBS) program focuses on self-regulation, proactive decision making, and nutrition. These continued efforts bridge the achievement gap by applying the principles of mindfulness, so students can become the leaders of tomorrow. During this session, you learn about the steps LES took to implement school-wide mindfulness, leading to their recognition by the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) as the “2019 Golden Bell Program of the Year.”

11:45 - 1:00 pm

Community Lunch and Facilitated Dialogue, Yoga, Reiki with Jean Squires, M2 Mobile Mindfulness Studio with Susan West

 1:00 - 2:00 pm

BIPOC Community Mindfulness with Cheryl Blie and Brandi Mack 

This session will delve into the ancient and cultural practices of mindfulness as they relate to the world majority (BIPOC). During this session, participants will hear information relating to practices of stillness, moment-to-moment experiences, introspection, and heightened awareness as it relates to cultures separate from the mainstream. Following these short talks, participants will have the opportunity to practice alongside these cultural leaders as they share a mindfulness practice from their communities.

2:00 - 2:15 pm     


2:15 - 3:00 pm

The Collective and Equitable Mindfulness with Jennifer Gastelum and Tomas Stanton

Creative Catalysts, an initiative of Mesa Arts Center, offers The Collective, a program that uses creativity to activate leadership skills and enhance innovation across sectors. The Collective brings creativity to the forefront of the conversation by intentionally weaving it into every lesson on leadership, collaboration, failure, problem-solving, and mindfulness.

3:15 - 4:30 pm

Appreciative Joy & Compassion Practice with Cassondra Graff, Dr. Dara James and Ann Sebren

Join us as we gather to explore the practices of appreciative joy and compassion for self and others.  This experiential session will provide the opportunity to learn about the roots and research of appreciative joy and compassion and to explore these practices with trained facilitators.

4:30 - 5:00 pm

Planting Seeds with Susan Norton

Community Song (Chariot by Gavin Degraw) with Tiara Cash

5:00 pm

Closing Address



For more information, please contact or view the flyer below:

Photo of the levels for Center's Conference Sponsorship


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Presenting Sponsors


Photo of The Candidly Logo - Danna Pratte

A new wellness brand for people who sort of hate wellness brands.

[your logo could be here]

Conference Sponsors

Gold Level

Your link could be here

Silver Level

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Bronze Level

Your link could be here

Community Collaborators

Brenda Bentley - Brenda Bentley Coaching

Denise Resnik - First Place AZ

Dr. Keiko Finnegan & Dr. Sera Sheppard - Kinfolk Optimal Living

Holly Rogers & Libby Webb - Koru Mindfulness

Leigh Lewis - Arcadia Womens Wellness

Melissa Tolsen - Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Mimi Sommers - DreamTeam Academy

Sherry Haskins & Teresa Salama - Healthy Arizona Worksites 

Sophia Town - Fordham University (Gabelli School of Business)

Stacia Holmes & Shawnte Johnson - City of Phoenix - Parks & Recreation

Tara Jackson - AZ Town Hall

Tiesha Harrison - I Love This Journey 

Tomas Stanton & Jennifer Gastelum - Creative Catalysts' The Collective


Testimonials from 2019 participants

“The power of the community, and the pride, and the connection that came from such seemingly simple [conference] activities was incredibly powerful.”


“Equitable mindfulness, for me, is that it’s not exclusive to one group, one person, one race, one ethnicity, one – it’s about equanimity, and that everybody deserves the opportunity to experience mindfulness skills and to grow and learn from those.”


“I think this [conference] impressed upon me the huge-ness, the big-ness of the social change that needs to happen in our world.”


“I loved the atmosphere in the conference. It’s peaceful. When everybody gathers together and they have the same goal in mind, in this case mindfulness, it’s like everybody has energy and if we are all bringing that energy in the room and the energy is getting bigger and bigger and bigger and everybody can feel it. It’s like a pot luck. When you have your own food but when everybody brings something to share we have a lot of food and everybody benefits. So, that’s how I feel here.”


“I was definitely exposed to different perspectives and different questions. I think one of the really nice things about the way that the conference was done is that it really honors the wisdom of the individual experience and created a space to explore. The way that the conference is going I really like the way that it’s done isn’t... unidirectional information. It really is to digest it and make it real and for it to be a true take away not just, okay here’s the information that was given to you. It’s more experiential which I think that’s mindfulness in general.”