A Changing Landscape at The New School


August 4, 2021

Learning and Training
Inner Life

by Kyra Epstein, New School Program Coordinator

The pandemic has changed the landscape of our world: the way we relate to each other, the way we do business, and the way we gather and learn. As the world has reshaped itself over the past year and a half, The New School has reshaped itself to meet new needs and horizons.

We continue to hold our focus on nature, culture, and inner life—with a strong commitment to conversations of depth that foster a collective search for meaning.

But, like so many others, the pandemic caused us to move to virtual events, exploring the way that our community could connect from around the world. In addition, we set about expanding our suite of hosts, bringing on four new hosts over the last 18 months. This fall, we hope to return to some careful, in-person events again—as well as some outdoor events and performances—but we will continue to engage our virtual participants through hybrid in-person/virtual formats and by continuing to offer virtual webinars.

You may not have "met" our new hosts. Each one brings their own interests, experiences, viewpoints, and unique styles to their New School conversations. All of these differences enrich the collective conversation that happens at The New School. In this article, find out more about our amazing hosts, what conversations they have been hosting recently, and what's coming up this summer and fall.

Meet Our Hosts

Most of you know The New School’s founder and director, Michael Lerner. Hosting hundreds of conversations since 2007, Michael has followed many streams of inquiry that echo his own intellectual curiosities and experiences as a public health pioneer, integrating conventional and alternative healing therapies in his work with cancer patients, environmental health, and beyond. These days, Michael’s conversations often focus on resilience, healing, spiritual biography, and soul development. His interests range far and wide, but his conversations always run deep. Most recently, you can watch or listen to his conversation with former U.S. Ambassador Mathew Barzun. You can find all of Michael’s conversations here.

Steve Heilig is a widely published essayist and book and music critic, helping to keep the Bolinas counter-culture tradition alive at The New School with his conversations with musicians, poets, writers, and surfers. With his laid-back style, you can easily forget that Steve is a highly respected public health expert—trained at five University of California campuses in public health, medical ethics, addiction medicine, economics, and environmental sciences. In addition to co-founding Commonweal’s Collaborative on Health and the Environment, Steve works with the San Francisco Medical Society, the California Pacific Medical Center, and as co-editor of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. Most recently, Steve had conversations with Bolinas artist, bird illustrator, and naturalist Keith Hansen as well as drug reformer Ethan Nadelmann. You can find Steve’s conversations here.

Rabbi Irwin Keller has an earnest and comforting conversational style marked by his characteristic humor and compassion. He has served as the spiritual leader of Congregation Ner Shalom in Sonoma County, California, since 2008. His interests include religion and mysticism, music, politics, disillusionment and hope, and what it is to be human in these times. He is a steward and faculty member of Commonweal’s Taproot Gathering, and his past work included LGBT advocacy, HIV legal services, and 21 years as a singing drag queen with The Kinsey Sicks, America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet. As a New School Host, Irwin most recently spoke with Aden Van Noppen about Creating Technology Worthy of the Human Spirit. You can find all of Irwin’s conversations on our website.

Anna Lappé and Tiffani Patton are collaborating hosts for our Roots of Resilience in an Age of Crisis series of conversations, co-presented with Real Food Media. The series of three conversations brings together leading thinkers and doers for deep conversations about the interconnectedness of these crises with regard to our food systems, and how we find our way out. You can find recordings from the 2021 series of three events on our website. More events in this series are coming next year, so stay tuned.

Anna Lappé is a national bestselling author, a renowned advocate for sustainability and justice along the food chain, and an advisor to funders investing in food system transformation. A James Beard Leadership Awardee, Anna is the co-author or author of three books on food, farming, and sustainability and the contributing author to fourteen more. One of TIME magazine’s “eco” Who’s-Who, Anna is the founder or co-founder of three national organizations including the Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund. In addition to her work at Real Food Media, Anna developed and leads the Food Sovereignty Fund, a global grantmaking program of the Panta Rhea Foundation.

Tiffani Patton is a lifelong “foodie” turned activist, writing and researching food system change for more than seven years. A gifted writer and storyteller, she leads several areas of educational programming, communications strategy, engagement, and internal operations at Real Food Media. She co-produces and co-hosts the Real Food Reads and Foodtopias podcasts with Tanya Kerssen. Tiffani brings years of active engagement in food policy discussions, event organizing, storytelling for change, facilitating important discussions around food system transformation, and the connection of art, music, and culture to food in the Bay Area and beyond.


Ladybird Morgan’s conversational style is heartful and ceremonial, and she enjoys bringing new voices to The New School. She is co-founder of the Humane Prison Hospice Project, and has been working in end-of-life care as a registered nurse, clinical social worker, and educator for 20+ years. She has worked with organizations including The Zen Hospice Project and Doctors Without Borders. Ladybird has guided medical practitioners, families and private caregivers to find their clearest voice as they step across significant thresholds in life and in preparing for death. Her New School conversations include indigenous women elders Pat McCabe and Susan Balbas on Crossing Thresholds: Staying Awake in Changing Times, as well as a conversation with two young women artists on What Justice Looks Like. More to come from Ladybird!

Victoria Santos is a new voice at The New School, hosting our Money as Medicine series of conversations (co-presented with the Center for Healing and Liberation). Victoria brings a warm and authentic style to New School hosting, along with more than thirty years of experience and leadership in education, community organizing, and community development. For ten years, Victoria assisted Sobonfu Somé in leading grief rituals according to the Dagara traditions of Burkina Faso. A Spanish-fluent Afro-Caribbean immigrant who was born in a rural village in the Dominican Republic, she is the founder and director of the Center for Healing and Liberation at Commonweal. At The New School, she recently hosted a conversation with social impact advocate C'Ardiss Gardner Gleser about transforming the philanthropic landscape to refocus on racial equity. Next up this fall is an event with money coach Morgan Curtis and Niria Alicia Garcia -- a Xicana human rights advocate, climate justice organizer, educator, and storyteller that was named a Young Champion of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Programme.

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