Major(s): Philosophy

What is your current role? What was your journey in arriving there?
I’m the Executive Director and on the board of Dharma Gates, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that I helped to found while I was a senior at Wesleyan. I began working with the Patricelli Center at Wesleyan in the fall of 2018 after spending the summer at a Zen Monastery in Oregon. That summer changed my life, and my initial impulse with Dharma Gates was to help other young people find out about offerings like what I had experienced at the monastery. The journey since then has been eye-opening, challenging, immensely rewarding, and far too complex to share on a short page. Above all I’m grateful to been given the opportunity to grow so much so fast through this work.

What do you enjoy about your work? What challenges does your industry currently face?
I love that I get to meet so many wonderful and exceptional people, both the young people that we work with and the meditation teachers that we bring to lead events. I also really, really love the process of perceiving patterns in complexity and trying to create positive outcomes from them. In my experience, this is a great way to think about nonprofit leadership. An ED’s role is first to perceive opportunities to do good in the very complex system that is our world. Not everything that sounds good at first is actually all that good. Then, an ED has to effectively explain that opportunity to others, rally support, and execute on that vision. Every one of those steps is a skill in itself. This makes the role both creative and pragmatic. It’s neither entirely in the clouds nor disconnected from the human element. It’s incredibly challenging and I love it. Simultaneously, precisely the things that make the job wonderful can make it incredibly stressful. Because it’s mission-driven, people in the nonprofit sector tend to identify strongly with their work. Personal and work-life blend together. When things aren’t going well, it’s very easy to take this as a personal or moral failing and feel like absolutely everything is falling apart. As an ED of a small organization, this can be very intense.

Do you have any advice for students thinking about entering your industry?
The biggest thing I would say for someone entering the nonprofit industry is that you should heavily invest in developing strong self-care practices and good boundaries with yourself and your work. The late Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has a lovely saying – “If you want peace, be peace.” If you’re trying to change the world and create good, but you’re doing so from a place of deep, anxiety, and resentment, or you’re constantly sacrificing your own needs for your work, it will have an impact on the good you’re able to do. That stuff always comes out sideways. When this is chronic in an industry (it is), it gives the nonprofit sector a bad reputation. It makes it easier for people to think philanthropy is a waste of resources because so many nonprofits are hypocritical. They’re trying to do good, but internally they’re full of toxic power dynamics, poor boundaries, and suppressed resentment. This also eventually causes burnout. This is not sustainable or helpful. If you’re interested in healing the world, your first and primary obligation is to yourself. It’s to clean up the parts of you that are unresolved and learn to be a good person in your basic, daily interactions. Systemic change is secondary. Don’t be cruel (including to yourself) in your personal life in pursuit of the grand idea of changing the world. It won’t work. If you take this view as the foundation and participate in an organization based on this understanding, then our service work becomes a training ground for your own ongoing learning and growth. Our relationships with every person we communicate with become teacher. We are not just accountable to our “beneficiaries”, we are accountable to everyone we communicate with and to ourselves. And be careful. If an organization has normalized sacrificing the basic well-being of its staff and volunteers for some kind of an ideal of purity, please learn how to set boundaries (and maybe leave!)

How did your time at Wesleyan influence your career choice/journey?
Enormously! I didn’t know anything about meditation before I went to Wesleyan. I made a friend during my sophomore year (Liam Trampota, Class of 2018!) who had spent a semester at a Zen monastery in Upstate, New York. He began organizing trips for Wesleyan students to visit the monastery and I attended one of those trips. After that, I became obsessed with meditation and started meditating way too much without appropriate guidance and really confused myself for a while. It slowly became clear that there’s both enormous benefit and transformation possible through deep meditation practice, but the manner in which a person is introduced matters a lot. You can absolutely meditate in a way that’s causing harm. I began working with the Patricelli Center in the Fall of 2018 to start Dharma Gates. We wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the $5,000 seed grant we received from the Patricelli Center in the Spring of 2019, nor without Makaela Kingley’s constant encouragement that this really was a good idea and I should take it seriously. There’s no way I would’ve followed through without her. Now, Dharma Gates aspires to be a touchpoint to support young people who are interested in meditation to connect to affordable retreat experiences, peers, and teachers so they can enter the world of deep practice in a safe and reliable way that is respectful of tradition.


Updated as of September 29th, 2023

Work Experience
  • Co-Founder and Executive Director
  • Dharma Gates
Entrepreneurship & Start-ups, Exploring, Networking Resources, Nonprofit & NGOs
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