Give Us the Ballot – Ari Berman Visits Iowa City Book Festival

Maharishi School alumni Ari Berman is speaking this Friday night, October 5, at 7pm, at the Iowa City Book Festival. ICBF writes,

Ari Berman - alumni

” [Ari] has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.”

Ari, a senior reporter for Mother Jones and a Fellow at The Nation Institute, is an expert on the issues of gerrymandering, voter registration, and voter suppression—topics that are on the mind of many in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections.

Ari’s book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, was published in 2015 and is as relevant as ever. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. The event is in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library, co-sponsored by the Johnson County League of Women Voters and the University of Iowa Public Policy Center.


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Hannah Nichols
Marketing and PR
Maharishi School
Fairfield, IA 52556


Jennie Rothenberg Gritz Exploring the World Through Journalism

Maharishi School and MUM alumni Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at Smithsonian magazine. When she started her job in 2015, her employer was quite familiar with MUM, since the magazine featured Fairfield as one of the 20 best small towns to visit in 2013.

“It was wonderful to start a new job and realize I didn’t have to explain Transcendental Meditation,” said Jennie. “People see it as an asset in my background that makes me better suited to handling stress and coming up with creative ideas.”

Jennie grew up in Fairfield and graduated from Maharishi School in 1993.  She went on to attendMaharishi University and earned a major in literature and a minor in writing in 1997. Jennie loved learning about the world through storytelling. After completing the Transcendental Meditation® Teacher Training Course, she went to graduate school at UC Berkeley and majored in journalism.

In 2006 Jennie started working at The Atlantic magazine as senior editor. She was instrumental in developing the online version of the magazine and turning it into a robust internet publication. Now she writes and edits articles for the print edition of Smithsonian, which satisfies her curiosity and thirst for knowledge. “The whole driving force behind the magazine is knowledge and the excitement of learning new things,” she explains, “it’s great to be part of that.”

Jennie lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, MSAE alumnus Jonathan Gritz, and two small children. In her free time, she enjoys singing and playing the guitar. She also makes sure to visit Fairfield regularly.

“TM helps me work better under pressure, be happier inside, and have more clarity,” said Jennie. “Just like at any job, we have deadlines; we have things that don’t turn out the way we expected. Meditating makes it easier to stay focused and do my job well, but not take success or failure too seriously.”

It’s wonderful to track the careers of our alumni and see them thriving and enjoying life!  We’re pleased to announce that Jennie will be the graduation speaker for the Maharishi School class of 2017 – we look forward to her speech, and know she will be a great role model for our students.

Thanks to Maharishi University for permission to reprint photos and text from their article.

Maharishi Preschool: Education for the Next Generation

Maharishi Preschool has, in the past few years, become a daily alumni reunion with so many second generation students being enrolled along with alumni teachers joining the faculty team. Here are just a few of the alumni parents and faculty now involved in Maharishi Preschool:

Emily Schweitz Martlin, 1998, & Like Martlin 1994

“I graduated in 1998 and I went to MUM right after graduation. I studied fine arts, then I realized that I wanted to study acting. So I left MUM and moved away for about eight years, and came back in 2009.
The business I was in, the acting world, is very stressful and exhausting. I realized I had been going, going, going without any breaks or time to rest and so I realized I had to come back to Fairfield and take a break. The more time I spent in Fairfield the more I realized I wanted to stay – any creative venture I had was supported.

Then I met my husband, Luke Martlin, and we had our son Cal two years ago. We were talking about moving out of town – Luke wanted to pursue his PhD in the humanities – but because we had Cal we thought, this is not what we need to be doing, we need to be living in Fairfield where it’s a sweet space for him, and easy and safe. We both liked the idea of him coming back to MSAE because it was a sweet experience for us.
We feel like it’s the best place for him to be in terms of the level of sweetness and safety and attention.”

Mira Waller Daniels, 2001, & Ben Daniels, 1998

“Both Ben and I went all the way through MSAE from preschool through graduation, and all of our siblings did as well, we’re the alumni family. We both really felt that an education at MSAE was an important thing that we wanted our kids to have. That’s one of the main reasons we’re still here in Fairfield, other than the fact that our families are here and that’s wonderful to be able to be with them.

I love the extended outdoor space for the kids. The Nature Explore classroom and the greenhouse are so beautiful, there are so many spaces and growing things. The kids take ownership of that stuff, “this is our strawberry patch”, they go over there and it’s their space.

I love the calm, I can tell that Declan craves the calm of the classroom. I love that, with both my boys going through the preschool, I totally see that calm at home.

And the diversity – I love that – because I feel like if there’s one thing above academic learning goal I have it’s to raise them to be citizens of the world and have zero boundary when it comes to any other kid. There are kids from Gambia and India and China and they celebrate the cultures and their uniqueness and it’s a special thing. I love that idea of celebrating difference and diversity because then the kids feel like not only do I get to have all these friends going through school with me, but I get to learn about their cultures that are unique.

Sarah Krone, 1999

After Sarah graduated she went to the University of Iowa and got a BA in English in 2003. She has since lived in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, before moving back to Fairfield three months ago. Sarah is now working at the preschool in the mornings, and loving the experience.

“I really like the Montessori philosophy, plus I love being outside and being around little kids, so it’s the perfect fit! There’s something really sweet about being around small children even though it’s challenging.”

Brianna Eason, 2006

Brianna attended Maharishi University and graduated in 2010 with a degree in Media and Communications and a minor in business.

“What I was doing before was marketing and web design, which was fun, but I felt like I wasn’t very actively engaged in the community. I felt wasn’t really making that much of a difference. So I decided to shift everything over and work with kids, because it would be a great area where I could contribute and make a difference.
I really like it, it’s a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying it so far.”

Thomas Weiss Accepted to PhD Program at Columbia University

Maharishi School class of 2012 alumni Thomas Weiss just graduated from Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa, earning a bachelor’s degree in geology.  Cornell College has a small student body of 1,200 and operates on a block plan, similar to Maharishi University of Management.  

Weiss felt well prepared for his college education due to the consciousness based teaching methods and structure used at MSAE.  He reflects, “I think it was good preparation because our curriculum focused on making connections between classes and between topics within the classes, and I think that was a really good learning strategy for me in college; it helped me understand what I was learning more and see more deeply into it.”

In addition to the learning methods and study skills Weiss maintained from his MSAE days, he also continued the Transcendental Meditation practice he participated in since Kindergarten.  Weiss recalls, “Meditation helped me a lot, we had four hours of class on the block program, I’d get out at three and be pretty exhausted, and then I’d meditate and I’d be ready for the rest of the day.”

Weiss is now moving on to the Ivy League, as he has been accepted to the PhD Program at Columbia University in New York!  He has chosen to earn his degree in Paleoclimatology, the study of climate change throughout earth’s history.  The program will not only be tuition free, but Weiss will receive a stipend to cover living expenses.

We’re excited for Thomas – a degree program in New York City with so many new people to meet, so much culture to explore, and of course, so many things to learn!  We look forward to hearing about his PhD program experiences, graduation, and continuing educational path.  Weiss predicts that he will become a professor, but is open to other possibilities that may present themselves.

Good luck, Thomas, and stay in touch!

Maharishi School Grad Yale Shaw Bring Award Winning Design to Life Saving Technology

As a kid Yale Shaw suffered from food allergies so severe that he needed to bring an Epipen everywhere he went. An Epipen is designed to inject a dose of epinephrine into muscle tissue, halting an allergic reaction for ten to twenty minutes, long enough to get help at an emergency room. Even though Yale knew on an intellectual level that this was a necessity, he couldn’t help wanting to leave the device behind and be like his allergy free friends and peers. The Epipen felt stigmatizing, a visual marker for his medical condition.
Yale remembered this feeling and arrived at a solution with “Epi”, his entry in the 2015 international Spark Design competition. “A large part of the project actually addresses the social stigma with carrying medical devices,” Shaw said. “I wanted to create a device that people would be confident about carrying — changing the paradigm.” His design is sleek and modern, not even identifiable as a medical device at a glance.
Epi goes well beyond a mere design update, however, by incorporating a cell phone app to contact 911 once the device is utilized. Once triggered, Epi transmits personal information, location, and allergy alerts, saving valuable time that can make the difference between life and death in the case of severe anaphylaxis. Shaw assures, “The information would be encrypted so that only professional emergency authorities would be able to see it”. 
Epi garnered Yale the silver design award, placing him in the top five percent among more than 500 global competitors. Yale combined necessity, creativity, and hard work to secure this prize, but his father feels that his academic career at Maharishi School prepared him for this arena. “I attribute a lot of it to the fact that he went to Maharishi School and practiced Transcendental Meditation growing up,” Craig said of his son’s success. “He’s very fortunate; from the time he was a senior in high school he knew exactly what he wanted to do.”
It’s wonderful to see our graduates shine in their field; congratulations Yale! To read more about Epi or Yale’s other projects visit and keep checking back in the future to see what he creates next!

Many thanks to the Fairfield Ledger for the quotes used in this blog post.

Interview with Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Semifinalist

Reprinted with permisson by Fairfield Weekly Reader


FWR: It’s a tremendous honor to be a semi-finalist in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year, tagged “the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs.” What do you believe attracted the judges’ attention?
JHC: I’ve always held myself and my work to the highest standards. Whether it was being one of the youngest females to be promoted to full talent agent in the competitive entertainment industry at the Endeavor Agency (now WME/William Morris Endeavor), or during the course of the past eight years at Hawthorne Direct, where I worked my way up within Hawthorne Direct from the role of Account Executive to present owner, Chairman and CEO. During that time, I also completed my MBA with honors and had my son, Braden, while maintaining a successful marriage and climbing the corporate ladder. Over the years, I have constantly strived to foster service-oriented relationships with all of our company’s clients, helping them to envision, create and execute powerful advertising campaigns that build and grow brands, and ignite consumers.
FWR: What have been the building blocks of your career, i.e. your mentors, business model(s), etc.?
JHC: Mentors are very important. I have been fortunate to have mentors in all of my various jobs – but I sought them out. It’s important to realize that you are not just automatically given a mentor when you start your career. You have to be proactive and develop these relationships, knowing that they are not going to just be handed to you. I’ve developed many strong relationships on my own over the years, and they have each been extremely beneficial as I’ve progressed through my career.
And the apple must not fall far from the tree because another amazing fact that I wasn’t aware of until after I had been awarded semi-finalist in Los Angeles, is that Tim Hawthorne [Jessica’s dad] had previously won Entrepreneur of the Year (Ernst & Young) for Iowa/Nebraska region in 1996 in the Marketing category.
FWR: What good business practices have you created and encouraged at Hawthorne Direct?
JHC: I try to foster a learning and growing environment for young contributing Hawthorne Direct staffers. I initiated an internship training program that has turned into full-time employment opportunities for countless employees who have enjoyed personal and professional growth at Hawthorne Direct. I’m proud to note that if an employee has not continued with the agency, they have also gone on to work for other marketing companies and we’ve continued strong relationships with these former Hawthorne employees. All Hawthorne Direct employees receive training opportunities regularly. This includes webinars, seminars, summits and conferences.
But most importantly, Hawthorne has always been a market leader in analytics and attribution in advertising. We constantly encourage our team members to be in think tanks, and challenge ourselves with questions in what is the next big thing in advertising going to be. Every day we dig deep and innovate. It’s exciting; we love to see what develops and thrive on it.
FWR: How do you evolve and support a good team?
JHC: I believe in valuing the quality of the lives as well as livelihoods of my employees and I live this in the Company Culture mission I initiated. My dedication to the culture at Hawthorne Direct fosters a commitment to both the work and personal lives of my employees via supporting flexible work schedules, empowering employees to operate from remote offices when possible. I’ve ensured generous vacation offerings, regularly share additional paid holidays with my team and promoted giving back to the local community as part of our culture.

Vikas Narula (1990) to Distribute 1400 Trees to FF Area

First published by the Fairfield Ledger, Nicole Hester-Williams, staff writer

Neighborhood Forest, a nonprofit organization that gives away seedling trees to children, plans to distribute nearly 1,400 free trees to Fairfield area students to be planted on Earth Day.

According to the organization’s website, the trees are given as part of an initiative to provide children a way to connect with the earth, assist with neighborhood beautification and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds in the air.

The organization, which plans to deliver more than 5,000 free trees April 22 in five states, including Ontario, Canada, has its roots in Fairfield.

Vikas Narula (1990 Maharishi School graduate) is Neighborhood Forest’s founder. He was a junior at Maharishi University of Management in 1993 when he initially conceived the idea for the project.

This photo, taken in 1993, shows Vikas Narula helping a Fairfield student plant a seedling tree. Narula, founder of Neighborhood Forest, launched the organization to provide students with trees to plant on Earth Day.

Narula said he worked with his fellow classmate, Belinda Hoole, who helped him launch a fashion show dance party called EcoJam.

The money raised from the first EcoJam was used to purchase several hundred trees for Fairfield area youth.

“It was a key fundraiser for us,” Narula said. “I can’t believe it’s still going on.”

After graduating from MUM in 1994, Narula moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and began working in corporate America.

In the midst of climbing the corporate ladder, Narula found himself bedridden for a month, and he realized he was dissatisfied with the direction in which his life had taken.

Narula said his “deathbed” experience brought the tree project back to the forefront of his mind, and he launched Neighborhood Forest in 2009.

“It’s a fantastic feeling really; it’s a feeling of coming home,” Narula said. “What started as a not so good experience with ill health, made me realize what I really loved and had a passion for. It was something that I had to go away from to realize how much it meant to me.”

Since 2010, Neighborhood Forest has provided trees to more than 10,000 children who have helped plant more than 5,000 trees across the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Neighborhood Forest garnered five local sponsors that underwrote the project in Fairfield.

Sponsoring one child to plant a tree on Earth Day costs $1.99 annually.

“We secured funds from wonderful sponsors, [such as] Hy-Vee, Everybody’s Agri-Industrial Plastics, Cambridge Financial Research and Iowa State Bank,” he said. “About one-third of families in Fairfield signed up.”

Students will participate from Washington, Pence and Libertyville elementary schools, Fairfield Middle School, Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment and Home School Assistance Program.

Participating students will plant eastern white pine seedlings, and tree shipments will arrive at the schools prior to Earth Day, April 22.

“The beauty of it is that there is so much work that needs to be done,” Narula said. “The sky’s the limit. There’s so much joy to be derived from this.”

Maharishi School Graduate and Spouse Implement Quiet Time Program in San Francisco Schools

Maharishi School graduate Noah Schechtman (1997) and his wife Vidya were recently highlighted in an MUM Achievements article. The article is re-printed below.

Alumni Couple Implements Quiet Time Program in San Francisco Schools

— by Katie Kelefant

According to a recent NBC News report, reduced school violence and suspension, improved academic performance and attendance, reduced anxiety and stress, and increased self-esteem and happiness are just a few of the striking results the Quiet Time program has achieved in some of San Francisco’s most stressful schools since the program’s 2007 launch.

  MUM alumni Vidya and Noah Schechtman, with their daughter Ella

MUM alumni Noah and Vidya Schechtman are part of the team that has taught the Transcendental Meditation® program to over 5000 students in a dozen schools in the San Francisco Bay area. Noah is now program director at the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education (CWAE), responsible for implementing the Quiet Time program in schools, prisons, businesses, and non-profit institutions.

Noah earned a BA in Maharishi Vedic Science in 2002 from MUM, and Vidya graduated with a BA in Business in 2004. “My education at MUM was very well rounded,” said Vidya. “The business program prepared me to become a manager. The emphasis on balance in life, because we work really hard, was very helpful.”

The staff of the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education

The CWAE currently has a waiting list of 10 schools wanting to implement the Quiet Time program. “When we started doing this nine years ago the schools thought this was out of their paradigm, and we had to convince them to give it a try,” said Noah. “Now when we start the conversation they cut us short and say ‘We have heard the stories, we just want to know how we can have it in our school.’ ”

An increasing body of independent research studies has been documenting the benefits of the Quiet Time program, resulting in its widespread acceptance as well as funding from a variety of sources. In addition, the CWAE received the Public Health Champion Award from The National Community-Based Organization Network (NCBON). What started out as a pilot program turned into a stable and fulfilling career for Noah and Vidya.


Alumnus Owen Blake Tours School with NY Quiet Time Principal

Linda Rosenbury, principal of Brooklyn Urban Garden School, New York, received the Consciousness-Based grand tour of Maharishi School and MUM on April 6. Joining her was Brooklyn Urban’s (BUGS) on-site TM teacher and Quiet Time site leader (and 2008 Maharishi School graduate) Owen Blake. Oh, and he’s also the school’s basketball coach.

Brooklyn Urban Garden School, which opened in 2013, is a charter middle school that was founded by a group of Brooklyn local parents, educators, and community volunteers. The school’s focus is on sustainability. “We recognize the impact of our actions on the planet, our community and ourselves, and we pursue viable long-term practices and big-picture thinking,” the school states on its website. It’s pursuit of sustainability is embodied in the acronym “CARES”: Community, Awareness, Reach, Exploration, Student Voice.

The Quiet Time program and Transcendental Meditation is an excellent fit for the school. The community is actively seeking to expand the awareness of its students, to have them “stretch” to expand their potential, and to assume responsibility for exploring their potential. Currently, 94% of the student population have learned the TM technique. Principal Rosenbury said that TM was a great aid in helping students create a settled atmosphere conducive to learning at the school.

From its inception, BUGS has been part of the David Lynch Foundation’s Quiet Time program. According to the DLF’s website, “the success of the Quiet Time program has generated a demand that far exceeds our available resources. Right now, there are literally hundreds of schools with tens of thousands of underserved students who are waiting to learn to meditate.”

The Quiet Time program, as described by the DLF, “is a practical, evidence-based approach to reduce stress and dramatically improve academic performance, student wellness and the school environment. Quiet Time provides students with two 15-minute periods of Transcendental Meditation each day to help balance their lives and improve their readiness to learn. This schoolwide program complements existing educational strategies by improving the physiological underpinnings of learning and behavior.”

Brooklyn Urban Garden School services a student body of 200 students at this time. Next year its enrollment will expand to around 300, about a hundred students for each grade, 6-8. About half its students meet the federal definition of living in poverty. Twelve different languages are spoken at home. Maharishi School graduate Owen Blake and the David Lynch Foundation are part of the success of the Brooklyn Urban Garden School in New York.

Heather Hartnett CEO of Human Ventures

Heather Hartnett, 1999 graduate of Maharishi School, was recently included in a Wall Street Journal article on a new venture capital start-up company. A shortened version of the article, “Human Ventures Names CEO as Startup Studios Proliferate,” is posted below. Click the linked title to read the article in its entirety.

In a time of experimentation in venture capital, Human Ventures is the latest to move beyond the traditional approach to funding startups.

Human Ventures has brought on Heather Hartnett, formerly with venture firm City Light Capital and before that the David Lynch Foundation, as chief executive. Mr. Marchese, who is now with 21st Century Fox full-time, is executive chairman at Human Ventures. He is also supplying capital to the studio.

Startup studios are one of several new, experimental approaches to venture capital, especially related to early-stage funding. More accelerators, crowdfunding platforms and micro-venture funds are getting into the system.

Human Ventures isn’t seeking outside capital, according to Ms. Hartnett. Its investment arm, Human Ventures Capital, already co-led a $15 million Series A investment in Reserve Media Inc., a restaurant booking and payment app startup that Mr. Marchese co-founded.

Ms. Hartnett said she would be assembling a team to help launch startups. Three projects are already under way at Human Ventures, she said. The firm will focus first on mobile, consumer, financial technology, health care and some social impact projects, she said.

She said the studio model has the advantage of generating ideas and then looking for the optimal people to bring them to fruition, while providing all the necessary resources for an idea from the start.

But at the same time, there are downsides, such as uncertainty. Ms. Hartnett said she isn’t sure how many projects will be launched, at what rate, and when they would be spun out. It also is unclear what the financial structure between Human Ventures and the resulting startups would look like.

According to the WSJ article, this new cutting-edge venture capital structure will have its own challenges and rewards, ones that time and experience will reveal.