Alex Brown developed his passion for practicing and sharing mindfulness in 2012 after participating in a guided meditation and having a transformative experience. Since then, he has sought to strengthen his love and compassion for himself and others through daily meditation, reading, and courses. He has an immense desire to help others do the same.
Prior to serving with Koru, Alex served as the Director of Neighborhood Programs and Information Technology for PlantPure Communities (PPC), a 501c3 nonprofit with the mission of building stronger, healthier, and more sustainable communities by helping people understand the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. While there, Alex was responsible for furthering the development and implementation of the Oasis Jumpstart Program, which brought whole food, plant-based meals, science-based nutrition education, and healthy lifestyle practices to underserved neighborhoods across the United States. Alex also established, oversaw, and directed the technology systems for PPC’s organizational and programmatic needs.
Alex is a native of Detroit, Michigan, loves spending time with his sons, family, and friends, and finds utter delight in dancing. He thoroughly enjoys helping people learn about the different ways in which they improve their overall health and wellbeing and his motto is “I live to serve.”
Bibi Gnagno is an educator, wellness advocate and a certified Koru Mindfulness instructor. Her work explores telling stories through film using a social justice lens. While completing a law degree, she embraced mindfulness at a deeper level to cope with the daily stress of school. Bibi has taught mindfulness classes at the university level and infuses mindfulness in her interactions with students but also in her daily life.
Currently as the Coordinator for Student Development at Duke University’s Women’s Center, she focuses on gender equity through the creation of experiential programming and training that emphasizes community building, empowerment, men’s engagement, activism and civic engagement. She also leads workshops on wellness through reflection, movement, and healing foods.
Find out more at Bibignagno.com.
Chase Giroux began her career in residential care for youth, followed by support work in an educational setting for children with behavioral health challenges. After attaining her Mental Health Counseling degree, she became a therapist trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She currently supervises an Intensive Care Coordination program, where she also provides agency-wide trainings and mindfulness practices.
After spending time in Buddhist Monasteries, practicing Mindfulness in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, Chase was inspired to make this beautiful practice accessible to as many people as possible. Trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and certified in the Koru model, Chase now works hard to share this practice in a more secular context. This program will deepen and expand these efforts by supporting practitioners in sharing and teaching the practice themselves.
Chase lives with her family in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she can be found both playing and coaching sports in her community.
Dylan Scott was born and raised outside of Philadelphia and completed his B.S. in Exercise Science and Sports Psychology at Ithaca College in 2015. He discovered mindfulness during his time at college in response to a difficult battle with panic attacks. Although there were many resources that helped Dylan through his struggles, mindfulness offered him a unique tool that above all else empowered him to learn to work with panic and anxiety. Upon graduating from Ithaca and moved by his gratitude for mindfulness practice Dylan sought out opportunities to deepen his practice in Philadelphia. This led him to complete classes at Penn and Jefferson University and go on several silent retreats before receiving teacher training at Jefferson and subsequently completing Koru teacher training in October 2018.
Dylan currently resides in Philadelphia and is a contracted mindfulness teacher with the Myrna Brind Center for Mindfulness at Jefferson. He offers the Koru curriculum to medical students and house staff through the counseling center at Jefferson. Dylan also serves as Koru’s Social Media Manager crafting content for their Instagram and Facebook pages. When outside of the classroom teaching mindfulness Dylan feeds his passion for music, producing music under the moniker LTMR and developing his own freelance music production business.
Erica Alexander, flutist and music educator, has taught music and mindfulness in private and group settings for over 20 years. She has a Masters in Music Education (MME) with all-level teaching certification.
Erica is founder and director of The Open Wings School (openwingsflute.com) which specializes in helping busy people find a lasting sense of calm in their lives and discover their own inner musicians. Among her most popular offerings are Be the Music workshops which incorporate Native American inspired flutes and meditation
Erica is currently enrolled in the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program with Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.
She has loved working with Koru for the past 5 years, teaching in local high schools and non-profit organizations and reviewing teacher portfolios.
Erica lives in Durham, NC and enjoys hiking, swimming, gardening, and listening to and playing music from all over the world.
“It is clear that the only way to truly change our world is through teaching compassion…We must teach people, especially our youth, the source of happiness and satisfaction. We must teach them the ultimate source of happiness is within themselves.”
–The Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy
Karen S. Newton served as Director of Health Promotion & Wellbeing in Campus Health Services from 2007 to 2018 as her team implemented a resilience framework to support the academic persistence and personal wellbeing of University of Louisville students. Inspired by her personal experiences with mindfulness and mediation practices through many years of her life’s ups and downs, Karen added Koru Mindfulness courses, retreats and drop-in Relax & Refocus sessions in 2015. Karen has also directed healthcare access initiatives for University of Louisville and at The Healing Place Recovery. Karen graduated from San Diego State University and completed her Master of Public Health degree in community health promotion and nutrition science at Loma Linda University, CA.
Karen’s current life is focused on her purpose and what she loves: family, travel, practicing and teaching. She teaches Koru and other courses at the Earth & Spirit Center Meditation School; Koru retreats at Speed Art Museum; and her Koru-based 14-week Mindfulness for Stress Resilience course in University of Louisville College of Education. She is collaborating with University of Louisville colleagues to develop a research agenda to study Koru Mindfulness.
Karen’s desire to serve as a Koru Trainer feels like the next right step because the personal benefits keep coming and her public health point of view and personal perspective resonate with the Koru Center’s commitment to social justice. Karen is committed to doing all she can to further the adoption of Koru Mindfulness courses in a variety of settings.
Mil Witt is a licensed clinical psychologist at the University of North Carolina’s Counseling and Psychological Services in Chapel Hill, NC (UNC-CAPS). Mil is passionate about working with emerging young adults in university settings. In addition to mindfulness, her professional interests include college mental health, the training and supervision of future clinicians, multiculturalism and diversity, and writing as a meditative practice. Prior to joining UNC-CAPS in 2014, Mil worked at the college counseling centers at UNC-Greensboro and Duke, and worked with medical students at The Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Mil was in the inaugural class of Koru Teachers in 2013 and has been a Koru Certified teacher since 2015. Her meditation journey started in the mid-1990s with her first meditation teacher and mentor Dr. Ronna Rachel Weiss, and followed with mindfulness trainings and practice at the Cape Cod Institute and at Duke Integrative Medicine. Mil is excited to work with, support, inspire, and mentor new Koru teachers, especially those working with students of color. The daughter of immigrant parents originally from New York City, Mil lives in Carrboro, NC with her family. Mil is an avid tennis player, and enjoys dancing, theatre, and spending quality time with family and friends.
Roger “Mac” Mancastroppa has earned a MS in Education, a MA in Theological Studies and a BS in History. He taught history and religion for over a decade before joining the University of Richmond where he serves as the Associate Director of the Academic Skills Center. Mac is in his 9th year assisting students individually and collectively with academic and life skills development. He helps students transition to a mindfully engaged learning style where they conceptualize information through meta-cognitive and executive functions. He also leads a weekly meditation session on campus known as Mindful Mondays.
Mac’s personal mindfulness and meditation practices began during counseling and therapy for PTSD after exiting the military. His initial training began with a psychologist who practiced Buddhism and taught him the samatha that occurs with the vipassana practice. He began to integrate it into his work by using the CD’s by Jon Kabat-Zinn as a companion to his book "Full Catastrophe Living," over and over again with students. He now works with students, faculty, staff, local non-profits, churches, and offers keynotes on mindfulness and meditation, and is one of the co-leaders of a faculty learning community that brought KORU to the university.
Suit Fong Chan is a mindfulness teacher, counsellor cum internationally certified coach who believes she can make a difference being a Koru teacher trainer. She aims to help establish a cadre of professional Koru teachers in Asia/Middle East, so more emerging adults and youths in Asia/Middle East may benefit from the Koru program.
Suit Fong’s interest in mindfulness practices began more than twenty years ago when she attended her first meditation retreat. Her interest gradually deepened and in 2012, she made a major decision to leave a global corporate career to pursue continuing studies and training with various institutions and universities in the United States on mindfulness and compassion-led practices and counseling, based on evidence-based researches and how these can be adapted in one’s life.
Suit Fong is a Certified Public Accountant/Chartered Accountant and holds a Master in Business Administration from the United Kingdom and a Master Degree in Counseling from Australia. She is also qualified and certified to teach mindfulness and compassion cultivation programs for children and adults. She has been trained as a Koru teacher and now teaches Koru and mindfulness programs to youths and adults and provides counseling and conducts mindfulness programs for women and youths-at-risks in Singapore, where she lives with her family. It is now her life passion and learning, to serve and support individuals and communities of different diversities, cultures and (dis)abilities to learn to sit with ease with life’s discomforts whilst practicing kindness to oneself and to others.
Timothy L. Auman became the University Chaplain to Wake Forest in August of 2003. Tim has over two decades of experience in ministry in higher education, pastoral care, and work with religious, secular, and spiritual identity. At Wake Forest, Tim aims to build relationships amidst difference, and to cultivate healthy contemplative and mindful practices for the transformation of self and world. He previously served as the United Methodist Ecumenical Campus Minister at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and as a pastor of two United Methodist congregations.
Tim created the MindfulWake program at Wake Forest in January of 2017. He began his mindfulness practice in 1985 as a way to reduce stress and credits mindfulness as key to his emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Tim practices in the Plum Village Tradition of Engaged Buddhism and will be ordained into the Order of Interbeing in April of 2020. He practices with the Planting Seeds Sangha of Chapel Hill and the Winston-Salem Community of Mindful Living.
Within a few months of learning about Koru Mindfulness, Tim knew that he wanted to share this practice with his students. That would become an important part of his life’s work at Wake Forest. Eventually, faculty and staff started to ask Tim to teach them what he was discovering. They wanted to share the practice of mindfulness, just as Tim did. But as demand increased, Tim stumbled upon the idea of becoming a Koru Trainer. A crazy idea at first, but being a teacher and practitioner at heart, he decided to give it a go. Tim believes that when you’re teaching with joyfulness and playfulness, you’re not just talking mindfulness...you’re living mindfulness.
Vivien Roman-Hampton is a LICSW in Massachusetts who trained to be a Koru teacher in New York in 2018. She uses Koru in her clinical practice where she focuses on emerging adults from marginalized communities. The transformation she has seen as she introduces Koru to these young people has motivated her to be part of Koru’s first Train-the-Trainer program.
She believes that her skills in meditation and mindfulness have enhanced her clients’ well-being as well as her own.
She has enjoyed facilitating Koru’s Social Justice circles online and looks forward to creating connections with more Koru teachers in her role as a Koru Trainer.
She is excited to embark on this next chapter of Koru growth with her new Koru Trainer colleagues!