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Our February Employee Spotlight features Dr. Kari Allen-Hammer. Kari is intricately involved in our online education department as a member of the curriculum development team and content expert for the integrative health related courses. In addition, Kari teaches psychology, stress management, ethics and leadership. We are excited to share this interview – Kari’s diverse background in education along with her dynamic life experiences, makes her a “warrioress” to be reckoned with.
Tell Us About Yourself?
I live in Northern California, in Sacramento. I’ve been married 11 years and have a large blended family. My husband brought three girls to our marriage, and I brought three sons. Our children range from ages 14-23. I am a Navy Veteran and worked as a diesel mechanic while I was in the service in the 1990s. I love to cook, garden, and enjoy good wine with friends. I read voraciously and love being out in nature. I grew up in the mountains, and even though I can enjoy city life, being in nature puts me at ease and expands my sense of wellbeing.
Tell Us About Your Educational Background.
My education began in marine engineering, when I joined the Navy at 19 and attended multiple specialty schools and then started working on my journeyman credentials while onboard ship. I have a voracious appetite for learning and have studied and practiced widely. I dedicated nearly 6-years to learning about shipboard engineering before deciding I didn’t want to spend my life working on mechanical systems. After the service, I began a 2-year program to get certified as an alcohol and drug counselor at Butte College in Northern California. I opted for finishing an associate degree (AS) in social sciences rather than the drug counselor program (though I did get my AOD certification), and then transferred to California State University, Chico to complete a bachelor’s degree (BA) in psychology. Still not satisfied that I learned what I was after, I then attended Saybrook University to complete both my master’s (MS) and doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees in Integrative Health Science & Mind Body Medicine with a specialization in both graduate programs in Organizational Systems. Now, I feel I have obtained what I needed to do the work I plan to do in the world.
What Inspired You to Pursue A Career Path in Integrative Health And Mind Body Medicine?
I was inspired to study Integrative Health and Mind Body Medicine from two major realizations that I had in my 20s. First, I experienced profound inner changes as of result of doing some of the practices associated with mind body medicine, while in the midst of a tumultuous and challenging time in my life after leaving the military. Second, I learned that mind body medicine was not well understood by most people outside of those who experienced its life-changing effects and because it was so valuable to me, I wanted to be one who helped grow and legitimize the field through research and bridging the gaps in education and clinical practice.
What Areas Within This Field Are of Interest To You? Is There an Area You Are More Focused On?
This is a challenging question because I have a wide berth of interests. While my main area of study has been in integrative health and mind body medicine, the specialization in my doctorate program was in organizational systems, which examines how large-scale change happens and how organizations as a whole behave. So, I am primarily interested in social change patterns as they relate to individuals and communities learning to value wellness, on all levels, from the personal, to the familial, to the communal, to the ecological. I am particularly interested in the seemingly inherent, intuitive ability people have towards creating their own wholeness, and scaling the personal vision for wellbeing to the social level. I envision that when we really care about wellness for ourselves and others, we will create more harmonious living in the world, for everyone, including the planet and its lifeforms. Organizational systems can be powerful agents of change when drivers behind them acknowledge their influence and consider the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) and get clear about what kind of actor they will be socially. In the same way that certain practices awaken transformational energies within individuals that then causes them to behave differently, certain organizational practices also help awaken transformational energies on a greater scale in society that then unleash whole new eras of change. Integrative Health Science is a vast, emerging field that recognizes the holistic perspective – in all models of human behavior and across disciplines. Being a scholar-practitioner in this field gives me a lot of latitude for influencing positive change. I hope to leverage my knowledge and experience in such a way that I can influence positive change across organizations.
Is There Any Research You Are Working On?
I just completed a four-year empirical study on personalizing wellness. Which explains theoretically how people actually create wellness in their lives. I saw some correlations in my data of decreased substance use/abuse when individuals increased involvement in activities that induced flow states of consciousness. For instance, when individuals engaged in vinyasa style yoga, which induces a flow state of mind, they decreased alcohol consumption. I am interested in conducting a mixed-methods research study to examine the hypothesis that an increase in flow inducing activities decreases substance use/abuse behaviors. I haven’t started this study yet, but it is one of several possibilities now on the table for future research.
What Have Been Your Most Important, Proudest And/or Favorite Experiences in Your Career?
In all honesty, presenting my research findings last August at an Integrative Wellness Symposium in Monterrey, California to peers and scholars in my field was an important experience for me. There was something very rewarding in presenting the results on a piece of work that I had dedicated so much time and personal energy to over the years to a group of people who could really appreciate it. The presentation was the first public sharing of my research findings, and the interest from others about my findings was incredibly invigorating.
What Brought You To Teach At Casa Loma College?
I attended my graduate program with Dr. Stephanie Shelburne. I called her one day and said I’d like to work with her and the school she worked with. It just so happened that Casa Loma needed an online education teacher. A large part of my decision was in wanting to build a professional relationship with another integrative health scholar so we could work together in our field to bring forth research and programs related to our field of study.
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