Human Development is an interdisciplinary field of study. Members of the faculty of the Aspen Center for Human Development have expertise in diverse and varied disciplines, and are engaged in impacting aspects of human development. The faculty are committed to making a difference in the world in their own unique ways, and collaborate with and support each other in their research, writing, and program development by sharing expertise, knowledge, and original thinking.
“Leadership by its very nature is a multidisciplinary concept.”
In addition to directing the Aspen Center for Human Development, Dr. Paresky serves a select clientele through her consulting practice, MultiGenerational Consulting Services, LLC, and is a Visiting Senior Research Associate at the Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge (SIFK) at the University of Chicago. Her work there focuses on both experiential education and creating “Habits of a Free Mind” courses and programs that facilitate the ability to think in new ways and to lead and engage across lines of difference –– without feeling traumatized and without dehumanizing ideological opponents. Before joining SIFK, Dr. Paresky taught leadership at the US Air Force Academy in the Center for Character and Leadership Development. She also served as Senior Scholar in Human Development and Psychology at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) where she was the primary researcher and in-house editor for the New York Times bestseller, The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.
Dr. Paresky's holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a concentration in Culture and Native American Studies, a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, and an interdisciplinary PhD in Psychology and Human Development from the University of Chicago. Her work at Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC) focused on happiness, relationships, and “Flow,” a construct describing optimal experience developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in the study of both happiness and performance.
The Habits of a Free Mind ™ toolkit builds on Csikszentmihalyi's discovery that the best moments in life often occur when people stretch themselves while working toward something worthwhile. She is a regular contributor to Psychology Today and her work has been published in diverse outlets, including the New York Times, the Guardian, Politico, Quillette, the American Mind and others. The goal of her current work is to support and facilitate the development of habits of mind necessary to contribute to and thrive in a pluralist, liberal democracy, and for people to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.
Joshua Aronson is a professor of developmental, social, and educational psychology at New York University, where he directs the Mindful Education Lab, a group of psychologists and neuroscientists dedicated to using research to improve the psychological functioning and learning of children confronted with stress. Internationally known for his pioneering research on “stereotype threat” and “Growth Mindset,” Joshua’s work has been featured in popular books like Blink, Nurtureshock, Mindset, Drive, Nerve, Choke, Grit — and books with long titles like Lean in, How Children Succeed, Intelligence and How to Get It, and Whistling Vivaldi, and has been referenced in 4 Supreme Court cases. Listed by Education Week as one of the most influential education scholars in America, Joshua is the editor of Improving Academic Achievement (Academic Press) and Readings about the Social Animal, and is Co-author of best selling text, The Social Animal (Worth) with his father Elliot.
His current work helps schools become environments that promote excellence in cognitive, socio-emotional, and moral development, by incorporating social psychological interventions including mindfulness and meditation into classrooms, and by developing "4-dimensional curriculum" to improve learning, curiosity, critical thinking self-control, and purpose. Joshua is executive advisor to the Casa Laxmi Foundation, which is building a school designed to develop leadership and academic success in the world's most impoverished children and is the founder of New York University’s School to Prosperity Pipeline, which serves children aged 4 to 22, with scientifically based interventions to educate and elevate NYC children at risk for incarceration.
Joshua can be reached at Joshua.Aronson@AspenCHD.org
Christine Balling founded the Colombian nonprofit organization Fundación ECCO to promote democracy and youth leadership in areas of conflict. She has also served as a subject matter expert to the U.S. Special Operations South commander on demobilization and counter-recruitment issues, partnered with U.S. Army Civil Affairs teams, worked with the Colombian military’s demobilization group, and in collaboration with the Colombian Army, Air Force and National Police, she led counter-recruitment projects in areas where the FARC insurgency operated. The Colombian Army incorporated her counter-recruitment model into the non-kinetic component of its mission.
Ms. Balling has performed extensive fieldwork in conflict areas and interviewed female demobilized members of the FARC, ELN fighters, and female Yazidi peshmerga fighters in Iraq. From 2015 to 2020, she was the Senior Fellow for Latin American Affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council. Her articles have been published in Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, the Small Wars Journal and at Thehill.com. Working with the USMC Small Wars Center in Quantico, VA, she co-authored NATO military doctrine regarding female insurgents. She has lectured at the Escuela Superior de Guerra (ESDEGUE) in Bogotá, the National Defense University’s William J. Perry Center, The #NatSecGirlsSquad conference and the Institute of World Politics. In 2019, she testified as an expert witness at a Senate Foreign Relations sub-committee hearing on U.S./Colombia relations.
Ms. Balling is a recipient of the Phillips Academy Andover Alumni Award of Distinction, she serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Universidad El Bosque in Bogotá, Colombia, and she received the Colombian Armed Forces’ Medal of Distinguished Service from the Colombian Minister of Defense in recognition of her work. She holds a B.A. from Columbia University’s Barnard College and an M.A. in National Security Affairs from the Institute of World Politics.
Christine can be reached at Christine.Balling@AspenCHD.org
Peter Boghossian is the creator of the Atheos app, and an international speaker for both the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason and the Center for Inquiry. His main focus is bringing the tools of professional philosophers to people in a wide variety of contexts. Most fundamentally, he teaches people how to think through what often seem to be intractable problems. Peter has a teaching pedigree spanning more than 25 years and over 30 thousand students—in prisons, hospitals, public and private schools, seminaries, colleges and universities, Fortune 100 companies, and small businesses. He was a participant in the 'grievance studies affair' with Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, and is the author of A Manual for Creating Atheists. He has published extensively across multiple domains of thought, and his book, How to Have Impossible Conversations, co-authored with James Lindsay, is available on Amazon.com.
Peter can be reached at Peter.Boghossian@AspenCHD.org
Senior Research Advisor
Harris Cooper is the Hugo L. Blomquist Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. He is the author of the books, Research Synthesis and Meta-Analysis: A Step-by-Step Approach (5th edition), Ethical Choices in Research: Managing Data, Writing Reports, and Publishing Results in the Social Sciences, The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents, and co-author of Critical Thinking About Research: Psychology and Related Fields. Along with his students, he has published research syntheses in varied fields, including personality and social psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, education policy, marketing, developmental medicine and child neurology. After serving as editor of the Psychological Bulletin and co-editor of Archives of Scientific Psychology, APA's first open access, data sharing journal, he served for six years as editorial advisor for the APA journals program. In 2017-2018 he served as Duke University’s Dean of the Social Sciences.
Harris can be reached at Harris.Cooper@AspenCHD.org
Senior Research Fellow
Dr. Helen Fisher has written five internationally best-selling books on the brain science of human social behavior and is the most referenced scholar on the topic of love. Her data and ideas are based on her analysis of four biologically-based personality dimensions in 100,000 people, as well as data from genetics and neurochemistry. Over 10 million people in 40 countries have taken her Fisher Temperaments Scale. Dr. Fisher is Senior Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute, and has spoken for (among others) The World Economic Forum (Davos), TED, Harvard Medical School, American Association for the Advancement of Science, The United Nations, The Salk Institute, The Smithsonian Institution, the American Psychiatric Association, and countless business and organizations. She has published in various scientific journals and is seen regularly on The Today Show and other network television shows. She is, perhaps, best known for her work in the evolution and future of human sexuality, monogamy, adultery and divorce, gender differences in the brain, and the chemistry of romantic love. She is currently studying the biological basis of personality and is a pioneer in examining the neurochemistry of leadership. More about Helen Fisher’s work.
Helen can be reached a Helen.Fisher@AspenCHD.org
Clark Freshman is the world’s most sought-after speaker on lie detection and nonverbal communication for negotiators. His engagements include the national meeting of federal administrative law judges, Peter Thiel - the angel investor behind Facebook, General Electric Oil and Gas lead negotiators in Florence, and compliance officers at Edwards Life Sciences. He has been an invited speaker at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, UCLA, and Columbia law schools, and Harvard and Columbia Business Schools. He is a tenured Professor of Law at the University of California. Professor Freshman has collaborated for years with Paul Ekman, scientific advisor to TV’s Lie to Me. Professor Freshman received his B.A. from Harvard College, an M.A. from University College, Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and his J.D. from Stanford Law School. Prior to teaching, he clerked for a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge and practiced at the Los Angeles firm of Manatt Phelps. Professor Freshman’s published research appears in journals at Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, UCLA, and elsewhere. International media from Danish Broadcasting to PBS to the Wall Street Journal have covered his work. More about Clark Freshman.
Clark can be reached at Clark.Freshman@AspenCHD.org
Heather Heying is a scientist, educator, and author. She recently resigned from her tenured professorship at The Evergreen State College where for fifteen years she provided undergraduates an evolutionary “toolkit” with which to understand how to be critical, engaged citizens of the world, and what it is to be human. As the architect of a curriculum that prioritizes trust, compassion, observation, logic, and the scientific method, she is committed to pushing students beyond their certainty and outside their comfort zones. In the service of that commitment, she has led students on extended trips to the Andes, the Amazon, and the islands of Panama––places where they encountered and befriended individuals unlike themselves (both human and otherwise). She has researched the evolution of social systems in organisms ranging from frogs to humans, and her research in Madagascar examining the sex lives of poison frogs resulted in her book, Antipode, about the cultures and biology of Madagascar. More recently, she has written for a variety of publications including The Wall Street Journal about the postmodern takeover of the academy, the evolution of sex and gender roles, and how sensory memory impacts our understanding of the world. Her science fiction novel on the search for other forms of consciousness is not yet published. Heather’s B.A. is in Anthropology, and she earned her PhD in Biology from the University of Michigan.
Heather can be reached at Heather.Heying@AspenCHD.org
In the past several years, Ronald Lalonde, the Middle School Principal at the American School of Dubai, has researched and presented extensively within schools about the application of positive psychology to middle level education. He uses the work of Carol Dweck, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Martin Seligman, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan as he continues to seek ways to reimagine student relationships with schools, and adult attitudes toward adolescents and adolescence. In his 17 years in international education, Ron has held leadership positions at schools in England, the United Arab Emirate, and Mexico, where his interest in school improvement led him to develop a successful Instructional Coaching program. Ron holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Philosophy from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) where he focused on discourse ethics, and a doctorate from the University of Calgary where he focused on critical issues in consulting students. He has taught at the University of British Colombia, Okanagan Campus, and served as an adjunct professor for the State University of New York in their Master's Degree Program for international educators. He teaches annually at the Principal's Training Center in Miami and in London, and continues to research student engagement and student voice, while maintaining his strong commitment to improving middle level educational practices.
Ronald can be reached at Ronald.Lalonde@AspenCHD.org
James Lindsay is an interdisciplinary scholar with a PhD in mathematics and a background in philosophy, physics, and religion. He has published in various outlets such as Scientific American, TIME Magazine, and The Philosopher’s Magazine, and is the author of several books including his most recent, Everybody is Wrong About God. He was a participant in the 'grievance studies affair' with Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian. His book, How to Have Impossible Conversations, co-authored by Peter Boghossian, is available on Amazon.com.
James can be reached at James.Lindsay@AspenCHD.org
Rob Long is a writer and producer in Hollywood. He began his career writing and producing TV's long-running "Cheers," and served as co-executive producer in its final season. During his time on the series, “Cheers” received two Emmy Awards, and two Golden Globe awards. He has received a Writers Guild of America award and been nominated for an Emmy Award twice. From 2016 to 2018, was the Executive Producer and Showrunner of the CBS sitcom, “Kevin Can Wait” starring Kevin James. He is a contributing editor of National Review, he has a weekly, nationally distributed radio commentary/podcast, “Martini Shot,” and he is a co-founder of the fast-growing podcast network Ricochet. His is the author of three books, Bigly: Donald Trump in Verse, Set Up, Joke, Set Up, Joke, and Conversations with My Agent, which chronicles his early career in television. Rob continues to work in film and television and is a co-founding partner in Madison Road Entertainment, an integrated advertising production company. He serves on the boards of the American Cinema Foundation and My Friend’s Place, an agency for homeless teens in Hollywood, and is president of the board of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Rob graduated from Yale University and spent two years at UCLA School of Film, Theater and Television. On Twitter and Instagram, he’s rcbl.
Rob can be reached at Rob.Long@AspenCHD.org
After graduating Arizona’s Technology & Leadership Academy, Lieutenant Jarod McPherson enlisted in the United States Air Force to become an Aircraft Avionics Systems Maintainer. While at Sheppard Air Force Base, he rose through the ranks to become an Airman Leader, leading over 500 fellow Airmen in military training. After serving 2 years in the Air Force, he was selected to attend The United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School, after which he earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Management from the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) where he undertook independent studies in transformative leadership, ontology, and coaching. Over the past several years, as a member of the Air Force, Lt. McPherson has led seminars for high school and college students, leadership “invitationals,” family workshops, performance coaching workshops, and business management workshops. Lt. McPherson is currently stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
Jarod can be reached at Jarod.McPherson@AspenCHD.org
Helen Pluckrose is the editor of Areo, a non-partisan digital magazine focused on Enlightenment liberalism, humanism, secularism and freedom of expression. She is a political and cultural writer whose best-known essays include ‘How French Intellectuals Ruined the West: Postmodernism and its Impact, Explained’; ‘‘The Problem with Intersectional Feminism’ and, with James A. Lindsay, ‘A Manifesto Against the Enemies of Modernity’ and 'Identity Politics Does Not Continue the Work of the Civil Rights Movements."
Helen received her degree in English literature from the University of East London and her Masters in early modern studies from Queen Mary University London. Her academic writing focuses on late medieval and early modern religious writing by and for women. She is currently writing a book about the impact of postmodern thought on academia and the impact of this on social-justice movements and wider culture. She was a participant in the 'grievance studies affair' with James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian.
Helen can be reached at Helen.Pluckrose@AspenCHD.org
Co-starring with greats such as Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in the theatrical comedy See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and Goldie Hawn in Bird on a Wire, actress Joan Severance has been performing onscreen for twenty-plus years, appearing in over 25 films and several hit TV shows to date. She was received with acclaim for her portrayal as a villainess with Kevin Spacey in a brother/sister criminal pair on the hit TV series Wiseguy. Her career has allowed her to portray characters as diverse as quirky, hippy mom; sexy villainess; attorney; and psychologist (among many others). In addition to her acting expertise, Joan is the creator of the family-friendly game, txTylz® that combines symbolic, numeric, phonetic, and literal expression in a new whimsical method of communication. Joan also holds a BA in natural health, is a certified healer, and has combined her background in performing with her commitment to healing in SeverancePlay™. This fun, transformative workshop focuses on character development with intentional role-play to set the stage for a new direction in the next act of your life. More about Joan Severance.
Joan can be reached at Joan.Severance@AspenCHD.org
After receiving his commission in the United States Air Force (USAF), USAF Academy (USAFA) graduate, Lieutenant Colonel Rodric “Rod” Smith served in various USAF positions, including chief of training, combat crew commander, executive officer in nuclear missile operations, and USAFA Assistant Professor and assistant director for the Academy’s core leadership class. In this role, he designed, directed, presented, and facilitated leadership seminars for cadets; designed and implemented leadership coaching programs; designed and directed a facilitation for resiliency among the 900-members of the Dean’s staff; and taught leadership for both students and faculty. When Lieutenant Colonel Smith was assigned to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, he served as an executive officer for the Inspector General and as a strategic planner for Air Force Global Strike Command. In these positions, he designed a first-ever performance assessment of and a “bottom-up” goal-creation process for the 900-member staff; designed and facilitated discussions about resiliency for hundreds of staff members; and through a one-day leadership seminar, introduced Air Force Global Strike Command to the Air Force Academy’s cutting-edge leadership development efforts. Lieutenant Colonel Smith is currently a doctoral student in Leadership Studies at the University of San Diego. His study interests include the assessment and role of compassionate love in leadership theory, development, and practice.
Rod can be reached a Rod.Smith@AspenCHD.org
Senior Scholar in Rhetoric and Politics
Bret Stephens is an opinion journalist at The New York Times where his column appears on Thursday and Saturday. Twice monthly, he and Gail Collins write a cross-partisan conversation, also for the Times. During the Second Intifada, Stephens served as editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post where he wrote a weekly column and oversaw the paper's news, editorial and digital operations. He has reported from around the world and has interviewed not only world leaders and politicians, but a wide range of thinkers, including mountain climbers, human rights activists, and others. For eleven years, he wrote a foreign affairs column at The Wall Street Journal where he also served as deputy editorial page editor before leaving in 2017 to join the New York Times. Stephens was raised in Mexico City and holds a B.A. from the University of Chicago and an MSc. from the London School of Economics. He is the author of America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, and is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including two honorary doctorates and a Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
Bret can be reached a Bret.Stephens@AspenCHD.org
Jamie Van Leeuwen currently serves as the Senior Advisor for Governor Hickenlooper after almost four years as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Community Partnerships. He is the founder and Executive Director of the Global Livingston Institute, a non-governmental organization in East Africa designed to engage students and community leaders to develop innovative solutions to poverty, and a Senior Research Fellow with the Buechner Institute at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs. Before serving the Governor of Colorado, Jamie oversaw leadership staff, fundraising, public relations and evaluation for Denver’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, and served as the Director of Development & Public Affairs at Urban Peak, a Colorado non-profit agency serving homeless and at-risk youth. Jamie was selected in 2005 as a Livingston Fellow by the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Board, and is the recipient of several awards and honors including being named a leader in the Lesbian & Gay community by Out Front magazine and one of the “Forty Under Forty” by the Denver Business Journal. Jamie is a national and international researcher and presenter, and serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. He received his PhD in Public Policy from the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver, has a Masters degree in International Public Health and a Masters degree in Sociology from Tulane University. He became a Fulbright Scholar in 2013. (More about the Global Livingston Institute)
Jamie can be reached at Jamie.VanLeeuwen@AspenCHD.org
Bret Weinstein is an evolutionary biologist. His discoveries regarding the evolution of cancer, senescence and the adaptive significance of moral self-sacrifice allowed him to develop a new Darwinian framework based on design trade-offs. As a tenured professor, Weinstein spent 14 years teaching evolutionary dynamics and critical thinking to students in Washington State. He has spent two decades advancing the field of evolutionary biology, and is currently working to uncover the evolutionary meaning of large-scale patterns in human history, and applying evolutionary insight to elucidate a path to a fair, sustainable, liberating, and anti-fragile structure for human society. Bret received his PhD in Biology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Bret can be reached at Bret.Weinstein@AspenCHD.org
“What the senses say is that we are not apart from,
but a part of all that we perceive.”