Sacred Earth Leadership Forum will explore the connections between spirituality and environmentalism, February 1, 2012.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- Hudson Valley leaders from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and Native American faith traditions will discuss the theological foundations for environmentalism, and make recommendations for reconnecting spirituality to sustainable living, at “The Sacred Earth Leadership Forum: Reflections and Connections,” on Wednesday, February 1, from 6:00-9:00pm in the Sanders Classroom Building Spitzer Auditorium (Room 212,). Sponsored by the Green Brain Initiative of PRiyaCOMM and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Vassar College, this event is free and open to the public, with advance registration required (
Following the panel discussion audience members can join breakout discussion groups, which will make recommendations and resolutions to a concluding plenary session. According to Green Brain Initiative co-founder Karen Dipnarine-Saroop, “This forum was inspired by discussions with several prominent religious leaders in the Mid-Hudson Valley who recognized a poverty of inter-religious dialogues on the environment. Through dialogues with local organizations and leaders the objective is to transform our environment, by guiding our communities to envision and build a resilient and sustainable future through ancient wisdom and enlightened living.” 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Sanders Classroom Building, Spitzer Auditorium (Room 212)
Vassar College 

Karen Dipnarine-Saroop (Green Brain Initiative, PriyaCOMM)
Reverend Dr. Samuel Speers (Vassar College Religious & Spiritual Life)
Reverend Gail A. Burger (formerly of the Dutchess County Interfaith Council)
Reverend Jennifer Barrows (Christian tradition)
Reverend Dr. Chodrung Kunga Chodron (Buddhist tradition)
Ms. Donna Coane (Native American tradition)
Imam Qari Muhammad Asil Khan (Islamic tradition)
Dr. Indu M. Lal (Hindu tradition)
Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger (Jewish tradition)

Rev. Jennifer Barrows

Reverend Jennifer McG. Barrows has degrees from Hope College, Union Theological Seminary, and General Seminary. She has taught theatre, been a caseworker for the NYC Veterans Welfare Center and the NYC Bureau of Child Welfare, and supervised four drop-in centers for service resistant homeless people. Currently she is the Affiliate Advisor to The Episcopal Church at Vassar College, and serves as the Priest in Charge of the Ascension Church (West Park, NY) and the Holy Trinity Church (Highland, NY). Barrows also sits on the Town of Esopus Environmental Advisory Board, and is a member of the Land Use Leadership Alliance of Pace University’s Land Use Law Department. She has studied biodiversity with the non-profit Hudsonia environmental research institute.
Rev. Gail A. Burger

Gail A. Burger has been an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. since 1988, when she graduated with a Masters of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York. A major part of her ministry was spent as Executive Director of the Dutchess County Interfaith Council (DCIC) from 1991-2006. Now retired, Burger still leads worship regularly as a Pulpit Supply Minister, and does prison ministry. She also serves on the board of the R.E.A.L. Skills Network youth program in Poughkeepsie, and works on several committees of the DCIC.

Reverend Dr. Chodrung Kunga Chodron
Chodrung Kunga Chodron is a senior nun at Tsechen Kunchab Ling Tibetan Buddhist temple in Walden, New York, and teaches meditation classes at Vassar College. She served for five years as an Assistant Research Professor in the Religion Department at George Washington University, and has a Doctorate in Comparative Human Development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has been a Buddhist nun for 25 years, is fluent in the Tibetan language and has translated over 100 works on Buddhist philosophy and meditation into English.

Donna Coane

Donna Coane was raised in the native cultures of the Mohawk and Blackfoot tribes. Coane is knowledgeable and proficient in numerous teachings and practices including The Great Tree of Peace Teachings, The Seven Generations, The Iroquois Ceremonies and Thanksgiving Address, The Three Laws of the Confederacy, Corrective Native History, and the Teachings of the Blackfoot Medicine Wheel. Coane is an original member of the White Deer Organization of Native Americans (ONA) and ONA Youths. She is also a member of the Association of Native Americans (ANA) and ANA’s Women’s Council of the Mid-Hudson Valley, as well as the Red Feather Singers and Dance Troupe, Bear Cove Moon Lodge, Camp Epworth and Thunderheartsings, an all-native women’s drum troupe. 

Karen Dipnarine-Saroop, MA, APR

Karen Dipnarine-Saroop, President of PRiyaCOMM and Co-Founder of the Green Brain Initiative, holds a Master’s degree in Mass Communications from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, as well as Accreditation in Public Relations from the Public Relations Society of America. She has had an exceptional career spanning over 15 years as a key executive and trainer in the field of public relations and communications, and is a published author. Before moving to the US in 2004, Karen spearheaded the Communications Department at the Office of the Prime Minister (with special responsibility for the delivery of Social Services) in the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
Since 1993, she has worked tirelessly to establish and advance initiatives to improve the human condition, and conserve the environment, ancient cultural traditions, fine arts and performing arts through advocacy, research, education and partnership development with community leaders, corporate charitable giving partners, international bodies and non-profit organizations in the US and abroad.
Imam Qari Muhammad Asil Khan
Qari Muhammad Asil Khan has been the Imam at the Mid-Hudson Islamic Association Masjid Al-Noor in Wappingers Falls, NY, for the past 10 years. Imam Khan holds a Master’s degree in Islamic Studies and Arabic, has completed special studies in Islamic Education, and memorized the entire Holy Qur’an. Imam Khan established the Green Club at Masjid Al-Noor, and works closely with youth to raise awareness about environmental issues, and to foster activities like recycling to preserve the environment and protect the Earth.
Dr. Indu M. Lal

Indu M. Lal has had a private pediatrics practice in Hopewell Junction, NY since 1980. She graduated with her medical degree from MLN Medical College in India in 1971. In addition to practicing conventional Western medicine, Dr. Lal completed training in Complementary Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and integrates Ayurvedic and Oriental Medicine into her practice. Lal holds Specialty Certification in Pediatrics from the American Board of Pediatrics, and has been a Preceptor in the Department of Family Medicine at New York University Medical College since 1999.
She is a member of the Hindu Samaj in Wappingers Falls, NY, and believes in the concept of nature as “our Mother.”
Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger

Neal Joseph Loevinger has worked as an environmental educator, interfaith chaplain, and pulpit rabbi, and in Poughkeepsie is the rabbi of Temple Beth-El and Associate Chaplain of Vassar Brothers Medical Center. He holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from York University in Toronto, where his Master’s paper synthesized environmental ethics, Jewish theology, and contemporary environmental philosophy. A chapter from his master’s paper is reprinted in the anthology: "Ecology and the Jewish Spirit" (Jewish Lights Publishing). Rabbi Loevinger was ordained in 1999 as part of the first graduating class of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, which was also the first group of rabbis ordained on the West Coast of the United States. He has served on the Board of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, and is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly, the New York Board of Rabbis and the National Association of Jewish Chaplains.
Since ordination, Rabbi Loevinger has earned a Graduate Certificate in Management of Community Organizations from Tufts University and studied theology at Harvard.
Rev. Dr. Samuel Speers

Samuel Speers is Assistant Dean for Campus Life and Director of the Religious and Spiritual Life Office at Vassar College. An ordained Presbyterian Minister, he began his work at Vassar in 1999. Before then, he was in campus chaplaincy for ten years at the University of Chicago, serving as Associate Dean of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Sam is a graduate of Columbia University (A.B.), the University of Chicago (M.Div.), and Princeton Theological Seminary (D.Min.). He is Vice-President of the Association of College and University Affairs (ACURA), and directs Vassar College’s participation in the 2011-2012 White House Interfaith and Community Service Challenge.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact the Campus Activities Office at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the campus can be found at
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, January 6, 2012