California Institute of Integral Studies

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California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS)
The Sri Yantra, the Hindu symbol used by CIIS to represent Integral philosophy.
The Seal of California Institute of Integral Studies
Established 1968
Type Private, Nonprofit
President Joseph L. Subbiondo
Academic staff 69 core faculty
Students 1,400
Location San Francisco, California
Campus Urban
Former names American Academy of Asian Studies, California Institute of Asian Studies
Newsletter CIIS Today
Colors Blue and Gold          

California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is a private institution of higher education founded in 1968 and based in San Francisco, California. It currently operates in two locations just south of the Civic Center district. CIIS has a total of 1,400 students and 72 core faculty members.

The Institute consists of three schools: the School of Professional Psychology & Health, the School of Consciousness and Transformation (mainly humanities subjects), and the School of Undergraduate Studies. Many courses combine mainstream academic curriculum with a spiritual orientation, including influences from a broad spectrum of mystical or esoteric traditions. Although the Institute has no official spiritual path, some of its historical roots lie among followers of the Bengali sage Sri Aurobindo.[1]

Mission statement[edit]

The Main Building of CIIS, located on Mission Street.
Fox Plaza, located on Market Street, is home to both the Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology and the Psychological Services Center.

CIIS's mission statement is as follows:

California Institute of Integral Studies is an accredited institution of higher education that strives to embody spirit, intellect, and wisdom in service to individuals, communities, and the Earth. The Institute expands the boundaries of traditional degree programs with interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and applied studies in psychology, philosophy, religion, cultural anthropology, transformative learning and leadership, integrative health, and the arts. Offering a personal learning environment and supportive community, CIIS provides an extraordinary education for people committed to transforming themselves and the world.

This is elaborated into seven ideals, which affirm that CIIS

  1. Practices an integral approach to learning and research
  2. Affirms spirituality
  3. Commits to cultural diversity
  4. Fosters multiple ways of learning and teaching
  5. Advocates feminism and sustainability
  6. Supports community
  7. Strives for an integral and innovative governance

Academic programs[edit]

CIIS has a total of 19 academic programs.

School of Professional Psychology & Health[edit]

School of Consciousness and Transformation[edit]

  • PhD/MA in Anthropology and Social Change
  • PhD/MA in East-West Psychology
  • PhD/MA in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion (starts fall 2013)
  • PhD/MA in Philosophy and Religion, with concentrations in:
  • MFA in Writing and Consciousness
  • MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Studies

Online Degrees:

School of Undergraduate Studies[edit]

Integral education[edit]

The word "integral" in the name of CIIS originally reflected the mission of the university to synthesize the ideals of East and West. Over time, this concept has expanded to include a global perspective as well as the adoption of a holistic approach to education, encompassing "the intellectual, the experiential, and the applied" where "the interplay of mind, body, and spirit, [...] connects the spiritual and practical dimensions of intellectual life." Integral education also involves connecting personal experience to larger issues, including global ones.

The concept of integral education derives in part from the writings of Sri Aurobindo regarding Integral Yoga (purna yoga). Aurobindo intends to harmonize the three paths of yoga as described in the Bhagavad Gita—karma yoga (action in the world), jnana yoga (spiritual wisdom), and bhakti yoga (devotion)—with the goal of integration of body, mind, and spirit.


Haridas Chaudhuri (1913-1975)

In 1949, San Francisco businessman Louis Gainsborough invited Professor Frederic Spiegelberg of Stanford University to start a graduate school in San Francisco on Asian studies. Spiegelberg accepted and in turn invited to the faculty Alan Watts, whose writings helped bring Zen to the West; and Haridas Chaudhuri, an Indian philosophy professor who introduced the teachings of Sri Aurobindo to the West. Together they formed the American Academy of Asian Studies (AAAS) in 1951. Colloquia at AAAS attracted many of the leading figures of the San Francisco Renaissance of the period and sparked wide interest in Asian art and spiritual practices, putting the Academy at the cutting-edge of Western absorption of the culture and spiritual practices of the East. Among the attendees were Michael Murphy and Dick Price, later the cofounders of Esalen Institute; and poets Gary Snyder and Kenneth Rexroth, both of whom translated and were influenced by Asian literature. The Academy became affiliated with the University of the Pacific (then the College of the Pacific) in 1954. That affiliation continued until 1959, when the Academy once again became independent, until its closing in 1968.

In 1968, Haridas Chaudhuri founded a university to continue the work of AAAS, the California Institute of Asian Studies. The initial curriculum in Eastern traditions was consolidated into the program in Asian and Comparative Studies, while new programs started up in expanded areas. The Institute began offering programs in psychology with a spiritual and/or holistic perspective, starting with the program in Integral Counseling Psychology in 1973. Additional programs were added in East-West Psychology, Social and Cultural Anthropology (now Anthropology and Social Change), and Clinical Psychology (offering the PsyD degree). Haridas Chaudhuri died in 1975, after which his widow, Bina Chaudhuri, joined with Spiegelberg to guide the Institute. Reflecting the growing diversity of its academic programs, the Institute changed its name from "Asian" to "Integral" Studies in 1980. The following year, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredited California Institute of Integral Studies.

In the 1990s, under the presidency of Robert A. McDermott (the author of books on Sri Aurobindo and Rudolf Steiner), CIIS significantly expanded its programs after receiving funding from Laurance S. Rockefeller. During this period, the Institute started one of the first online PhD programs, in Transformative Studies. New programs also included MA/PhD programs in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness; and in Women’s Spirituality. Master’s programs were added in Drama Therapy, Expressive Arts Therapy, Somatic Psychology, and Integrative Health Studies. A Bachelor of Arts Completion program also began at CIIS during this period.

Under President Joseph L. Subbiondo, who began his tenure in 1999, the Institute has expanded both its offerings and its enrollment, now over 1,400 students. During his tenure, the Institute has added MA programs in Community Mental Health and Transformative Leadership. New MFA programs were founded in Writing and Consciousness; and in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Studies.

Today the Institute continues as a center for innovative thought and practices in transpersonal psychology, activist spirituality, the philosophy of sustainability and ecology, women’s spirituality, drama therapy, and many other fields.


CIIS is an accredited member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). [2]

Revoked APA accreditation

In 2003, the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program in Clinical Psychology received accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). This accreditation was revoked in 2011. CIIS's appeal of the decision was denied in 2012.[3][4][5]

Counseling centers[edit]

CIIS offers reduced-fee psychotherapy services to the general public at six centers:

Therapy is conducted by advanced graduate students and post-graduate interns, and is offered to individuals, couples, and families. Clients usually present problems with depression, anxiety, relationships, challenging life transitions, grief and loss, trauma and abuse, and personal growth. Therapists are trained in various orientations, including humanistic, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, somatic, and transpersonal.

CIIS Public Programs & Performances[edit]

CIIS Public Programs & Performances hosts and sponsors a wide range of events for the public, including academic conferences, performing arts, and workshops. Recent conferences include “Uncovering the Heart of Higher Education” (2007); and “Expanding the Circle: Creating an Inclusive Environment in Higher Education for LGBTQ Students and Studies” (2010 and 2011). Other events include travel opportunities, certificate programs, concerts, and lectures. Workshops cover a wide range of topics, including professional development, yoga philosophy, healing arts, feminism, religious studies, psychology, creative expression, and professional development. Public Programs & Performances also offers courses that provide Continuing Education Units for licensed professionals with MFT, LCSW, or RN licenses.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "From the American Academy of Asian Studies to the California Institute of Integral Studies"[1]
  2. ^ "WASC: Statement of Accreditation Status, California Institute of Integral Studies". 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  3. ^ Accredited Programs in Clinical Psychology [2], American Psychological Association. Accessed online January 25, 2013.
  4. ^ CoA Statement and CIIS Response to Revocation of Accreditation [3][dead link], American Psychological Association. Accessed online January 25, 2013.
  5. ^ Archived Version of Dead Link

External links[edit]